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Creature Quartet

Laura Schwendinger

JACK Quartet
Ari Streisfeld, violin Christopher Otto, violin
John Pickford Richards, viola Kevin McFarland, cello, Jamie Van Eyck, Christopher Taylor

HIGH WIRE ACT - New Millennium Ensemble

Panel with Sebastian Currier, Melinda Wagner, Augusta Read Thomas, Laura Schwendinger and New Millennium Ensemble members

Institute for Advanced Study


Primavera: the wind

Matt Haimovitz PRIMAVERA I the wind is the first collection in a momentous series encompassing 81 world premieres for solo cello. This Grammy-nominated digital album presents 14 new commissions by THE PRIMAVERA PROJECT for groundbreaking, multi-Grammy nominated cellist Matt Haimovitz. Each composer responds to Sandro Botticelli’s enigmatic painting, Primavera, and the prophetic large-scale triptych, Primavera 2020, by world-renowned contemporary artist Charline von Heyl. 

Label PENTATONE Oxingale Series (PTC: 5186286)
Release Date June 11, 2021



Creature Quartet

Laura Schwendinger

JACK Quartet
Ari Streisfeld, violin Christopher Otto, violin
John Pickford Richards, viola Kevin McFarland, cello, Jamie Van Eyck, Christopher Taylor

Ivory Billed Woodpecker (...hymn);

Passenger Pigeon (...hymn);
Dodo Bird (...hymn)
Yeti (...hymn);

Chupacabra (...hymn);
Nessy (...hymn)
Javan Rhinoceros (...hymn);

Tasmanian Devil (...hymn)

Lowland Gorilla (...hymn); Thylacine (...hymn);
Northern Right Whale (...hymn)

Sudden Light (2014)

Sudden Light (Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

Lightly Come or Lightly Go (James Joyce)

There’s a Certain Slant of Light
(Emily Dickinson)
A Light Exists in Spring (Emily Dickinson)

Jamie Van Eyck, mezzo soprano Christopher Otto, Ari Streisfeld, violins Kevin McFarland, cello

JACK Quartet

Song for Andrew (2010) Christopher Otto, violin John Richards, viola Kevin McFarland, cello Christopher Taylor, piano

String Quartet in three movements (2001) 

I. With Intensity

II. Molto espressivo, Dancelike

III. Maestoso

JACK Quartet*

A Harvard Association Commission



Waking Dream for flute and Orchestra - Christina Jennings
00:00 / 00:00

3 WORKS for solo instruments and Orchestra featuring Matt Haimovitz


World premiere recordings of three works for solo instruments and orchestra by the distinguished composer Laura Schwendinger


Three works for solo instruments and orchestra by Laura Schwendinger are presented in world premiere recordings. Esprimere for cello and orchestra was written in 2007 for Matt Haimovitz and premiered by him. Curtis Macomber is the soloist for Charoscuro Azzurro for violin and chamber orchestra and Waking Dream, a single movement work for flute and chamber orchestra was written for flutist Christina Jennings, who gave the premiere. The first composer to win the American Academy in Berlin Prize Fellowship, Laura Schwendinger is on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin Madison and directs their contemporary chamber ensemble. The recipient of numerous prizes, awards and commissions, Ms.. Schwendinger’s music has been performed by leading ensembles and artists of our time. The three soloists, all virtuosos of international acclaim, give stunning performances of this music of infinite beauty.



Laura Schwendinger, composer
Esprimere for Cello and Orchestra
Matt Haimovitz, cello, Madison Sinfonietta, Nicole Paiement, conductor

Laura Schwendinger, composer
Chiaroscuro Azzurro for Violin and Chamber Orchestra
Curtis Macomber, violin, Madison Sinfonietta, Nicole Paiement, conductor

Laura Schwendinger, composer
Waking Dream for Flute and Chamber Orchestra
Christina Jennings, flute, University of Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, James Smith, conductor



".. she’s so obviously gifted. Anyone who listens to these pieces will quickly hear that. …There is some exceptionally fine music here …I consider Schwendinger’s concertos the work of a significant contemporary composer getting a much-deserved (if long delayed) ‘break out’ recording. And what a recording it is!” (American Record Guide)

"...well crafted, colorfully orchestrated, chromatically disciplined, densely animated, lyrically alert."

