"Left Coast Chamber Ensemble Proves That Great Opera Needn’t Be Grand"
World premiere of Chamber Version by Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, June 3, 2019
-"Laura Schwendinger's Artemisia, on the other hand, is sumptuous on every level...
Schwendinger’s score is striking. Often, it’s the little things, like the intoning of ‘Susanna’: the stressed syllable rising before the terminal fall, a nagging presence grudgingly accepted. Or the resolutions of the diminished fourths in Tommaso’s aria, a breathtaking piece of worry and longing...Most memorably, the music underscores Artemisia’s deteriorating vision. Tender, high-pitched glimmers shift so as to be out of reach. The shadows are flat-sounding chords: impressionistic, but with a distinctly contemporary sensibility.”
- By Rebecca Wishnia; SFCV
Link to review https://www.sfcv.org/reviews/left-coast-chamber-ensemble/left-coast-chamber-ensemble-proves-that-great-opera-neednt-be
--“Artemesia” is a good match for Dorothea. More of a tale, with multiple scenes, Schwendinger’s score and Ginger Strand’s story not only casts its spell but awakens us again to the continuing conflict of men, women and art that has pervaded western history...The music challenges. The texture is rich. The variety of instrumentation stimulates and complements the complex issues alive in the script. Flute/piccolo, accurate and incisive, piano and percussion extending and developing motifs, harp and strings, provides a musical brocade that is excellent sister to the story, excellent transmitter of the story. Both reveal the complexity and do not hold back from riveting us to it.”; Link to review
“Artemisia” lasts just 80 minutes, but fits in big themes set to music of quivering intensity. The story of the rape is there, blended with Gentileschi’s unbearably compassionate painting of the biblical character Susanna, who was ogled and shamed in her bath. But larger questions of idea and form, image and projection, sight and gaze also find nuanced and intelligent treatment. CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM
In the New York Times
Colin Clarke's review of Albany CD QUARTETS, featuring the JACK Quartet
Jamie Van Eyck and Christopher Taylor
SCHWENDINGER Creature Quartet: Hymn for Lost Creatures. Sudden Light.1 String Quartet in Three Movements. Song for Andrew2 • JACK Qrt; 1Jamie Van Eyck (mez); 2Christoper Taylor (pn) • ALBANY 1704 (65:29 )
Professor of music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Mexican-born Laura Elise Schwendinger was the first composer to win the American Academy in Berlin Prize. A feature in Fanfare 36:4 celebrated the first disc fully devoted to her works (also on Albany), while Cedille Records has programmed one of her pieces, C’è la luna questa sera?, on a disc entitled Notable Women. In the Fanfare feature, Schwendinger said that “realizing that technique is your friend gives you the tools to help give voice all of your ideas,” and there is technique here aplenty. Assured, uncompromising, gritty with a core of steely lyricism, Schwendinger’s music is remarkable. It demands we listen fully, and offers rich rewards in return.
The Creature Quartet: Hymn for Lost Creatures is in one sense a sort of Carnival of the Animals for our time, presenting a procession of musical portraits of various animals. It is the composer’s “personal response to the current mass extinction of species”; the creatures chosen are therefore extinct, mythological, or endangered. Perhaps, therefore, it is at heart a carnival of compassion. The trajectory of the work is described in some detail by Schwendinger in the booklet notes; the strength of the music is such that one need not work through that description to realize the power of her music, this despite the fact that the animation artist Pauline Gagniarre was commissioned by Wisconsin Union Theater to provide an animated video to present each creature in order as the music plays (the captivating video is freely available on vimeo.com). Gestural and yet powerfully organized, Schwendinger’s voice is highly individual. The performance by the JACK Quartet is impeccable, and as a studio recording it is technically more secure than the live Vimeo video. The sheer intensity of both music and performance thereof is spellbinding, as if the passion of the composer for her subject shines through like a light.
The piece Sudden Light sets four poems on the subject of light. The first is “Sudden Light” by Rossetti, exploring the enigma of past lives. The mezzo Jamie Van Eyck sings with complete assurance, navigating the mobile lines in Dickinson’s “There’s a certain Slant of light,” while Schwendinger underlines the permeating emotion of dread at winter’s coming. The setting of James Joyce’s “Lightly Come or Lightly Go” contains tenderness alongside icy string shards, and the opening of the final song, “A Light exists in Spring” (another Dickinson setting) implies a Minimalist slant.
Each movement of Schwendinger’s String Quartet in Three Movements is inspired by a different composer: Bartók, Andrew Imbrie (Schwendinger’s teacher at the University of California Berkeley), and Ravel. The first movement takes us back to that sense of luminous intensity that seems to be so close to Schwendinger; the performance is impeccable. The Imbrie-inspired movement begins with a viola lament with tremolandos around it that manifest itself more as breaths of air than as string sounds. Here, Schwendinger presents a Webernian sense of utterance both in gestures (initially at least) and in use of silences that speak volumes. The finale holds much that is virtuosic; in some sense it calls for a virtuoso listener, too, in its complexities. It is difficult to imagine a more committed performance than this, in which the lines speak with such clarity, sometimes at warp speed.
The Song for Andrew is an in memoriam for Andrew Imbrie, and quotes that composer’s 1983 piece Pilgrimage, one of Schwendinger’s favorite pieces by her teacher, who died in 2007 at the age of 86. To this theme, Schwendinger adds her own counter-melody, which, symbolically, speaks alone at the end of the work. The piano adds color to the quartet texture without emerging as a solo instrument. Heavily laden with grief, the impact of Schwendinger’s piece is beyond doubt; the mood, if not the language, of late Shostakovich springs to mind. Remarkable.
The recording is exceptional by any standards, the instruments perfectly placed in the sound picture, all detail audible. Recommended, but remember that this music demands much from the listener and so is not for the faint-hearted.
