Reviews



An Emily Dickinson Suite

“Christopher Marshall’s An Emily Dickinson Suite is a captivating, fresh and beautiful piece. It consists of nine vignettes, each inspired by a Dickinson poem — each a ‘musical poem without words’. The eight poems selected by the composer (from the 1,775 Dickinson wrote) are ones that spoke most strongly to him in musical terms. Marshall succeeds brilliantly in capturing the expressive spirit of each poem. An Emily Dickinson Suite is both simple and deep—its textures, luminous, delicate and clear. Ornamental passages and rhythmically fragmented motives are juxtaposed against expressive lyrical passages—there are many wonderful passages for solo players. This is a glorious piece — it deserves to receive many performances!”

(Frank L. Battisti, Emeritus Conductor, New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble)

“Chris has composed a work unlike any other I have heard. Through nine ‘mini movements’ (several of which would work beautifully as stand-alone pieces) he creates a series of brilliant moments that combine to produce a truly profound whole. The students and I had a wonderful experience with the commissioning process. Chris’s extended visitation with the students really added to their understanding and their feeling of ownership of the piece. It was the students who fundraised the entire cost of the commission. I look forward to performing this piece many times in the years to come and to future commissions with this composer of outstanding talent and integrity.”

(Brian Messier, former Director Amherst Regional High School Wind Ensemble)

Aue!

“After working on the piece during the two day festival, the students and the audience were very receptive. I appreciate the Ivesian concept of layering ideas and the unpredictability of the sequencing of ideas as well. Textures, especially the more transparent, are welcome. The ending, with the tam-tam note, takes what promises to be a predictable gung-ho, and very conclusive, ending and gives it a marvelous irony (to my ear).”

(Prof. Charles Peltz, New England Conservatory, March 3, 2002)

Chaconne

“The orchestra’s commitment to New Zealand Music continued with a performance of Christopher Marshall’s 1998 composition Chaconne. This is a serene piece of great beauty that came off very well indeed.”

(Timothy Jones in The Christchurch Press, reviewing the Christchurch Youth Orchestra performance 25/5/99)

Dare To Hope

“Dare to Hope proves to be a challenging work with great rewards. From the mysterious tentative opening to the robust saxophone fugue to the climactic ending, this composition is a joy to perform and an inspiration to listen to. Christopher Marshall shows his skills with writing for concert band with his diverse use of rhythms, moods and colors.”

(Robert Petrella, 2008)

“Dare To Hope is a complex piece that evokes many moods and emotions. It is pleasurable, inspiring, and playful; all qualities that reflect Dr. Petrella for whom this piece was commissioned. Christopher Marshall has done an excellent job in synthesizing the many distinct sounds into one amazing masterpiece. Truly a joy to listen to.”

(Raj Pandyan - audience member, 2008)

High Flight

“High Flight is a transcendent experience. Christopher Marshall has musically created a sensation of soaring and wonder that brought all of the performers to an amazingly euphoric state. I think it is an expressive experience that none of us will soon forget. I am also grateful that he wrote a piece for saxophone and voices, a combination that sees little attention but that works so beautifully, as evidenced here.”

(Gregory Ruffer conductor of the Orlando Chorale, commissioned the work and gave the world premiere, 2009)

“I am amazed by the inspired beauty of High Flight. Having this work commissioned in my honor by such a distinguished composer is something I will always treasure.”

(John E. Perkins, 2009)

“This is the finest musical rendering of the sonnet we have heard …..performed beautifully …..The notion of the solo saxophone is really inspired, we feel.”

(Hugh Magee, brother of the poet, of the FL premiere)

“The piece garnered so many favourable comments; in fact it vied with the Whitacre as concert highlight.”

(John Rosser, conductor Viva Voce choir, NZ premiere)

“A waterfall of beautiful sound falling over us.”

(Tui Parr, audience member, NZ premiere)

“High Flight was very well received [in Scandinavia]…… I think the audience found it refreshing. Unaccompanied singing with the alto sax created a sound they were not accustomed to. Every time we sang it, we did well.”

