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Kate Wakeling
BBC Music Magazine, February 2018


Harris’s Violin Concerto is paired with the composer’s Fifth Symphony: premiered in 2014, it is a deftly-constructed exploration of the agonies of war. The work is underpinned by settings of three stark, moving poems by contemporary Hungarian poet Panni Palásti, recalling the violent siege of Budapest in 1944. Framed by two austere but fiercely beautiful adagio movements and a spiky pair of scherzos, the three sung movements are themselves mystical and restrained, with Sally-Anne Russell’s rich mezzo-soprano lending them a ghostly power. © 2018 BBC Music Magazine Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, November 2016

New Zealand’s Ross Harris is a happy surprise of a composer for me. The Naxos CD at hand gives us poetic readings of his Violin Concerto and his Symphony No. 5, two expressionistic gems handled beautifully by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra under Gary Walker for the former and Eckehard Stier for the latter. Ilya Gringolts sounds inspired in the solo violin role and mezzo-soprano Sally-Anne Russell is glowingly moody in the solo vocal part of the Symphony.

Harris is a modernist of real stature! Highly recommended. © 2016 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Stephen Estep
American Record Guide, November 2016

Gringolts, Walker, and the orchestra are excellent—they always know exactly where the music is going. © 2016 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, October 2016

…[Ross Harris’s] is a voice who really has something to say to the world. He isn’t an easy Kiwi to crack, but the rewards are there if you are patient and bear him out.

The major work on the program is Harris’ Symphony No. 5, …This is a very emotional work, …Sally-Anne Russell does a commendable job of conveying the varrious moods to us with the greatest sensitivity.

Violinist Ilya Gringolts does fine work savoring the strange beauty of a seamlessly textured work that hovers tantalizingly between tonal and atonal. © 2016 Audio Video Club of Atlanta Read complete review

Ettore Garzia
Percorsi Musicali, September 2016

Harris’ symphony seeks to relocate the absurdities of life in a texture that sails in a sort of memory of pain: beautiful adagios, well built scherzos and the innocent song of Sally-Anne Russell are the elements that provoke a turbid vision of reality: we remain in a state of lack of emotional direction, a circumstance that you can also feel in his Violin Concerto, in a very good perfomance of Ilya Gringolts and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. © 2016 Percorsi Musicali Read complete review

Bruce Reader
The Classical Reviewer, August 2016

[Symphony No. 5] is a spectacularly fine work … It is played to perfection by Gringolts and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Garry Walker.

[Violin Concerto] is an impressive symphony full of depth and feeling that is given a terrific performance here by Eckehard Stier and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. © 2016 The Classical Reviewer Read complete review

Gavin Engelbrecht
The Northern Echo, August 2016

The New Zealand composer Ross Harris’ Fifth Symphony was inspired by the poems of Panni Palasti, many of which reflect her experiences during the siege of Budapest in the Second World War. Forming the emotional core of the work, the three songs with soloist Sally-Anne Russell form a stark contrast with the violent and disturbing imagery of the two Scherzos and the austere beauty of the opening and closing Adagios. The album is rounded off with the beautifully-textured Violin Concerto, performed by Ilya Gringolts, along with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. © 2016 The Northern Echo

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2016

Ross Harris, then aged sixty, decided to dedicate his life to composition, and in the space of ten years has produced five symphonies and two major concertos. Born in New Zealand in 1945, he has now found himself in a world where music is at a crossroads, a group of internationally acclaimed composers having turned the clock back to reconnect with music that was created in a world of tonality. He seems to have opted to place a foot in both camps, his mix of melodic invention and atonality probably disconcerting to audiences, yet he uses it with consummate skill. The Fifth Symphony is moulded around poems by Panni Palasti, a survivor of the Second World War in Budapest, the cold and uncompromising opening movement setting the scene for pictures of a child living through those years. The scherzos that separate the three songs for mezzo-soprano are vicious and war related, the final Adagio recalling turmoil before peace is restored as the work evaporates into silence. The Violin Concerto could well have come from another composer, its parentage seemingly in the Polish avant garde of the late Twentieth Century. Fragments that open the work, played by the lone violin, setting a scene of withdrawn atonality that continues in all five parts of the score. Though active almost throughout, it does not afford the soloist a virtuoso role, Ilya Gringolts making light of technical challenges, as we hear in the whirlwind fourth part. Assuming a child-like voice for two of the songs, Sally-Anne Russell ideally pictures the young Panni, and you feel the Auckland Philharmonia—with conductors Garry Walker (in the concerto) and Eckehard Stier—are dedicated Harris advocates. Good modern sound with admirable transparency even in the densely scored passages. © 2016 David’s Review Corner

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, June 2016

Orchestral tone and clarity is smooth and clean. © 2016 MusicWeb International Read complete review

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