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Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, January 2013

Dragon Rhyme is…well played and recorded…

The youthful Kurt Weill Violin Concerto will certainly be the program’s most familiar piece. Glen Adsit leads a very stylish, virtuoso performance, marvelously ambiguous at times, and deliciously aggressive at others. Anton Miller, the violin soloist, is forcefully insistent, playful, or wistfully nostalgic according to the various demands of the work. Adsit shapes the wild mood swings of the three-part second movement compellingly, but what truly amazes is how the student ensemble holds up to comparison with the esteemed London Sinfonietta and betters the performance of Mauceri’s professional ensemble.

…Jennifer Higdon’s…recent compositions impress me…the 2005 Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra…has a characteristic free, improvisatory flow, with a sensuously Coplandesque opening which seamlessly transitions into more sinister and jazzily energetic realms. Higdon’s always clear talent for melody aligns with her growing command of form to engage heart and mind…the combination of soprano saxophone with wind ensemble is particularly gratifying. Soloist Carrie Koffman plays with melting tone and touching sensitivity.

If Chen Yi is less well known, she is undeservedly so. Her work is notable for its immaculate craftsmanship, skillful and unhackneyed melding of Chinese and Western influences, and a huge amount of energy aligned with an appealing delicacy of expression. All those qualities, including the delicacy, are evident in the first movement of Dragon Rhyme, with its bells, and spare textures with captivating woodwind solos…The second movement awakens with a roar, and the power of the dragon is vividly represented in a peroration of brass and Chinese drums…The Hartt School percussionists are particularly impressive, and all acquit themselves well in the exposure of Chen Yi’s often transparent scoring.

…the playing of the Hartt School Wind Ensemble throughout is outstanding…Adsit is simply one of the finest conductors leading a wind ensemble today. The recording, done by staff and students of the Hartt School Music Production and Technology Department, is thoroughly professional…urgently recommended to all wind-ensemble fans. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

David DeBoor Canfield
Fanfare, January 2013

Higdon’s Soprano Saxophone Concerto is an arrangement of her oboe concerto. The opening of the work is characterized by gently flowing lines in the solo part that are underpinned by a beautiful sequence of chords in the ensemble. Not long afterwards, rhythmic activity increases and the colorful writing flowers into full bloom. A subcurrent of modality runs throughout the musical canvas, and the parts of the various instruments, including that of the solo saxophone, intertwine in clever and creative ways. I can guess that the work is as rewarding to play as it is to listen to, and Carrie Koffman’s saxophone playing is suave, subtly nuanced, and technically secure in its every gesture.

The Hindemithian Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra of Kurt Weill has received enough performances and recordings to put it at least almost in the standard repertory category. On CD, there are at least 15 currently available versions. Consequently, it is likely that most readers interested in this work already own it, but the present recording is at least as excitingly and brilliantly rendered as any of the several recordings of the work that I’ve previously heard. Violinist Anton Miller plays with accuracy and flair to bring the work off in splendid fashion, and is ably supported by the Hartt School Wind Ensemble under the direction of Glen Adsit. Indeed these performers have brought to my mind a new appreciation for this work…

Chen Yi’s Dragon Rhyme is a very recent…work in two movements…premiered by the forces who present it here. The first movement, “Mysteriously-harmoniously,” evokes an aura of mystery through trills and fluttering in the upper woodwinds, and these continue in various ways throughout the work, sometimes underlying other solo instruments, the brass choir, and so on. The second movement, “Energetically,” is based upon the same material…but uses them in more vivid fashion. The image of a dragon is evoked through layering and dynamic textures…it’s a very exciting and dramatic work, and I would be surprised if Dragon Rhyme does not enter the band repertory. As in the other pieces, Glen Adsit and his forces brilliantly bring the music to life in stunning recorded sound. Very highly recommended. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Merlin Patterson
Fanfare, January 2013

…The single-movement…[Soprano Saxophone Concerto] is essentially lyrical, even pastoral in nature, with achingly beautiful melodies, gorgeous mildly dissonant harmonies, and sensuous instrumental colors. Indeed, Higdon once again proves herself to be a master orchestral colorist, even with the absence of the strings. The slow music is dreamy and melancholy, giving the soloist ample opportunity for heart-felt emotional expression. The contrasting fast sections are light and lively dances featuring intricate counterpoint and motivic interplay between soloist and ensemble. Soprano saxophone soloist Carrie Koffman has a rich tone and shapes the music beautifully…The technical demands of the work are considerable, yet Koffman dispatches them with seemingly effortless assurance.

The disc concludes with Chen Yi’s Dragon Rhyme, a two-movement exercise that blends Eastern elements with those of the West. The first movement is transparent and ethereal and makes use of material taken from the music of the Beijing Opera. With blazing brass fanfares and pounding percussion, the second movement transforms this same material into music that sounds as though it could serve as the soundtrack for a Samurai movie.

This is the second release for the Hartt School Wind Ensemble and conductor Glen Adsit in Naxos’s ongoing Wind Band Classics series, and once again they deliver very impressive performances. The recorded sound of the two concerti is resonant and spacious, with excellent balance between soloist and ensemble. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Barry Kilpatrick
American Record Guide, January 2013

Violinist Anton Miller pivots easily between fiery and expressive, and he handles the most difficult passages with seeming ease.

Kudos to Hartt’s Director of Bands Glen Adsit and his very fine musicians for an outstanding recording. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2012

I hope that a disc issued in the excellent Wind Band Classics series does not hide the fact that it contains a very rare chance to hear Kurt Weill’s Violin Concerto. Composed in 1924, it is an early work influenced by Stravinsky and Berg, and scored for the unusual combination of solo violin and wind instruments. It is constructed more as a concertante piece where the violin in the outer movements is just part of the music’s acerbic texture. The balance on this new recording does more than most in highlighting this fact, Anton Miller fighting hard to be heard. When those moments arrive, mostly in the shape of cadenzas, he displays a fine technique well able to handle the jagged rhythms darting around the fingerboard.  Even the central Notturno has ghostly flitterings around, not a million miles from the grotesqueries of Mahler. It is not an easy work for the wind band and must have taken a great deal of preparation by the young musicians from The Hartt School in Hartford, USA, who produce a quality performance. The coupling of Jennifer Higdon’s Soprano Saxophone Concerto gives another opportunity to hear one of today’s most outstanding American composers. It is in one continuous movement, but with many changes of pulse, and would more readily fall within the mode of a rhapsody. It poses many passages of dexterous virtuosity for Carrie Koffman, one of the mentors at Hartt. Chen Yi’s Dragon Rhyme has its tenuous roots in Chinese culture, but would more readily stand as a colourful classical score with fascinating sonorities in the first movement and a percussion-driven finale. It was premiered by the present performers in New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2010, the disc’s contents derived from an ‘in house’ recording team. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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