May 21, 2017
Chameleon Paints With Music
by Leon Golub
"The Artist’s Muse for flute, clarinet, cello, piano and percussion, a world premiere Koussevitsky Commission from Laura Elise Schwendinger, followed. Without the mediation of words, the composer proceeded directly to the inspiration behind the painter’s work, bringing to life the women behind seven famous masterpieces, as though honoring but also contesting the visual surface. Throughout, Boldin’s flute served beautifully as the ongoing voice of the perennial muse, the elusive “Other” constructed by the gaze of male painters. A short introduction took us out of linear time, William Manley’s percussion especially effective in plunging us into vanished realms, from the enigmatic interiority of a 15th-century Young Girl by Petrus Christus, to the concluding gold-patterned swirl of Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer. Picasso’s Jacqueline appeared with all of her modernist angst, Cézanne’s wife moved bodily in a poignant waltz, Leonardo’s Cecilia Gallerani stroked her elegant carnivorous ermine, and Vermeer’s Girl with a Pitcher appeared with staccatos in the piano and pizzicatos in the strings, bathed in the light of percussion as she poured her milk. With a sudden twist of waltz, so to speak, the mood darkened as the eternal muse took the form of Sargent’s Madame X, cosmopolitan and scandalous, high-priestess of intoxication and city lights, followed in conclusion by her more vulnerable sister, gold-shimmering Adele Bloch-Bauer, vestal and victim, muse and mourner. Schwendinger’s delightful piece effectively transformed my own gaze on the Artist’s Muse by introducing a competing muse of flesh and bone, hardship and failure, grievance and glory, behind the painter’s still-life effigy."
Music review: Richmond Symphony with flutist Mary Boodell
By CLARKE BUSTARD Special correspondent
Musical modernism, the textbooks tell us, reverberates to Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and the 12-tone style of Arnold Schoenberg and his disciples. Much of the art-music of the past couple of generations, sometimes called “post-modern,” sounds to have another reference point: Claude Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” an iconic example of the color-infused, harmonically spacious impressionist style.
Laura Elise Schwendinger’s “Waking Dream” for flute and orchestra, being performed this weekend by the Richmond Symphony and its principal flutist, Mary Boodell, audibly echoes the Debussy — might even be heard as an “answer song” to the prelude — and not just because the flute is the lead voice of both pieces.
Some of Debussy’s trademark orchestration techniques, such as single high notes dotting a soundscape of very low tones, shimmering string figures that evoke rippling water and pregnant or resonant silences, are what make “Waking Dream” sound so dreamy.
Classical Playlist: Puccini, Messiaen, Schubert and More
by THE NEW YORK TIMES SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 12:26 PM
‘HIGH WIRE ACTS: CHAMBER MUSIC BY LAURA ELISE SCHWENDINGER’ 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)
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Sunday Arts Page, OCTOBER 5, 2014
by Corinaa da Fonesca-Womlheim
BENNINGTON, Vt. — On a cool, rainy summer afternoon, the Jennings Music Building of Bennington College was abuzz with the sound of dozens of chamber groups. It was the final session of the four-week amateur Chamber Music Conference held annually here, and familiar snippets of Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn filtered out of every available room and mixed into a cheerful cacophony.
Nearby, the Deane Carriage Barn was filled with a jazzy, mischievous-sounding tangle of syncopated notes and jagged tumbling cascades. A quintet of clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano was in the midst of rehearsing a work that was as yet unfamiliar to anyone — except its composer, Laura Elise Schwendinger. Facing the musicians with the score open on her lap, she interrupted them frequently to advise and correct. During a break, the violinist David Knapp said: “Usually you play music by composers who are dead, so you’re always guessing at what they want. It’s nice to be able to interact directly.” As for the unfamiliar musical language, the clarinetist Jeannine Webber said, “You take it apart, and you learn to embrace the dissonance rather than strain against it.” The remark earned her an emphatic hug from the composer.
Fanfare May/June 2014, LEHMAN
"--I consider Schwendinger’s concertos the work of a significant contemporary composer getting a muchdeserved (if long delayed) “break-out” recording.
And what a recording it is! Truly it would be hard to overpraise the soloists for their superlative performances; cellist Matt
Haimovitz is almost superhuman. They, and the excellent orchestras and conductors, along with Albany’s vivid and detailed sonics,
together offer an ideal presentation of these very demanding works. Anyone who cares about the music of our time should hear them
and judge Schwendinger’s accomplishment for himself."
Gapplegate Classical-Modern, Grego Applegate Edwards
A new voice in modern music can be an exciting thing, if the person has something to offer. That is the case with Laura Elise Schwendinger. Her recent album of chamber music, High Wire Acts (Centaur 3098), gives us a distinctive musical personality...Laura Elise Schwendinger brings us a cornucopia of musical riches on this program. Any connoisseur of modern chamber
music would do well to hear it.
BRYANT PARK and Chamber Music America present the Lincoln Trio in ARC OF FIRE
WFMT Radio Chicago, Premiere of Chamber Music America Commission ARC OF FIRE by the LINCOLN TRIO
The Boston Musical Intellingencer, Dawn Upshaw at Longy, as part of her Bard series Words and Music
April 20, 2013, Janine Wané
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,”
REVIEWS for Schwendinger:
3 WORKS FOR SOLO INSTRUMENTS AND ORCHESTRA
In the March/April issue of Fanfare:
Feature Article by Barnaby Rayfield
Art Lange's review in Fanfare
Lynn Rene Bayley's review in Fanfare
REVIEWS for Schwendinger: HIGH WIRE ACTS on Centaur
In the Sept./Oct. issue of Fanfare
Laura Elise Schwendinger's High Wire Acts by Robert Schulslaper
Colin Clarke review in Fanfare
From Colin Clarke’s upcoming review in Fanfare
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.
From Barnaby Rayfield’s upcoming review in 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.
From Art Lange’s review 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.
Review in Records International
"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.”
Press continues for SOUNDING BECKET, at classic Stage Company in New York
Directed by award wining director Joy Zinoman and performed by the Cygnus Ensemble
Time Out New York says "Laura Schwendinger’s piece for Footfalls is particularly effective, featuring stretches in which the musicians play their instruments so lightly, it could just be the autumn wind blowing through their strings. Beckett’s works demand postviewing brooding, and these haunting soundscapes offer a an appropriately moody place to drift.—Jenna Scherer
info on Sounding Beckett
New York Times
Chamber Musician's Today
Read additional reviews for Laura's work at
"In a talkback after Sunday's performance, Schwendinger underscored that the pieces we heard were meant as musical responses to the plays: not necessarily programmatic outlines or storytelling. Thus, her piece responded to the strong emotions churning under the surface of Footfalls with sustained passages of controlled, but angst-imbued dissonance. After seeing actor Holly Twyford's simmering performance in the play, one could readily understand Schwendinger's poignant, elegantly crafted response."