(Richard Sowers, conductor of the Anderson University Chorale — 19 performances in the Eastern US and Denmark, Finland and Sweden, 2010)

Hikurangi Sunrise

“… Marshall [describes] his style as “founded on a strong belief in the power of singable, memorable melody”. That belief was certainly manifest in Hikurangi Sunrise. This is an assured composition… full of rich yet fresh orchestral writing… The final sequences were almost dying to have words set to them, such was their lyricism.”

(Rosemary Collier, Evening Post, Tuesday April 11, 2000)

“I think that it is a beautiful piece….such excellent musical and orchestral technique….. Anyone that loves music will respond to this work.”

(Samuel Adler, personal letter, June 26, 2000)

“I heard your piece, Hikurangi Sunrise, on the radio this morning as I was driving to work through Point Chevalier and had trouble concentrating on my driving. Certain aspects of it impressed me very much and I want to obtain a recording of it. Is one available, or if not can I purchase one from you directly?….. In any case I wish to hear more of your music….”

(Ted Jones, email message, 19 May 2004 10:14 AM<verj.jones@xtra.co.nz)

“Not sure if this is reaching *the* Christopher Marshall or not – but assuming so. Just wanted to say – thank you, and that regardless of the undoubted snobbery out there to anything this accessible – please stick with this style as much as your fancy takes you.…. Hikurangi Sunrise may be for you a departure – but all I can say is that I found it a refreshing delight – and I thank you. I see it’s [soon] out on CD – and I will nag Parsons until they get it in….”

(Neil Brown, email message, 31 May 2004 1:43 PM <nbrown@paradise.net.nz)

L’homme armé: Variations

“The final concert presented by the Bolton Sinfonietta in the Opera Theatre of the Royal Northern College of Music continued the international theme with composers represented from four different countries… Christopher Marshall from New Zealand was present for the United Kingdom premiere of his recent work, L’Homme Armé. This is a captivating piece based on the fifteenth century melody of the same name. After a terrifically striking and strident opening, the bulk of the work is a set of variations that highlight certain similar compositional concerns between the present day composer and those of five hundred years ago. The frequent use of strict canons, melodies decorated with grace notes, and syncopated cross rhythms show the clear link between Marshall and his ancestors. There are many subtleties along the way, including a particularly florid and wistful duet for saxophone and piccolo. This excellent work, having travelled in time, deserves to travel further geographically as well. The performance under Timothy Reynish showed great sensitivity to the varied moods and colours.”

(Adam Gorb, WASBE Newsletter, June 2004)

“It is safe to say that L’Homme Arme was a stunning success for the National Concert Band of Canada. The metric modulations and other musical challenges provided just the right amount of challenge to the largely-university and advanced high-school players. And it was VERY well received by the young audiences who heard it. We played to about 3600 students and educators total. I plan to perform the work again this fall, with your permission, with the University of Calgary Symphonic Band ….Thanks again for letting us use this wonderful piece ….

(Dr. Mark Hopkins, University of Calgary, email message, 8 June 2004 3:37 AM <hopkinsm2000@yahoo.com)

“Dear Mr. Marshall, I’m afraid that the concert in question was not reviewed by a critic. However, I myself attended (I was a violinist in the orchestra for fourteen years, but now work in the administration) and thoroughly enjoyed the concert, and specifically, L‘homme armé: Variations for Wind Ensemble. Conductor Reynish …. did a marvellous job of introducing the piece (or rather “explaining” it), therefore making it so much more of a musical journey for the audience. The piece was beautiful, lyrical, melancholic at times, while at others, humorous. The audience was very enthusiastic, indeed. Kudos to you and to conductor Reynish. I hope we hear more from both of you.”

(Heidi Traedal, Administrative Assistant, Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, email message, 17 January 2005 9:49 AM <post@kso.no>)

“….We listened to your L’homme arme Variations 10 times on the way to and back from Tanglewood ….That was delightful ! …. I felt that the opening sound of siren could be replaced with a less attention-getting but gentler passage, but liked all other parts, including the siren at the end ….The melody was lovely and beautiful and the rythm was fresh and envigorating. Some of the melodies, for whatever reason, reminded me of Dvorak’s: (I hope you would not be offended) intimate and affectionate, with a touch of folk music. Some parts were so pretty and charming that they made me think of Traumerei …. My wife, Kitty, felt that the sirens were indicative of awakening new lives …. The bottom line is that we both liked your composition very much, whether or not you would like or agree with what we felt. We found it beautiful and kept re-listening to it. I will look for more albums which contain your work. Thank you very much for opening our eyes (or ears) to your creation. Please keep up the good work.”