Art Lange in Fanfare

“The cello concerto is a work of great drama, with a bold and intense, frequently ostinato-propelled first movement, a rhapsodic slow movement pitting the passionate solo line against highly original color textures in the orchestra, a scherzo in which scraps of material seem to be thrown around the orchestra, and an active, propulsive finale, incorporating a virtuosic bell-accompanied cadenza. The vocabulary is a highly chromatic take on tonality, harmonically lush and richly textured. The violin concerto explores the contrast between tough, bravura material, bold and extrovert and full of harsh, stabbing accents, and soaring lyricism in clear, translucent textures. As in the cello concerto, the soloist has a near-constant flow of expressively and technically demanding musical argument. Waking Dream is a single-movement poem full of shimmering, iridescent impressionistic textures and a sensuously meandering, ornamented singing line for the solo flute. Madison Sinfonietta; Nicole Paiement.”

-Records International

"Yet another fine American composing talent, that I have only just encountered. Despite a long, awardstrewn career and commissions from some pretty hefty names, Laura Elise Schwendinger is only now starting to get discs devoted entirely to her music. With a forthcoming album of her chamber works, High Wire Act and Nonet, on the way, this current album is a neat program of three concertos for different instruments, and it makes a fine first encounter to her purposeful but accessible style. Written between 2007 and 2009, these pieces share a very virtuosic, albeit pleasingly lyrical and expressive solo part, set to an often very harmonically complex orchestral score, although each work is very different in feel.A rather Brittenesque set of chords opens Esprimere, a big, brooding four-movement cello concerto, and the brilliant way it is developed creates a taut underpinning to the restless, anguished cello line, which acts at times as disjointed commentator to the dark, icy string writing, or elsewhere echoes precisely what is going around it. The third, almost jazzy, movement sees Schwendinger strip everything down, before bringing back the full power of the orchestra again for an urgent finale that leaves us hanging over the abyss. It is great to encounter Matt Haimovitz again (known for his solo recitals on Deutsche Grammophon) and he delivers an intense performance that feels spontaneous and unclinical. Superbly responsive conducting too from Nicole Paiement. Although it is a shame that Chiaroscuro Azzuro’s dedicatee, Jennifer Koh, doesn’t feature here, Curtis Macomber grants us a thrilling performance of this fiendishly difficult sounding violin concerto. There is an element of Ravel’s Tzigane about the work; both open with busy unaccompanied violin writing, before the harp creeps in and unleashes a very exciting, jagged accompaniment, although Schwendinger’s big, brutal orchestral writing takes this conventionally structured three-movement concerto in a very different direction from Ravel’s showpiece. Brutal stomps from the orchestra contrast with some very rhapsodic woodwind writing (especially in the second movement), giving a mercurial underpinning to the very sly, almost gypsyish solo part. All of this is built convincingly into quite a terrifying finale and, just as in Esprimere, the ending is a jolt out of nowhere. It really works. Waking dream, a single movement tone poem, is predictably a more unified and slightly gentler affair. Opening from a hushed, magical ether, Schwendinger (herself an accomplished flutist) writes gloriously for the flute, relishing not just the instrument’s soft grained, ‘flowery’ tone but exploring its more astringent sounds as well. It is very sensual writing, set against a vast array of shimmering orchestral colors, by turns, Barnaby Rayfield review glittering and somber, and unlike the jarring endings of the first two concertos, Waking Dream ebbs quietly away into the ether, marking a full circle to its mysterious opening. Exquisitely played by Christina Jennings (the work’s dedicatee), this is the highlight of the disc. What I find compelling about Schwendinger’s writing is its unashamed lyricism, amidst the dissonance. Despite her evident love of lush textures and swelling chords to support the often restless solo writing, there is a forward momentum, a journey or line, that any good composition has to have in my view. Despite her professorship there is nothing stiflingly academic about any of the concertos here. Only Waking Dream was recorded live, but the performances of all three works feel tight, impassioned and, well, lived in, although I have no score to verify technical accuracy. Sound is clear and forward, with the soloists given quite an intense, closely recorded ambiance, which fits the vivid textures of the pieces well. Although reviewing from a download the PDF booklet points towards a typically thorough Albany release. This is ballsy, confident music-making in both writing and execution and proves that serious contemporary music does not have to dumb down to be immediately accessible and emotional. Highly recommended