More info at
Forces of Nature and Ecstasy
Julian Wachner’s Trinity Choir at Zankel Hall
Steve Smith, NY Times June 3, 2012
All those qualities were tested immediately in the first work on the program, “Six Choral Settings” by Laura Elise Schwendinger, which knit poetry concerned with life and love into dense polyphonic webs. Ms. Schwendinger’s coolly beguiling tone seemed at odds with some of the more heated sentiments in the texts she chose, particularly the headier ecstasies in three selections from the Song of Solomon.
Her abstraction was best suited to more cosmic mysteries pondered by Milton, Kuki and Rumi; in the two last songs Ms. Schwendinger added brooding asides for the cellist Matt Haimovitz, a guest soloist.
CD Review by William Zagorski, in Issue 35:3 (Jan/Feb 2012) of Fanfare Magazine
“C’e la Luna Questa Sera? (Is There a Moon Tonight?) is tellingly dedicated to the memory of Donald Martino, a composer whose work I very much admire. Composed in 1998 for violin, cello, and percussion, it was transcribed for the Lincoln Trio in 2006, and presents an almost tangible bit of scene painting inspired by moonlight reflected on the surface of Lake Como. It opens with an almost Webernesque gesture, and as the music develops, languorously despite moments of quickness, it evokes a sense of primordially serene mystery and infinite beauty within the tiny bounds of its five and a half minutes.”
Notable Women named January Critics Choice for Naxos
Notable Women also names one of "hidden gems" by the Guardian
Notable Women on best of 2011 Audiophile Audition’s Best of the Year Discs for 2011
Cedille’s Notable Women CD release with the Lincoln Trio, featuring works by Tower, Thomas, Garrop, Higdon, Auerbach and Schwendinger reviewed in Gramophone
Judith Sherman, was just nominated for a Grammy for Classical Producer of the year for her work on Notable Women,:
Notable Women - Trios By Today's Female Composers (Lincoln Trio)
CEDILLE RELEASES "Notable Women" with THE LINCOLN TRIO
Featuring C’e la Luna Questa Sera? and works by Auerbach, Garrop, Higdon, Thomas and Tower.
Alex Ross’s popular music blog “The Rest is Noise” features Notable Women on his latest playlist
Lincoln Trio, at Poisson Rouge, Oct. 26th , 2011
C’e la Luna Questa Sera? (“Is There a Moon Tonight?”) by Wisconsin-based Laura Elise Schwendinger is written 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!
Review in Willmette Life, Chicago Sun-Times
Lincoln Trio mines riches of modern women composers, by DOROTHY ANDRIES Classical Music Critic
"Schwendinger finds moonlight serene, ethereal and otherworldly. She charges the violin with creating the light, the piano with evoking the rippling waters of Lake Como and the cello suggesting the water’s depth".
Chicago Classical Review
Lincoln Trio serves up bracing music by women composers, Mon Nov 15, 2010, by Wynne Delacom
Women composers have integrated themselves thoroughly into the classical music scene in recent decades. But it was still exciting to hear an afternoon of bracing, highly varied music written by some of contemporary music’s most talented composers—male or female...There was dissonance aplenty, even in the dreamy, meditative sections of Schwendinger’s C’e la Luna Questa Sera? and the movement titled Pale Yellow of Higdon’s Piano Trio. But none of the composers seemed interested in dissonance for its own sake.
The Boston Musical Intelligencer
BMV's Gathering of Friends, Elisa Birdseye, Monday May 9, 2011
Boston Musica Viva, Richard Pittman, Director
The title of the program derived from the world premier centerpiece of the evening, Laura Elise Schwendinger’s Mise-en-scene (2011). But it also provided a context for the other pieces on the program. Schwendinger explained before the performance that mise-en-scene refers to all the elements (lighting, sound, props, stagecraft, etc) which create the feel and image seen in either a theater piece or a film. Her work, in nine short, continuously played movements, described a story, and even without program notes, it would have been possible to imagine what was going on onstage. She described her music as “zany,” but perhaps another term would be “looney” in the sense of the fiendishly difficult and evocative music by Carl Stallings that underpinned the familiar Looney Tunes cartoons. Schwendinger’s music was clear, delightful, and descriptive, almost an opera without words.
The New York Times
Music in Review American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie's ZANKEL Hall, by VIVIEN SCHWEITZER, March 7, 2011
In Laura Schwendinger’s “Shadings,” richly scored shimmering music ebbed and swirled in tandem with a series of enigmatic photographs projected above the orchestra. The photographs were taken in Japan by the composer’s cousin Leni Schwendinger, who also designed evocative lighting to complement the images.
Civic Center Blog, San Francisco
Riding the Elevator into the Sky, Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The ninth season of Blueprint, a "new music project," opened Saturday evening at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, with its artistic director Nicole Paiement (below) conducting. I went to the concert with some trepidation, because brand-new, modernist "classical" music is something of a crapshoot. Some concerts are excitingly revelatory, others are excruciatingly boring, while most are somewhere in between. The happy news is that Saturday's concert was on the exciting and revelatory side of the spectrum. This was due primarily to a hugely ambitious, 40-minute violin concerto called Chiaroscuro Azzurro by Laura Schwendinger (above), which is the work of a brilliant composer coming into her own. It's also very difficult music, densely packed with ideas going in all directions, but the lyricism of the solo violin writing keeps one focused. The fiddling by Wei He (above), by the way, was beautiful and heroic.here are three expansive movements in a traditional fast-slow-fast progression, and though it's just about impossible to absorb on first listening, the concerto passes my personal new music test, which is "Do I want to hear it again?" Ms. Paiement has just recorded the piece with an ensemble on the East Coast, and you can hear bits of Ms. Schwendinger's music on her website, including excerpts from this concerto.
