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Walter Simmons
Fanfare, March 2013

This is a meticulously performed recording of a largely interesting and rewarding program. Anyone intrigued by the contents is not likely to be disappointed.

…overall this is an excellent sample of music for string quartet written by American composers…The Ying Quartet is a most impressive ensemble… © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Anna Reguero
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, December 2010

This is the final recording of the Ying Quartet in its original all-sibling formation, performing newly written works by American composers. They perform new works with the same vitality that they’ve given to older ones. There’s not a string quartet out there that is a better ambassador for new classical music.

James Manheim, September 2010

The Ying Quartet, siblings from Illinois who formed an ensemble while studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, here offer a new installment in the LifeMusic series, featuring works newly commissioned from a variety of American composers. The group is effective in a variety of idioms, and the LifeMusic releases have been of consistently high quality and have introduced some composers whose names are not in general circulation. The works favored by individual listeners may be primarily a matter of taste, but one may state at least that one work here is a standout in terms of advancing a particular technique rather than simply attempting to perfect it: Sebastian Currier’s Next Atlantis, a meditation on New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, and rising waters generally, breaks new ground in creating an accessible fusion of conventional instrument with prerecorded electronics. The string quartet seems to embody a human layer above the water sounds provided by the electronics, but the two layers approach each other and consistently interpenetrate. This may be the most serious of the LifeMusic releases, with the inclusion of Lowell Lieberman’s String Quartet No. 3, Op. 102, dedicated to the victims of war and drawing in mood on Shostakovich’s stately idiom. Pierre Jalbert’s Icefield Sonnets adapt a sparse modern idiom to the age-old task of representing winter, and their evocative content is likely easily identifiable for general listeners. The biggest name among the four composers here may be Paul Moravec; his Anniversary Dances, less sectional than the concept of the piece implies, resemble more traditional sonata movements than dances, even considering the included disclaimer that the dances involved may as well be spiritual as physical. As usual with the Yings, a useful and accessible survey of some contemporary chamber music.

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, September 2010

Possibly it might sound biased when I say that this recording of American music is far more interesting than the same quartet’s renditions of Chinese music on Telarc but that’s the way it is. I really did enjoy the Ying Quartet’s sound and technical finesse on the Telarc recording, but the music on this disc is superior in every way, and not just because it’s American but because it’s better.

We get a variety of styles; Currier’s blisteringly beautiful Next Atlantis uses tape and quartet (the tape needed for various water sounds) in making a very pertinent commentary about New Orleans and Katrina. This is not a political statement of any kind, just a ravishing, subtle, musical exercise in effecting needed emotion over a tragic event, impressionistic and ghostly.  Jalbert’s Icefield Sonnets attempts to portray moments of “coldness” its three movements “Cold is a Cell”, “Glass is a Place”, and “North is a Notion” all referring to northern climes and winter, something appealing to me because I too love those melancholic aspects of winter, even as I enjoy the thought of it more than the actuality from my chair in warm Atlanta—even in winter, for the most part.

Anything by Paul Moravec with the word “dances” in it is bound to get the pulse up and this one does too, a joint commission by the Eastman Institute for American Music and Astrid and John Baumgardner for their 30th wedding anniversary. They should be very pleased with the results of this attractive work.

But the most important piece here has to be Lowell Liebermann’s Third Quartet, dedicated, modestly, to “all the victims of war”. Glad he didn’t choose anything profound here…but in truth this 13-minute piece is a fine depiction of sentiments relating to those lost through mankind’s interminable desire to wreak havoc, whether justified or not. Liebermann is not one we turn to for a good time; the man simply is serious, serious, and serious. But when he’s on and when he’s right it’s all good, and this brief temple to tempestuousness is as fine a work as I can recall hearing by him, gripping and convincing.

Sound is excellent, performances first class. I have not heard LifeMusic I and II, but will definitely be on the lookout!

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