(Norm Ohtaka, email message, 12 July 2005 4:08:07 PM <ohtaka@att.net>)

O Fragile Human

“Sacred Kaleidoscope” was an apt title for the program that Frank Albinder and his 17-voice Woodley Ensemble brought Saturday to St Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill. The five featured composers (from Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia, Sweden and Estonia) explore colors, rhythms and textures in very different ways, and their superposition was in fact kaleidoscopic in its effect. There were three knockouts among Albinder’s choices for his D.C.-based group. Christopher Marshall’s five-part O Fragile Human, written over the course of the last three years on texts drawn from St John of the Cross, the medieval composer Hildegard of Bingen and several contemporary poets, draws on a remarkably rich palette of colors and textures and handles them with astonishing restraint and delicacy. Even with the four vocal lines going their individual and busy ways, textures were transparent and balanced. Some of this was due to Marshall’s sensitivity, but a lot was thanks to an ensemble that can produce sounds both rich and gloriously focused, that can field fine soloists but also a blend to die for, and that can move seamlessly from a brilliant fortissmo to an equally brilliant pianissimo almost instanteously…. The soloists, soprano Jolene Baxter and mezzo-soprano Marjorie Bunday, handled their assignments beautifully.”

(Joan Reinthaler, excerpt from her May 15 Washington Post review of May 13 World Premiere)

“I am pleased to report that the first international airing here in Washington last Saturday evening of your composition O Fragile Human was most successful. Led ably by Frank Albinder, the Woodley Ensemble did a marvellous job with the rich and complex textures and harmonies involved. Frank Albinder, in introducing your work to the audience at St Peter’s Catholic Church, was clearly pleased to be associated with the world premiere of your work. Frank and the ensemble handled five component pieces expertly – I’m sure you would have been very pleased and proud. The work was very warmly received by the audience with sustained applause following its performance…. My wife, daughter and I were delighted to have the opportunity to attend this special occasion in Washington and to hear a distinctly NZ work being performed for the first time. “

(Counsellor Peter Ferguson, New Zealand Embassy, Washington DC, May 13, 2006)

Resonance

“The premiere of your Resonance last night was a total success. It is quite an amazing piece. The Ithaca College Wind Ensemble under Tim played the piece brilliantly. I hope you get to hear it soon because I think you will be very pleased. The audience accepted the piece enthusiastically. I predict you will have many fine wind ensembles playing this piece in the very near future. Thank you for writing it and congratulations for a terrific contribution to the wind repertoire.”

(Prof. Mark Fonder, Ithaca School of Music, April 29)

“Chris, it was a triumph and the two works go very well together as opposite views of your art. Resonance is quite beautiful, with some fascinating sounds and then that gorgeous hymn tune with its variants: really very special – and of course the magical ending.”

(Conductor Timothy Reynish, private letter, April 29)

“The second half of the concert was conducted by Gerhard Markson, principal conductor of the RTÉ NSO who showed a greater sense of contral, and created a much more refined palette of sound form the young players. He was best rewarded in Resonance by Christopher Marshall. This is a delicately playful work which encompasses moments of Ivesian clamour, and evolves into a chorale which is treated with ever more elaboration before dissolving into a whistled ending.”

(Dervan Ryan, Irish Times (Dublin), performance by the WASBE International Youth Wind Orchestra in Killarney, Ireland, July 17, 2007)

Rondorlando

“In speaking with the other conductors, it is clear Rondorlando is a hit with audiences …. I would definitely say the same of my performance in October …. The tunes and rhythms seem to draw listeners in, and the momentum and excitement keeps building right to the end. I strongly recommend Rondorlando either as an upbeat concert opener, or a finale that will leave the audience singing one of its catchy themes. Chris states he wrote with community and high school bands in mind. I would agree to a point: for any competent high school or community band which thrives on a challenge, it would be excellent.”