Dallas Morning News, October 20, 2010
Mexican-born Laura Elise Schwendinger, with a Berkeley doctorate, is a composition professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her 2005 quintet High Wire Act was inspired by Alexander Calder's little wire sculptures of circus performers. The five movements perform their own daredeviltry of skitters, gleaming hesitations and long-strung lines. Schleuning and Markina joined flutist Helen Blackburn, violist Barbara Sudweeks and cellist Kari Nostbakken in another exhilarating performance.
-By SCOTT CANTRELL
Laura with Sebastian Currier, Anna Lim, Melinda Wagner, Augusta Thomas and others at Princeton, Institute for Advanced Study
New York Times, July 26, 2010
Bringing Garden Sounds Indoors, by Allan Kozinn
Laura Elise Schwendinger’s “Song for Andrew” (2008) pays tribute to her teacher Andrew Imbrie, who died in 2007, by wrapping a theme from his “Pilgrimage” (1983) in her own harmonization and gradually taking it into her own rhythmic and harmonic world. The piece is darkly attractive, artful and moving, and the ensemble, a piano quartet, played with the warmth and soulfulness it demanded.
New York Times, April 6, 2010
Music Surely Soothes; Can It Also Heal?
Laura Schwendinger’s “Garden of Earthly Delights,” inspired by the famous Bosch triptych of that name, was a suspenseful tangle of bristling lines and eerie dissonances with passsages of melancholy respite.
Madison Magazine; Celebrating Chopin, March 10, 2010
by Katie Vaughn
Taylor considered limiting the concert to works only by Chopin but decided to offer contrast. He’s featuring pieces that came before and after: Beethoven’s “Variations, Op. 34” and “Van Gogh Nocturnes” by Laura Schwendinger, an associate professor of composition at UW.
Chicago Tribune; Contempo invites audience to hear the art, see the music, November 16, 2009
By John Von Rhein
Schwendinger’s 2005 “High Wire Act” achieved more by attempting less. Inspired by the wire circus figures of sculptor Alexander Calder, the four character portraits, with their high twitterings, undulating arpeggios and rippling figurations, evinced an acute sonicimagination and sure command of craft. The piece was beautifully played by eighth blackbird.
New York Times, March 20, 2009
Composers of One Sex but Numerous Styles
In Laura Schwendinger’s “Air and Buenos Aires,” an opening movement built of arching, angular lines and lovely textures gives way to a harmonically dense movement with tango rhythms deep in its DNA.
Laura was profiled in the ISTHMUS, Composer at Work, UW's Laura Schwendinger Strikes a Chord
The Schwendinger Sound; In a second page, her works are discussed further with links to sound files.
The Washington Post, Monday, December 15, 2008
Left Bank Concert Society Evokes the Spirit of Schoenberg
Most intriguing, Laura Elise Schwendinger's 2005 piece, "High Wire Act," seemed to leave Schoenberg out of the equation entirely. Her harmonically free-ranging, tintinnabulary scoring -- with its canny use of violin harmonics and flute phrases played directly into the open piano, to suggest aerialists in flight -- evokes Stravinsky's early ballets. The work gives a vivid sense of what modern music might have sounded like if the spiky, polytonal version of impressionism Stravinsky developed in those works -- rather than Schoenberg's 12-tone method -- had become the template of choice for modern composers to embrace or reject.
-- Joe Banno
New York Times, March 29, 2008
"Ms. Schwendinger's works lives in (at least) two worlds. The violin line, played with equal measures of energy and velvety richnes by Jennifer Koh, is sometimes assertive and sometimes rhythmically sharp edged, but those moments almost always resolve into a sweetly singing line. The grittier orchestral writing offsets that sweetness without overwhelming it. This seems a work likely to blossom with repeated listening."
Miller Theatre at Columbia University concludes its 2005-06 season with the launch of a major new 3-year commissioning project
By Allan Kozinn; Published: September 9, 2007
"POCKET CONCERTOS In the final installment of the Miller Theater’s program of newly commissioned concertos, Jennifer Koh plays Laura Elise Schwendinger’s Violin Concerto and Christopher Taylor is the soloist in “The Starry Night,” a piano concerto by Ichizo Okashiro. Closing the series, the idiosyncratic John Zorn has written a concerto for singer and amplified ensemble and has undoubtedly come up with the title of the year: “27 Acts of Unspeakable Depravity in the Abominable Life and Times of Gilles de Rais.” March 27. Miller Theater. Carver & Marcus Rojas)"
-from Just in Time for Timeless Melodies - New York Times
Miller Theater, March 27, 2008: Laura Elise Schwendinger: Chiaroscuro Azzurro with Jennifer Koh, violin and the International Contemporary Ensemble.
-from Classical Domain, George Steel Interview at: interview, Classical Domain
CD: Some of them have been performed here before, are any of them out of the blue?
GS: I think we have done music by all of them. The big surprise for New York audiences will be someone like Ichizo Okashiro's Piano Concerto. I'm absolutely crazy about his music. Ichizo's sister, Chitose Okashiro, is a wonderful pianist and she sent me a CD of her playing a great combination of Scriabin, Takemitsu, Debussy, Messiaen — and last a little encore of a work by her brother. I played the disk and I loved it. I called her up and told her, “You can play a recital, you're terrific, but you have to play this piece on the CD and something else by your brother.“ So she played two pieces by her brother, and I loved the second piece. I asked her to send me everything he had, this all takes place over many years, I looked over all his piano music. I asked him if there was anything larger he like to write, and he said yes. So we made him part of the project. It's a delicious piece. There's also a woman named Laura Schwendinger in the last year of the project. We have had some of her piano music here, but never a bigger piece, she's an amazing composer.
