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David Kettle
The Strad, June 2017

There’s not much that unites the five contrasting works in this debut CD from the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME)—other than the player’s sheer love for and sense of connection with the music… Warmth and care are fully evident in the ensemble’s immaculate, considered performances—the four composers featured (three of whom are themselves players in the ensemble) could hardly wish for more committed, convincing accounts of their music.

Caleb Burhans’s tender piece Jahrzeit for string quartet is a memorial to his father, and played with an almost Brahmsian richness by a foursome featuring Burhans himself on viola. The ensemble creates a hearty, full sound for Burhans’s swelling tonal harmonies and melancholy melodies, with a nicely idiomatic sense of suppleness to the piece’s rhythms. Caroline Shaw’s work for solo cello, In manus tuas, inspired by a Tallis motet, seems to stop time with its endless arpeggios, which in the end become a texture in themselves, delivered with strong character by cellist Jensen. And Timo Andres’s quirky piece Thrive on Routine for string quartet imagines Charles Ives’s morning activities—get up, dig the potatoes, play Bach—in four short, captivating movements blending scampering enthusiasm with a rustic rambunctiousness.

The disc’s highlight, however, is environmental composer John Luther Adams’s sensuous In a Treeless Place, Only Snow for string quartet, piano, celeste and two vibraphones, given a voluptuous, unashamedly Romantic account by the ACME players on remarkably sonorous form. In its warmth and detail, recorded sound matches these incisive performances. © 2017 The Strad



Donald Rosenberg
Gramophone, June 2017

The newest recording from ACME (American Contemporary Music Ensemble) contains a bounty of appealing recent works.

Each of the pieces by ACME players has a back story. Andres’s Thrive on Routine is inspired by Ives’s morning rituals and love of Bach. The movement titles—‘Morning’, ‘Potatoes’, ‘Passcaglia’, ‘Coda’—tell much of the tale, with inestimable help from Andres’s witty and concise musings for string quartet. Another quartet, Burhans’s Jahrzeit pays tribute to the composer’s late father in music of haunting radiance and poignancy.

Shaw’s two entries are solo works that reflect on music of past masters in deft modern strokes. in manus tuas is a glowing evocation of a Tallis motet in which the cello, emerging from a haze, spins wisps of phrases that fade into space; Clarice Jensen gives it an impassioned performance. In Gustave Le Gray, Chopin’s A minor Mazurka, Op 17 No 4, is transformed into a new, moving context, especially in the sensitive account by pianist Andres. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, March 2017

…I must say I am impressed. …On it we hear a nicely chosen selection of modern/postmodern works occupying an ambient, radical tonality turf.

In all five works represented, each one is a journey into tone color and depth of field.

After hearing this a number of times, I come out of the program with an enthusiastic two thumbs up. It is nothing short of lovely. ACME is off to a wonderful start! © 2017 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review



Daniel Stephen Johnson
WQXR (New York), February 2017

The American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) has more than one of the cleverest band names in new music. Since the “acme” of something means the peak, the pinnacle, it also serves as a most appropriate name for this flexible ensemble, whose lineup includes such composer-performer stars as pianist Timo Andres, violinist Caroline Shaw and multi-instrumentalist Caleb Burhans.

ACME’S new album, Thrive on Routine, features music by all three, framed in a program that serves—for the first time in the ensemble’s 12-year history—as a recorded portrait of the group, reflecting their aesthetic sensibility rather than that of a single composer. © 2017 WQXR (New York) Read complete review





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