-Barnaby Rayfield in Fanfare

High Wire Acts

World premiere recordings of five works for chamber music by composer Laura Schwendinger (CRC 3098), including Schwendinger's work High Wire Act

Performed by by dozens of ensembles, including Eighth Blackbird, Brightmusic, Musiqua, Left Coast Ensemble, Left Bank Ensemble, Modern Ensemble, Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston, New Millenium Ensemble

and many more


Description & Contents:


High Wire Act; Nonet; Rumor; Sonata for Solo Violin; Two Little Whos; Bright Music; The Chicago Chamber Musicians, Michael Mulcahy, conductor; Christina Jennings, flute; Greg Sauer, cello; Katie Wolfe, violin



"High Wire Acts is a 2013 collection of five brilliant chamber works by Laura Elise Schwendinger, professor of composition at the University of Wisconsin and director of the school's Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. Her hands-on experience with musicians and their instruments clearly influences her idiomatic and skillful writing and informs her acute sense of what sonorities work well in combinations. The two ensemble pieces, High Wire Act (2005) and the Nonet (2003), display a lively mix of timbres and extended effects, and the interplay of contrasting instrumentation in counterpoint gives the music an intensely dramatic character. The smaller pieces are just as carefully calculated for their tone colors, and Schwendinger is quite resourceful with such seemingly limited pairings as flute and cello in Rumor (2004) and violin and guitar in Two Little Whos (2006). Perhaps her most impressive music is found in her Sonata for solo violin (1992), where the possibilities are limited by the instrument and the writing is fully exposed. Yet Schwendinger exploits the violin's tessitura and dynamic range and creates a kaleidoscopic impression by using all possible coloristic and technical devices, while maintaining a serious artistic expression throughout. Although various groups recorded these performances at different dates and locations, the overall sound quality of the CD is excellent, and the bright sonorities Schwendinger prizes are reproduced with clarity, especially in the Nonet"

B. Sanderson in Allmusic

"I like Barnaby Rayfield's description of Laura Elise Schwendinger's music, in his feature article in Fanfare 36:4 as “not girly music”. I would go further and add an emphatic this is “so not girly music”. Punchy, imaginative, subtle, stirring, evocative … all these terms apply. She studied with John Adams, which doesn't seem to have harmed her much. Schwendinger's music is worth more than anything Adams has churned out so far…The 2002 piece High Wire Act was inspired by the circus figures of Alexander Calder. There are five movements. The first, also called “High Wire Act”, is remarkably effective given the careful depictions given by the composer about what the music actually represents—not only the artists themselves but also (in the high string harmonics) the sounds of the trapeze apparatus itself. The performance itself is acrobatic indeed, and beautifully managed. It stands on its own perfectly without a priori knowledge of the program. The frozen second movement (“The Rope Walker”), finds stasis perhaps representing the hesitancy of the walker. The writing for the instruments is expert. The third movement, “The Aerialist” is a love song for flute and viola, here played by a real life husband and wife (the two, love song and marriage, aren't exclusive in America yet, are they?). A shimmering trapped bird features next, fighting for its freedom: wonderfully written, wonderfully played."