POCKET CONCERTOS: YEAR TWO 2006-2007 inlcuded Sebastian Currier: Piano Concerto (soloist Emma Tahmizian) Huang Ruo: Cello Concerto (soloist Jian Wang) Charles Wuorinen: Violin Concerto (soloist Jennifer Koh) Anthony Davis: Clarinet Concerto (soloist J. D. Paran)
Tuesday, April 24, 2007; C08 Contemporary Music Forum, The Washington Post
"Different but no less engaging was Laura Schwendinger's "High Wire Act," a charming work inspired by Alexander Calder's circus figures". -- Stephen Brookes
from Brian Dickie's Life as General Director of Chicago Opera Theater, April 21, 2006
Some serious music
Our friend Andreas Waldburg-Wolfegg runs a wonderful little concert series - Lake Shore Chamber Music. This evening he put on a splendid and important recital. Music of the New Century: American Music for the Flute The wonderful Catherine Ramirez - an astonishing artist, and Kuang-Hao Huang played. And the program included the first performance of a new work commissioned by Andreas from Daniel Kellogg (left) called Into Utter Forever. Daniel was there and introduced the piece with charming modesty. We also had Toru Takemitsu's Voice and a remarkable piece by Laura Elise Schwendinger called Rapture - an excellent and appropriate title. The world needs more of this kind of event - absolutely top class music making pushing the boundaries. Bravo! By the way Kuang-Hao Huang is joining the piano faculty at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts in September - an excellent acquisition indeed. We have a final run through of Abduction tomorrow afternoon before starting rehearsals in the Harris on Monday.
On mtvU: Stand-In
Sting Gives a Private Lesson at the University of Illinois at Chicago
Sting stands in at the University of Illinois at Chicago and proceeds to rock the house. That is how it all went down on Monday April 18th when Dr. Laura Schwendinger stepped down during her advanced music composition class and let rock legend, Sting and three of his band members Stand-In. Sting held his bass throughout the class, and spontaneously performed during a well spoken lecture on the topics of music and success. He played "Message in a Bottle", a little Johann Sebastian Bach, and concluded by inviting the students to grab their instruments and play along during "Every Breath You Take." Dr. Schwendinger's class now joins the ranks of the very few who have ever played along with Sting in a venue containing only 40 people.
UIC News Release
Sting Surprises Music Class at UIC , April 25, 2005
British rock star Sting surprised students when he visited their music composition class at the University of Illinois at Chicago on April18. MTV filmed the class for an episode of its "Stand-In" series, which will air on the college network channel mtvU on Monday, April 25. "We're particularly pleased to have Sting visit UIC because his background mirrors that of many of our students," said Michael Anderson, chair of performing arts at UIC. "He came from humble beginnings, got his start in teaching, yet had the tenacity to make a career in the volatile world of professional arts. Seeing him teach demonstrates the link between classroom learning and professional reality." Sting's entrance drew a loud round of applause and cheers. He opened with an hour-long discussion of the art of songwriting, then he and his band played '80s hits, new ballads and a country-western song about divorce. "Besides performing beautifully, he was an articulate and impressive educator," said Laura Schwendinger, UIC associate professor of composition, who ordinarily teaches the class. Sting concluded by advising the class to approach music as a form of self-therapy and "a never-ending journey, like yoga." He urged them to study Bach's complex time signatures and Stravinsky's revolutionary music and to explore songwriting as storytelling. "Music has a narrative, a kind of architectural integrity," he said. "If it's not structured well, the story doesn't come through." Sting ended the class by jamming with students on "Every Breath You Take." mtvU's "Stand In" brings famous musicians, humanitarians and other celebrities into college classrooms, always as a surprise to the students. After it airs, the April 25 episode will be posted at UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.
Artists Find Inspiration at a Creative Community in the New England Woods
By Keming Kuo
Peterborough, New Hampshire 1/10/05
Excerpt from Voice of America piece on MacDowell with Laura
With fresh snow at the MacDowell Colony, the artists at the New Hampshire retreat have caught sight of a moose in the forest scattering the wild turkeys that usually feed on the grounds. But the writers and composers are not in the New England woods for bird watching. For nearly a century, artists have come here to create. It is where American composer Aaron Copland wrote Appalachian Spring. Leonard Bernstein and Virgil Thomson have been here, and American writers Thornton Wilder, Willa Cather and James Baldwin. Today, artists from across the country and around the world compete to stay at MacDowell -- with this year's international residents hailing from such far-flung countries as China, Albania and Cameroon.... That has been the case for Laura Schwendinger, a composer who teaches at the Universities of Wisconsin and Illinois. She says she sometimes feels the influence of the composers who worked in the studio-cottage she now occupies. "Aaron Copland has composed on these pianos...Leonard Bernstein was [in my studio] in 1971...all sorts of incredible composers," she marvels. "You're not only part of a continuum, but you feel like you're working in the same environs that they worked in. That gives you such a boost. It makes you feel a part of this huge creative flow." Nothing is allowed to disturb that creative flow, not even meals. Lunch is delivered to each studio and left on the doorstep. But breakfast and dinner are eaten in a common dining hall, where the residents have lively debates about their work and about art in general. "We've had a lot of discussions this residency with artists about 20th century music," notes Professor Schwendinger. "I won't mention her name, but a very fine sculptress here asked, not quite as tersely as I'm stating it, 'Why do 20th century composers like writing such ugly music?' It was fantastic in a way, because it opened up dialogue that you don't have with people in the real world." Along with the work, the discussions and the lasting friendships that are formed, the tranquil setting of the MacDowell Colony allows for another important creative process: napping. "The naps are really famous here," notes Laura Schwendinger. "Everyone has a bed in their studio, and napping is a wonderful treat. In that nap, you re-energize. You wake up and something new appears in your head."
