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Colin Clarke
Fanfare, November 2013

The idea of a disc of works for string quartet and orchestra is a pleasing one.

…Delights & Dances…is a delightful work that begins with a solo cello cadenza-like passage. All four instruments are given chances to shine in music that owes much to the blues. The final section is marked “bluegrassy.” The work is lightly and expertly scored, with its Finale presenting just the right amount of party-like abandon. The recording is bright but not brash and gives a nice feeling of space around the orchestra and soloists…

The Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra…makes for enjoyable reading. There is some wonderfully spiky, Stravinskian writing in the first movement, given in the most spirited fashion by the members of the quartet. The central Andante cantando is fascinating. The diatonic ending leads to an angular Allegro energico finale, an exciting ride that enables the solo quartet to shine. And shine it does here.

…“Saibei Dance” is a lollipop for orchestra that would make a tremendous, invigorating encore. Finally, there is Randall Craig Fleischer’s West Side Story Concerto. Fleischer…presents a glorious revisiting of Bernstein. Everyone concerned is having a ball, that much is clear…A lovely idea, and well realized. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Andrew Quint
Fanfare, November 2013

…an intriguing quartet of works that includes three pieces for string quartet and orchestra. The diverse backgrounds of the musicians involved satisfies as well—an African-American/Hispanic string quartet, two black composers, a female Taiwanese-born conductor, etc.—and speaks volumes about the growing inclusiveness of what’s known as “classical music.” © 2013 Fanfare

Herman Trotter
American Record Guide, November 2013

The playing of the Chicago Sinfonietta and Harlem Quartet is first rate, and the recording captures it all with good balance and depth. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Andrew Quint
The Absolute Sound, October 2013

What is this irresistible CD from the enterprising Cedille label “about” anyway? Perhaps the message is to remind us that classical music is not, by any means, strictly the domain of Dead White (European) Males. Or maybe it’s just a cunningly conceived hour of brilliantly scored high-energy orchestral fireworks to be enjoyed for itself. Michael Abels’ Delights & Dances opens with plaintive, searching lines for the quartet, patiently evolving toward a medium-tempo discourse among the four players (“Bluesy”), accompanied by pizzicato orchestral strings. The final section, “Bluegrassy”, is a take-no prisoners romp. Benjamin Lees’ Concerto for String Quartet is serious and driven; Randall Craig’s West Side Story Concerto is an inventive take on Bernstein’s classic rhythms and melodies. At four minutes long, An-Lun Huang’s exuberant Saibei Dance is over much too soon. The sound, courtesy of Bill Maylone, Cedille’s longtime engineer, is fresh and impactful. © 2013 The Absolute Sound

Donald Rosenberg
Gramophone, September 2013

Three of the works on the Harlem Quartet’s new disc, ‘Delights & Dances’, succeed in delighting and dancing. A fourth, Benjamin Lees’s dark and dramatic Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra…also provides significant rewards.

The Lees seizes attention by keeping the interplay between quartet and orchestra in myriad states of suspense. Each movement unfolds as a series of haunting or bold conversations, spiced by Lees’s vivid sense of harmonic colour. It’s a work that deserves to be programmed often.

A short break from the string quartet comes in the form of a splashy orchestral piece, An-Lun Huang’s ‘Saibei Dance’ from his Saibei Suite No 2. A taste of the Orient melds with Carmen-like jubilation as the dance proceeds on its festive way.

More familiar are the explosive dance sequences and soaring lyricism in the West Side Story Concerto for string quartet and orchestra. Selections from the Bernstein score receive deft colouring as arranged by American conductor Randall Craig Fleischer. Two cadenzas allow the quartet members to play alluring riffs on beloved themes.

The Harlem Quartet bring suave and vibrant expressivity to all of their duties and the Chicago Sinfonietta make crisp, forceful and poetic contributions under the baton of…Mei-Ann Chen. © 2013 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Hurwitz, August 2013

The Harlem Quartet, dedicatees of Abels’ piece, play all of this music very beautifully indeed. They have a warm, well balanced corporate sonority, rock solid rhythm, and the ability to play hard without coarsening the tone unnecessarily. The Chicago Sinfonietta under Mei-Ann Chen is a virtuoso group that accompanies with impressive technique, and the sonics are typically excellent. This is a very, very fine disc. © 2013 Read complete review

Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo News, August 2013

There are a couple of goodies in this modern-themed grab bag. The “Saibei Dance” of An-Lun Huang…is a winner, with a fluttery Asian melody bursting into four minutes of brassy razzle dazzle. Orchestras should pick this up. It would bring the house down at outdoor concerts.

The other winner is Randall Craig Fleischer’s “West Side Story” Concerto For String Quartet and Orchestra. The Bernstein melodies never get boring, but just in case, Fleischer varies the textures wildly. “Mambo” snaps and pops with aggressive percussion and vocals, “Cha Cha” gets its delicacy from the string quartet solo, and “Tonight,” which has the quartet playing against the orchestra, has a silver-screen romance.

The Harlem Quartet gives the piece a wonderful, sensual charm. © 2013 The Buffalo News Read complete review

Greg Cahill
Strings Magazine, July 2013

This pairing of three works for string quartet and orchestra…is one of the most beautiful, most lively discs of modern music to come down the pike this year.

The Harlem Quartet is exemplary, delivering staccato stabs and lush legato. © 2013 Strings Magazine Read complete review

Robert Moon
Audiophile Audition, July 2013

Delights and Dances lives up to its title…

Benjamin Lees[’]…Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra…is an exhilarating and significant American concerto, and the Harlem Quartet and Chicago Sinfonietta play it for all it’s worth.

…the performance and recording of Fleischer’s arrangement [of West Side Story] is superb and Bernstein’s score can stand many arrangements.

…the whole album is easy to enjoy. © 2013 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Remy Franck
Pizzicato, June 2013

This program brings the excellent Chicago Sinfonietta together with the brilliant Harlem Quartet in four works inspired by the baroque Concerto grosso. Listening to Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ in this new neo-baroque, vibrantly rich and colorful clothing is a most extraordinary experience. © Pizzicato

Ronni Reich, June 2013

The Harlem Quartet and the Chicago Sinfonietta (under conductor Mei-Ann Chen) pull off an energetic, well-blended performance. Their collaboration is best served by the title work written by Michael Ables for the quartet, which features a bluesy opening melody followed by a wailing bluegrass interlude that culminates in an epic, colorful finale. Music from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story”…is…enjoyable. Percussion and brass contribute to a splashy “Mambo” opening before the quartet members gently lean into a cha-cha melody that hints at “Maria.” The shimmering quartet tones and the warm orchestra support each other admirably as the work moves into a languid rendering of the “America” opening and then heats up to a filigreed “Tonight” and a cinematic “Somewhere” finale. © 2013 Read complete review

Cinemusical, June 2013

The Chicago Sinfonietta continues to expand recorded repertoire with this release that features music influenced by dance rhythms and styles. The Lees is likely to be the biggest welcome surprise along with the Abels work. The second half of the disc might feel like a reward with the more familiar Bernstein melodies creating some musical familiarity and comfort. In short, a rewarding release regardless of which half of the program you will prefer. © 2013 Cinemusical Read complete review

Lisa Flynn
WFMT (Chicago), May 2013

…the Chicago Sinfonietta…does what this singular ensemble does best: it captivates listeners of all ages and diverse ethnic backgrounds through irresistible music and superb musicianship. On its new album, the Chicago Sinfonietta…works its magic through a one-of-kind program featuring music for string quartet and orchestra, with guest artists, the Harlem Quartet. © 2013 WFMT (Chicago) Read complete article

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