Colin Clarke Review of Johnston Nos. String Quartets 6-8 - By Colin Clarke Ben Johnston was born in 1926. A pupil of Milhaud, he has experimented with chance operations, dodecaphony, microtones, and just intonation. This latter is vitally important to him (some listeners might find it a touch hard to get used to, perhaps). The Kepler Quartet has released recordings of these works over an extended period: Volume One (Quartets Continue Reading»
Mark Medwin Review of Johnston Nos. String Quartets 6-8 - By Mark Medwin It should go without saying that music history, as with history in general, is not linear at all. It moves in spirals, exhibiting points of accomplishment and reflection to those willing to see and contemplate them. With the completion of its survey of American composer Ben Johnston’s 10 string quartets, the Kepler Quartet has reached one of Continue Reading»
Robert Carl Review of Johnston String Quartets Nos. 6–8 - By Robert Carl We have here the culmination of an epic process of both composition and recording, following one another over decades. Ben Johnston (b. 1926) has written 10 string quartets, nine of which have explored every nuance and possibility of the tuning system called “just intonation.” It achieves more perfect tunings of the intervals we usually hear within the Continue Reading»
The Boston Musical Intelligencer – BAE Introduces Important New Weir Work - Sharan Leventhal played exquisitely throughout, as did her partners, in an extraordinarily tight ensemble. The slow third movement, particularly, overflowed with poetry.
ASCAP: A Musical Mount Everest Ascended! - Congratulations to ASCAP member Ben Johnston and the Kepler Quartet . In line with the composer’s 90th birthday just last month, we are now happy to report his “Mount Everest of String Quartets" (Kyle Gann) has successfully launched to great fanfare. Check out this video for more about the completion of this monumental project: The Kepler Quartet Completes Recording the Continue Reading»
NY Times: Music Review | Gramercy Trio: Starting Simple, Getting Deeper - By ANNE MIDGETTE. Romanticism was one stated theme of the Gramercy Trio's recital at Merkin Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon. But the big round sounds that predominated on the first half of the program also had in common a quality that could better be described as simplicity. Take Joaquín Turina's Trio No. 2, which opened the program. A likable piece, it combines the sort of Continue Reading»
Boston Globe: A new music concert with a twist (and a slide) - "The Gramercy’s performances throughout the night had the kind of kinesthetic energy and zest that hinted at the positive feedback loop between music and dance, a relationship that is almost always implied but here made explicit as the animating idea of a delightful evening."
Boston Globe: Gramercy Trio delivers sharp premiere of a Schuller piece - "The performers opted to play the whole thing twice, which didn’t feel too long in the least. And the performances themselves were very good indeed: sharp, moody, atmospheric."
From Fanfare: Shadow Bands - "The performances couldn’t be better."
From Fanfare: Martino: Fantasies and Impromptus / Piano Trio / Serenata Concertante / Peyton: Elegy / Homans: Quintino - "It is hard to imagine a more dedicated performance than this. The expressive weight of dissonances is respected, with all required nuances. The Schoenbergian element to the high-lying string lines a minute or so before the piece’s end unashamedly takes the music into the realms of expressionist angst. An audience member whoops right at the end, and it is difficult Continue Reading»
Classical-Scene: Unbeatable Choices from BAE - "Then off to Vienna with Mozart’s Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581. Clarinetist Thomas Martin, along with Leventhal, Dimitriades, Brown, and Miller showered magnificence everywhere. The second movement, Larghetto, found an incomparable tone of heavenliness, Martin’s clarinet serenely circling the remarkably soft, angelic voice of the strings. Sumptuous blend could be another way of praising BAE’s Mozart. So, too, Continue Reading»
The Boston Musical Intelligencer: High Bar for Boston Conservatory String Series - "Leventhal performed it with such gravity that, at its completion, an astonished momentary silence preceded the audience’s thunderous applause."
Review Compilation: Ben Johnston CD 1 - "The performances here by the Kepler Quartet are impassioned, and the degree to which the players have mastered the exotic tunings to the point where the chords glisten and flash is something to marvel at." "...all superbly performed by the Kepler Quartet." "The Kepler Quartet is so compelling in its performances that these radiant recordings should be regarded as authoritative." Continue Reading»
New York Music Daily: Cutting-Edge, Elegantly Menacing Ben Johnston String Works from the Kepler Quartet - "Johnston’s music requires a vast spectrum of variations per pitch, and the quartet have mastered all of them – and the meticulousness of these recordings bears that out." "The ensemble tackles all of this with expertise, and verve, and gusto: they are clearly having a ball with this stuff, especially when his sense of humor is going full force." "It’s Continue Reading»
GRAMOPHONE: Just Johnston - "...apropos the Kepler Quartet's genius playing, they hit notes few other groups could even hear."
Fanfare Mag: Kepler Str Qrt: JOHNSTON String Quartets on NEW WORLD - "Pride of place goes to Vol. 2 of the Kepler Quartet’s continuing cycle of the Ben Johnston string quartets, works that, through their deep conception and comprehensive musicality, open us up to a new world of harmony based on microtonality as an expressive tool, not just an avant-garde experiment."
NY Times: Players Are Wanted for Ben Johnston’s Works. Some Sacrifice Is Required. - By CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM According to experts, the most difficult string quartet ever written is Ben Johnston’s Quartet No. 7. It was composed in 1984 but went unperformed for decades. Musicians who knew the score, with the ingenious palindromic structure of one movement and variations teeming with over a thousand microscopically distinct pitches, considered it well-nigh unplayable. Now the work Continue Reading»
Classics Today: Ben Johnston’s Microtonal Significance - "Their intricately honed ensemble values, characterful solo turns, and wide palette of nuances extend far beyond merely playing the unplayable, setting performance standards that will keep young, enterprising quartets humble for decades."