MUSIC REVIEW, By Mark Kanny Pittsburgh-Tribune
Creative program enriches New Music Ensemble concert, Monday, August 4, 2003
"The absence of any visual entertainment for Laura Elise Schwendinger's "Buenos Aires" focused attention on the musical excellence of her hard-driving quartet for flute, bass clarinet, violin and cello. She creates fresh and compelling lines that are brought together to a powerful climax. It was superbly performed by Lindsay Goodman, Schempf, Ines Voglar and Omsky. "
MUSIC REVIEW By Richard Buell, 5/6/2003
Dinosaur Annex with Scott Wheeler Conductor.First and second Church, Boston
Laura Elise Schwendinger's "Magic Carpet Music" like the composer's other music we've heard, rejoices in edge and has a force that has its way even if the section titles promise something softly atmopheric- as here, with "Arabesque", "Air" and "Buenos Aires". Here is a a composer who has distinct voice. It made for an enlivening evening, not soothing, end to a more than usually enlivening evening"
Collage New Music, David Hoose, music director, Paine Hall, Harvard University
MUSIC REVIEW By Richard Buell 2/25/2003
''Chewy,'' it says in your reviewer's notes on Laura Elise Schwendinger's ''Fable'' (1994). This composer certainly had a knack of making you wonder what was lurking round the corner for her spirited little band of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion. Movement No. 1 began questioningly with a breathy tremolando for clarinet and ended, as if in answer, with a quiet, almost feathery drum roll. In between, a long-lined near-melodiousness runs up against violent disturbances in which agitated, high-pitched twitterings seem bent on sucking all the oxygen (and middle and low frequencies) from the air. Movement No. 2 was night music, lighted by phosphorescent swirls and arabesques. The finale was nasty from the start (wittily so, with registral extremes glowering at each other something awful) - and it kept up its punchy, irascible tone until it was quite through with us, thank you. This was shrewd composing, the genuine article. Onto the ''season's best'' list it goes.
Arditti quartet softens its edges
MUSIC REVIEW By Richard Buell, Globe Correspondent, 1/27/2003
Oddly enough, it was the newest piece on the program, the String Quartet (2001) by Laura Elise Schwendinger commissioned by the Harvard Musical Association, that proved the most conservative. The movement titles – “With intensity,'' ''Molto espressivo, dancelike,'' ''Maestoso,'' were one sign of that conservatism. There was also the way that out of an abstract, ''modern'' sort of play with sound material, an unmistakable lyric intensity would want to emerge - and would actually do so. A fine piece all in all, if perhaps a bit extended, and it's worthy of the Arditti's attention.
More can be heard from Schwendinger, who is a Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, on Collage New Music's concert on Feb. 23.
Arditti Quartet, Kresge Auditorium, Jan. 24, 8 p.m.
World Premiere Highlight of Quartet Concert
Arditti Quartet Presents Well-Rehearsed But Unmoving Program of 20th-Century Works By Jacqueline O'Connor
Over the past few decades, some of the worlds renowned quartets have performed at Kresge Auditorium as part of the MIT Guest Artist Series. On Friday, England's Arditti Quartet stopped by for a program of four contemporary works, which included a world premiere by Laura Elise Schwendinger. The quartet, founded in 1974 by first violinist Irvine Arditti, also performed string quartets by Bela Bartok, Jonathan Harvey, and Gyorgy Ligeti.
Despite the tremendous difficulty of the program, this well-seasoned group completed the concert with near-perfect technique. Hardly a note was out of place, even in the midst of extreme dissonance, and every effect the instruments could produce was presented clearly.
Next on the program was the highlight of the evening, the world premiere of Laura Elise Schwendinger's String Quartet. Schwendinger, an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Illinois in Chicago, wrote the quartet on commission from The Harvard Musical Association of Boston, which co-sponsored this concert with the MIT Guest Artist Series. The piece itself was impressive and appeared very aware of its audience.
The first movement, influenced by Bartok, followed many of his patterns of composition. Though the opening was tonally stressful, the piece was full of movement as it reached false climaxes, only to continue climbing. Intermingling graceful melodies with the complex rhythms and discord, Schwendinger provides a sort of relief from the intenseness of the rest of the movement. The second movement, Molto espressivo, dancelike, opened with a suspenseful cushion of tremolos on which the cello and viola melodies rested. The dance part of the movement was felt in the short melodies though many pauses interrupted the flow. The last movement of Schwendinger's quartet mimicked its inspiration, the music of Maurice Ravel, with its intricate orchestration for only four instruments. A perfect balance was struck between the first violins melodies and the countermelodies that supported it. The Arditti Quartet's performance was well-received, especially by the composer herself, present in the audience
January 25, 2003 Saturday, ARTS & LIFE
MUSIC REVIEW; Quartet recital transcends boundaries By KEITH POWERS, Boston Herald
Arditti String Quartet, Kresge Auditorium, Cambridge, last night
They've been new so long it starts to look like old. The Arditti String Quartet, the foremost European purveyors of contemporary composition in this generation, performed a rare Boston-area recital last evening in Kresge Auditorium at MIT. Founded in 1974 by first violinist Irvine Arditti, the foursome occupies the front ranks of new music specialists, with over 100 commissions to brag about. Arditti makes the continent's equivalent of America's Kronos Quartet, each now in its fourth decade. Last night's concert was a joint presentation by MIT and the Harvard Musical Association, which commissioned one of the works on the program, Laura Elise Schwendinger's string quartet. Arditti performed quartets by Bartok, Jonathan Harvey and Ligeti as well. Her Bartok movement made the players spend too much time in first position. But the second movement marked important textural ground, with sparse, tense and spirited writing. The finale broke at the end like surf hitting the sand, positively infectious.
Freitag, 24. January 2003, Berliner Morganpost
Spectrum Concerts feiern Jubilum
Leises Flirren. Zupfen und Zirpenin hchster Lage. Verstreute Gerusche der Nacht finden sich zu einer Melodie zusammen. Robert Helps ldt mit seinem Nocturne auf eine Klangexpedition durch die Dunkelheit ein. Das feinsinnige Werk von 1960 stand am Beginn des Jubilumsabends der Spectrum Concerts Berlin. Fr den amerikanischen Komponisten haben sich die Berliner von Anbeginn eingesetzt.
Seit 15 Jahren engagieren sich der Cellist Frank Dodge und seine Mitspieler fr den Brckenschlag zwischen Europa und den USA. Wir sind dankbar, dass Sie uns etwas von der Kultur Amerikas herberbringen. Das ist eine Sprache, die wir besonders gern und gut hren, erklrte Richard von Weizscker, Ehrenmitglied des Spectrum-Frderkreises, in seiner Ansprache.
Ein typisches Spectrum-Programm gab es zum Fest. Es verband die amerikanische Moderne mit europischer Romantik und Neoromantik. Die groe Zahl von neun Musikern und eine eigens fr das Konzert geschriebene Urauffhrung fielen aus dem Rahmen.
