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Andrew Farach-Colton
Gramophone, July 2019

Wolfe’s gritty, postmodern take on the oratorio looks unflinchingly at the lives of Pennsylvania coal miners. Through humanising this dark and difficult subject, Wolfe’s music ultimately uplifts. © 2019 Gramophone

Mark Sullivan
All About Jazz, June 2017

Julia Wolfe’s Pulitzer-Prize winning oratorio for chorus and instruments deals with the coal-mining industry in an area close to where she grew up in Pennsylvania. “Foundation” has the singers chanting the names of miners who appeared on a Pennsylvania Mining Accident index. There’s a quiet, atmospheric opening, which is broken by instrumental outbursts. “Breaker Boys” starts out as a choral piece about the boys who broke coal into pieces and graded them, then it goes into a rock-influenced song.

“Speech” uses an excerpt from a speech by John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1920–1960. Lewis’ words are presented dramatically by a soloist, echoed by chorus and instruments. “Flowers” presents a more personal view of miner’s lives, listing the names of flowers common to gardens in the impoverished miner’s homes. The closing words of “Appliances” are taking from an advertising campaign for the coal-powered railroad, promoting the clean ride, a powerful contrast to the blackened faces of the miners underground. © 2017 All About Jazz

James H. North
Fanfare, March 2016

The performance is phenomenal; Bang on a Can All-Stars recreates everything, from the slightest hush to grand symphonic climaxes, with enormous panache. …It seems impossible that so much great and grand music emanates from six artists… The Choir of Trinity Wall Street (7/5/4/7) is equally fabulous.

Anthracite Fields is that rara avis, a successful combination of music and sociology. …Wolfe provides both immediate impact and a structural integrity that bodes long-term appreciation; time will tell. © 2016 Fanfare Read complete review

Jack Sullivan
American Record Guide, March 2016

Julia Wolfe…won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for music for this fascinating, heartbreaking choral work. The Pulitzer jury called Anthracite Fields “a powerful oratorio for chorus and sextet evoking Pennsylvania coal-mining life around the turn of the 20th Century”.

Wolfe tells the story of the miners from different perspectives.

The purity of the Trinity Wall Street Choir is breathtaking; and Bang on a Can contributes beguiling, imaginative, sometimes disturbing sounds from strings, percussion, clarinets and keyboard. © 2016 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Allan Morris
CBC, February 2016

Wolfe expertly weaves together an eclectic mix of musical styles—sometimes Appalachian folk, sometimes minimalist, sometimes rock-inspired—into a vibrant and moving oratorio. © 2016 CBC Read complete review

Stephen J. Nereffid
Music is Good, January 2016

Favourite classical albums of 2015 #11

The Pulitzer Prize for Music has been on a roll lately, the last three winners being Caroline Shaw, John Luther Adams, and now—hurrah!—Julia Wolfe. Anthracite Fields is an oratorio paying tribute to the coal miners of Pennsylvania and their families; in its mix of folk materials, Glass-like minimalism and much else besides, it builds on Wolfe’s achievements in Steel Hammer. © 2016 Music is Good

Textura, January 2016

Stylistically, it’s wide-ranging, with the musical character of all five parts contrasting and everything from elegiac classical to aggressive rock’n’roll surfacing, yet coherence is retained through the unifying presence of the coal mining theme. Certainly Anthracite Fields succeeds on a purely sonic level… © 2015 Textura Read complete review

Kate Molleson
Gramophone, January 2016

The writing is confident, the playing is slick and the singing is arrestingly unfussy. © 2016 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Sam Reising
NewMusicBox, December 2015

Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields…is one of the most ambitious in her collection of works based on the lore of Appalachia. …a haunting and moving journey into the lives of those who inhabited the region at coal’s height as well as those who remain there today. © 2015 NewMusicBox Read complete review

John von Rhein
Chicago Tribune, December 2015

The best classical recordings of 2015

Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music, Julia Wolfe’s oratorio for chorus and instruments is a poetic indictment of the exploitation of Pennsylvania coal miners. Texts drawn from oral histories and personal interviews are dressed in Appalachian vocal styles, post-minimalist repetition and rock-band vitality, to pay eloquent tribute to the workers whose labors help fuel a nation. © 2015 Chicago Tribune

Daniel Coombs
Audiophile Audition, November 2015

The music is alternately melodic, beautiful and moving and also jarring, on edge and—yes—‘industrial.’ There is an opening guitar riff from Mark Stewart that sets the tone and the heart breaking text and tone of “Flowers” stands in sharp contrast to the almost ‘metal rock’ sound of “Breaker Boys.” © 2015 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, November 2015

…a thrillingly versatile tribute—by turns elegiac and celebratory, rambunctious and reflective—to the world of coal mining and miners in the composer’s home state of Pennsylvania. © 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Read complete review

BBC Music Magazine, November 2015

Julia Wolfe has always been the most viscerally demotic of the Bang On a Can composers: she’s not afraid to throw electric guitar and rock drums into choral formalities, and controls her folk, street and minimalist resources with sassy conviction. © 2015 BBC Music Magazine

Jill Kimball
Second Inversion, September 2015

The sound is intense, evocative, and completely original. The carefully chosen words, taken from historical documents, interviews, and speeches, are heart-wrenching. Perhaps most importantly, the piece explores themes that are just as relevant to American lives today as they were 150 years ago: class inequality, unfair working conditions, and the social cost of using coal to generate electricity. © 2015 Second Inversion Read complete review

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