(Joel Moody, director, Winter Park High School Wind Ensemble)

This Big Moroccan Sea

“Based on a news clipping, This Big Morocco Sea conveyed both immensity and intimacy, rendering that impersonal story transparent to the vast expanse of ocean and sky, out of which came the moving words of a nameless castaway (fine singing by tenor Devin Caughey) from a note left on a boat adrift over trackless waters. But this is no outcry in an empty abyss. In constant movement, with ceaseless, practically subliminal activity, the voices all around the soloist parse his story into syllable and sound, darkening then glistening, shifting with the currents, abruptly spiraling up as the wind and waves swell … a unique and moving experience.”

(Ken Bullock, ForAllEvents, Thursday, March 25, 2010)

“….And, I must tell you that several friends who have attended several SFCA concerts talked for weeks after our March concert about ‘The Big Moroccan Sea.’ They found it fascinating–a completely unexpected mix of calm and tragic, gorgeous and sinister, hypnotic and searing. It was a topic of conversation for weeks!”

(Mayo Tsuzuki, SFCA singer , May 11 2010)

“….I just had the extraordinary pleasure of hearing This Big Moroccan Sea performed by the San Francisco Choral Artists. I had never heard any of your work before and was absolutely transported. Would you be kind enough to let me know when your music is performed in the San Francisco Bay area again? I host an arts and entertainment radio show here and I’d love to interview you on the air at that time. All my best – and my deepest thanks for writing this piece and for choosing these extraordinary musicians to perform it.”

(Julie Motz, Art's Desire - KWMR - FM, May 16, 2011)

Three Aspects of Spring

“Music for violin, clarinet and piano is not particularly abundant, but the group responsible for most of what we have, the Verdehr Trio, gave a sparkling demonstration of the medium’s variety and color potential Sunday at the Phillips Collection. All five of the works played were composed for the trio in the past few years; all were excellent….Three Aspects of Spring (2002), by New Zealand composer Christopher Marshall, was happily melodious in its first and third movements and eerily evocative of vast open spaces in the middle movement, titled “Bushwalk” and featuring tiny motifs inspired by the calls of New Zealand birds……The Verdehr Trio played all this music as though it owned it — as, in fact, it does.”

(Joseph McLellan, Washington Post, Tuesday, February 25, 2003)

“The Verdehr Trio’s Sunday evening concert at the Phillips Collection…..[presented] new pieces from Australia and New Zealand that were mostly engaging…..The highlight of the afternoon was New Zealand composer Christopher Marshall’s Three Aspects of Spring. Even in its quieter moments, the music was expressive, speaking in rich textures, confident gestures and quicksilver mood changes.”

(Daniel Ginsberg, Washington Post , Tuesday, October 31, 2006)

Tihei Mauri Ora!

“Mind-expanding worldbeat compositions made up the “Music From Unheard Voices” presented by Washington Men’s Camerata on Friday evening……The world premiere of Tihei, Mauri Ora!, composed by New Zealand’s Christopher Marshall, stretched the singers, but not beyond their reach. The five movements and reprise demanded various meter changes, percussive stamping and whistling, and rhythmic spoken passages…. The lament movement was a stunner: William Wright’s solo clarinet threaded like an electric eel through the voices that rose, fell and gently grunted, suggesting warriors paddling a funeral canoe home from battle. In a spellbinding passage, sections of the chorus whistled in waves, like wind hissing through a naked skull.”

(L. Peat O’Neil, Washington Post, June 2, 2003)

U Trau

“Dear Dr.[sic] Marshall, I was very privileged this past Saturday to play Euphonium in the premiere of your new work U Trau. I will not lie: from the first time I tried to practice the piece I hated it and started to plot your assassination. But the first time that I heard the oboe duet at the beginning of the piece, my mind did a U-turn and I found myself wanting to shake your hand. I meant to talk to you at the festival but I did not get the chance. Your music was beautiful, amazing, and inspiring. I am a very amateur composer, and it is wonderful to be involved in a premiere of anything as wonderful as what we witnessed on Saturday. I hope that our performance pleased you…. Here is one last enormous “THANK YOU” for writing, and allowing us to perform, your beautiful music. The Dream will probably be a part of my life forever.

(James Mitchell Tuesday, email message 23 March 2004 8:37 AM <orangemoa3@hotmail.com)