Die amerikanische Komponistin Laura Schwendinger, die als Professorin in Chicago wirkt und vor drei Jahren Stipendiatin der American Academy in Berlin war, erntete mit ihrem Quintett "Celestial City" viel Zustimmung im Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie. Das Werk ist den Opfern des 11. September 2001 gewidmet. Es verbreitet nicht nur Klagen, sondern auch Zuversicht und Gemeinschaftsgefhl. Fnf Musiker, besessen von demselben melodischen Gedanken, finden nach und nach zueinander.
Herausragend auch, mit welcher Sensibilitt sich Janine Jansen (Geige), Ron Schaaper (Horn) und Daniel Blumenthal (Klavier) mit ihren ungleichen Instrumenten in Brahms' Horntrio aufeinander einstellten. Mit klangschtigem Schwung strzten sich die Musiker schlielich in Ernst von Dohnnyis Sextett von 1935. mig
Horn sucht Halali, Der Taggespiegel, 1/24/03, KLASSIK
Dissonanzen kommen wieder in Mode. Glcklicherweise ist das anlsslich des Jubilumskonzerts von Spectrum Concerts, jenem Ensemble, das seit nun 15 Jahren deutschamerikanische Musikfreundschaft manifest macht, nicht politisch gemeint. In Laura Schwendingers im Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie uraufgefhrter "Celestial City", einem den Opfern des 11. September gewidmeten Werk, wird jedenfalls deutlich, dass Dissonanzen gefragt sind, wenn Unbehagen und die Klage um Geschehenes zumAusdruck kommen sollen. Und vor der fast trostlosen Grundierung des Stcks wirken sie besonders impressiv. Kein Wunder, dass nach einem solchen Stck Johannes Brahms Horntrio eigentlich ein von erwrmendem Es-Dur-Wohlklang durchdrungenes Werk nicht so einfach auf Genuss gespielt werden kann. Verhalten klingt der Beginn des Trios, bedrckt der Mittelteil des Scherzos, dster der klagende dritte Satz, und auch im con brio des vierten will das Horn nicht allzu plakativ zum Halali blasen. Plakativ wird es dann nach der Pause, als Ernst von Dohnanyis Sextett op. 347 auf dem Programm steht ein Stck, das alle Register der Collage, der berzeichneten Kontraste und der ppigen Diktion zieht, ohne dabei jedoch, wie es fr hnliche Werke etwa von Dmitrij Schostakowitsch charakteristisch ist, ironisch zu werden. Dennoch fr das Ensemble Gelegenheit genug, der Muisizierfreude freien Lauf zu lassen. Und der Applaus gilt wohl auch der Tatsache, dass ein Werk, dessen Schluss mit stilistischen Elementen sowohl von Wagner als auch von Gershwin durchsetzt ist, nicht das schlechteste Statement auch gegen politische Dissonanzen ist. Christian Ksser
January 21, 2002 Plain Dealer ,ARTS & LIFE; Pg. C9
Upshaw enchants recital audience by Wilma Salisbury, Plain Dealer Music Critic
American soprano Dawn Upshaw has it all: lovely voice, refined musicianship, command of languages, charming stage presence. In her delightful recital Saturday night at Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall, she excelled as a joyous interpreter of German lieder, Hungarian folksong, contemporary American music, Russian characterization and cabaret comedy. With master pianist Gilbert Kalish as her sensitive accompanist, she communicated the meaning of every word and nuance. At one point, she took an extended pause between numbers because of excessive coughing by members of the large audience. Generally, however, she kept the listeners spellbound.
In the first half of the concert, spoken program notes were unnecessary. After intermission, each group of songs was introduced with background information about the composers and the music. The first fascinating set was selected because the composers, born between 1956 and 1962, are contemporaries of the 41-year-old singer. One of them, James Aikman, was present to hear Upshaw's exquisite interpretation of his song, "Spring Is Purple Jewelry." The other composers - Laura Elise Schwendinger, Michael Torke, Andy Vores, Osvaldo Golijov and former Clevelander James Primosch - contributed pieces that were well-suited to Upshaw's light voice and clear diction. Especially captivating was Schwendinger's playful take on e.e. cummings' poem, "In Just-Spring."
In comparison to these brief compositions, Ruth Crawford Seeger's songs on texts by Carl Sandburg sounded strong, spare and dramatic. The final selections from "The Nursery" by Moussorgsky showcased Upshaw's skills as a singing actress in the dual roles of a precocious Russian child and his long-suffering nanny. In the final number, she rode an imaginary hobby horse and gracefully galloped around the piano.
Although she had been singing for nearly two hours, Upshaw responded graciously to the audience's plea for an encore. Her parting gesture, an adorable interpretation of William Bolcom's cabaret song, "Amour," provided the perfect ending to an evening of vocal enchantment.
SOPRANO DAWN UPSHAW SOARS TO NEW HEIGHTS
By DONALD ROSENBERG; PLAIN DEALER MUSIC CRITIC
October 7, 1999
Never was a singer so aptly named. Dawn Upshaw has a knack for sounding fresh, invigorating and intensely musical whenever she opens her mouth. She does so in a vast repertoire ranging from concert and opera to Broadway, which can't be said for many artists of her classical persuasion. Upshaw was in resplendent form Tuesday at Oberlin College's Finney Chapel for a recital with pianist Gilbert Kalish. Typically, the soprano's program was an eclectic array of songs, including 19th- and 20th-century literature by renowned and emerging composers, as well as a few Great-White-Way goodies by Vernon Duke and Leonard Bernstein. To all of these works, Upshaw brought an unerring sense of style and a voice that drew the listener directly into the particular dramatic world. Her soprano isn't a large instrument, but it is so perfectly placed, gleaming in timbre and true in intonation that it projects with utter directness. With Kalish providing collaborations of atmospheric magic, Upshaw gave blissful and poignant evocations of the music's generous romanticism. She suggested humor with graceful nuances, passion with tonal radiance.
Along with her championing of the old, Upshaw attends to the new. She began the second half with songs by six living composers who either have written on commission from her or tickled her artistic fancy. They are composers worthy of the attention, especially James Primosch (whose "Cinder" is a haunting essay about destiny based on a poem by Susan Stewart), Laura Elise Schwendinger ("in Just-spring," a childlike delectable set to verses by e.e. cummings) and John Musto (the noble "Litany," with text by Langston Hughes).