(Colin Clarke -Fanfare)

"I recently interviewed Laura Elise Schwendinger back in 36.4, where I encountered her intricate but ultimately accessible style for the first time. Then promoting her disc of concertos, this welcome second album of her work gathers up a selection of her chamber pieces, all written in the last ten years, except her violin sonata from 1992. Just as I admired her love of orchestral color back then, it is her unusual pairing of instruments that intrigues; flute and cello, violin and guitar. Poise, structure, lyricism. This new disc echoes the fine qualities of her 3 Works for Solo Instruments and orchestra…
Nonet is riot of colorful trills, with Schwendinger's demonstrating a wonderful ear for clarity of texture and balance. The second movement (suitably tagged Tenderly) is an assured and poised work of beauty and color that really ought to be better known." -Barnaby Rayfield in Fanfare

"The album takes its name from the five-movement High Wire Act (2005), for flute, violin viola, cello, and piano. Each movement essays a different rhythmic effect—buoyant contrasts, overlapping and drifting voices, ostinatos, soaring birdsong over animated strings, and the like—and although the composer has attached to them titles meant to suggest circus acrobatics, it’s just as easy to think of them as evocations of
Nature, especially as the melodic contours, emphasis on the flute, and the tension between Impressionist and Expressionist perspectives here were, to my mind, reminiscent of the Nature-inspired music of Toru Takemitsu. On the other hand, Schwendinger acknowledges the influence of Bach and Stravinsky on the Nonet (2003), and beyond the vibrant rhythms of the opening and closing movements, there is more than a trace of Stravinsky’s harmonic tang and, specifically, paraphrases from and allusions to Le Sacre du Printemps woven through the hypnotic slow inner movement."

-Art Lange in Fanfare


Brightmusic; Chicago Chamber Musicians; Duo 46; Christina Jennings, flutist;
Greg Sauer, cellist; Katie Wolfe, violinist (Centaur). The chamber works grouped together on this captivating disc show off Laura Elise Schwendinger’s acute ear for unusual textures. In these works, scored for solo violin; nonet; violin and guitar; or a quintet of flute, piano and strings, she sketches musical short stories of somnambulant fragility and purpose. The color palette she draws from these modest forces is varied and expressive — and brilliantly rendered by a fine roster of performers.

-Fonseca-Wollheim in NY Times Playlist

High Wire Act, opening move. 3 - Christina Jennings, and BrightMusic
00:00 / 00:00
C'e La Luna Questa Sera? - Lincoln Trio
00:00 / 00:00
In Just Spring - Dawn Upshaw
00:00 / 00:00
Notable Women, the Lincoln Trio

C'è la Luna Questa Sera?

(1998/2006; in memory of Donald Martino)

"C’e la Luna Questa Sera? (“Is There a Moon Tonight?”) by Wisconsin-based Laura Elise Schwendinger iwritten in one continuous movement and is strangely, eerily beautiful. Inspired by the sights and feelings of the moon over Italy’s Lake Cuomo, this is an ethereal, almost impressionistic beauty of a piece. With well-placed tremolos and high unison string melodies against a piano that whispers, shimmers and even ‘threatens’ at some points, the work seems to ask and answer the question posed by its title. I liked this piece a great deal!"

-Audiophile Audition


Voices of Our Time with Dawn Upshaw
"With her colleague Kayo Iwama on piano, Upshaw began with a playful and beautiful setting by Laura Schwendinger of the e.e. cummings poem, “in just-spring,”
-Boston Music Intelligencer
Cow Music, on KOFOMI #13
For 2 male voices, recorder and violin (5:00)
Chamber Concerto, on Grand Designs
Winner of the 1995 ALEA III International Competition
Upcoming Recordings
Complete Piano Works
Featuring pianist Christopher Taylor
Vocal Works
Featuring Mezzo Soprano Patricia Green, Cortona Duo with Ari Streisfeld and Rachel Calloway, Pianists Christopher Taylor, Cellist Leo Altino
in Kay Ryan Songs, and LOVE SONNETS
Chamber Works
Various chamber works
Cygnus Ensemble
Featuring Footfalls (from Sounding Beckett) and Garden of Earthly Delights


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