Contemporary Music Forum In Works by Women by Cecelia H. Porter
October 21, 1997, Tuesday, Final Edition
Only in this century have the publication and performance of music by female composers begun to approach those of men. One of the foremost institutions in Washington involved in this phenomenon is the Contemporary Music Forum, which, together with the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the International Alliance for Women in Music, sponsored a concert Sunday by female composers at the museum. And what an intriguing event it was. Laura Schwendinger's clearly structured "Rumor" (for flute and cello) revels in sinewy counterpoint as the instruments alternately vie and entwine in heated discourse.
January 23, 2002 Wednesday , ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT,CONCERT REVIEW
DAWN UPSHAW'S STORYTELLING CAPTIVATES by ROBERT CROAN, POST-GAZETTE SENIOR EDITOR
Classically trained American singers are usually trained to sing in German, Italian and French, as well as their native English, of course. In recital at Squirrel Hill's Jewish Community Center last evening, soprano Dawn Upshaw included no Italian or French, although she has excelled in that repertory both in opera and concert. She made up for the omission by including songs in Hungarian (Bartok's Folksong Settings), Russian (Mussorgsky's "The Nursery") and Portugese (a lullaby by the South American Osvaldo Golijov). All this in addition to four German Lieder each by Schumann and Mahler, and a lengthy segment of Americana. Upshaw is no ordinary singer, and her appearance on the Y Music Society series -- now taken over by the Pittsburgh Symphony -- was something very special. She is best-known in opera, and she brought an operatic sense of drama, captivating her audience by telling a story quite vividly in each of 29 songs plus two encores.
The totality of her performance, in which she was strongly supported by pianist Gilbert Kalish, was an unforgettable experience, moments lingering in the mind long after the recital had ended. This is what singing is all about. This singer is, indeed, a great boon to American song composers. She showcased seven of her own generation -- she was born in 1960 -- among which James Aiken's "Spring is purple jewelry" was warmly moving, Laura Elise Schwendinger's version of an e.e. cummings poem delightful for its pointed wit, Michael Torke's setting of lines from Proverbs most ambitious in its scope. She followed with three songs from the 1920s by Ruth Crawford Seeger, stepmother of folk singer Pete Seeger.
The Washington Post
November 1, 1999, Monday, Final Edition STYLE
Dawn Upshaw Lets The Sun Shine In; Recital Showcases Young Songwriters by Philip Kennicott, Washington Post Staff Writer
The music world loves Dawn Upshaw, the American soprano who sang an exquisite recital Friday evening at George Mason University's Center for the Arts. Yet perhaps because she is young and pleasant-mannered, and because she sings from a very centered, very sensible and very sincere inner musical core, she never quite gets the final benediction she deserves. She is, of course, the greatest American vocal recitalist working today and one of the very best opera singers of our time. Hearing her exposed voice produces tunnel vision in the listener, banishing the distractions of the audience, the concert hall and the nagging little thoughts one carries there unwillingly. She is also one of the most versatile of singers, moving effortlessly from Broadway to the concert hall without being arch in the former or vulgar in the latter. Upshaw transcends merely beautiful singing with a voice that is capable of the musically inflected speech of a folk singer. This tendency is most pronounced in her lower range, where one hears a hint of all the cigarettes and booze that she probably never consumed.
Upshaw's programming is exceptionally imaginative, especially her now-standard inclusion of a substantial number of contemporary songs written for, or discovered by, her. On Friday night she sang works by Osvaldo Golijov, Michael Torke, James Primosch, Laura Elise Schwendinger and others--all of them born within six years of Upshaw's own birth in 1960. The six songs, though written in styles ranging from the exotic to contemporary American postminimalism, work together as a cycle, with moments of humor and reflection well balanced.
Dawn Upshaw's Adventures With Today's Songs by ANTHONY TOMMASINI
April 28, 1997, Monday
Most artists who achieve success with mainstream classical-music audiences are reluctant to jeopardize it by taking risks with repertory. Such thinking is nonsense to the soprano Dawn Upshaw. When the opportunity came for her recital debut at Carnegie Hall, she thought of presenting a program of contemporary American music. Her confidence that less adventurous listeners would follow her lead was borne out on Friday night when an enthusiastic audience filled the hall for her program.
She began with seven songs by American composers all born within five years of 1960, the year of her own birth. It says something about the timidity of the classical-music field that Ms. Upshaw's natural curiosity about the music of her contemporaries is considered principled advocacy worthy of note.
Some of the songs, like Kenneth Frazelle's restless "Sunday at McDonald's," with a text by A. R. Ammons, were written for her. Others, like Laura Elise Schwendinger's fanciful setting of E. E. Cummings's "In Just-Spring," with its wonderfully fidgety accompaniment, were sent to her unsolicited. Songs by James Aikman, Michael Torke, James Primosch, John Musto and Larry Alan Smith made strong first impressions. Ms. Upshaw's singing was alert and plaintively beautiful. The pianist Gilbert Kalish, her frequent accompanist, played with incisiveness and character.
The Washington Post
January 23, 1996, Tuesday, Final Edition
For Fleisher, Matters Are Well in Hand by Joan Reinthaler
Leon Fleisher has been associated with the Theater Chamber Players since their beginning, as a founder, conductor and music director, but his appearances with them as a pianist in a pair of weekend concerts -- Saturday's at the Kennedy Center and Sunday's at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda -- were a step toward the reemergence of a major artist. On Sunday, runs negotiated with authority in the joyful finale of the Brahms G Minor Piano Quartet, Op. 25, signaled that Fleisher's right hand is recovering from the nerve damage that had forced a 30-year interruption in his piano career. But the quiet, beautifully phrased and pedaled chords with which he opened the Schumann song cycle "Frauenliebe und Leben" signaled the return of a rare musical talent.
The program opened with Laura Elise Schwendinger's Lament for String Trio, a poignant short piece in which each instrument has an opportunity to express its own sorrow. The ensemble did so convincingly.
Bay Area Composers' Symposium,Classical Pitch to Sound Out Talent,Young musicians hear their workby ROBERT COMMANDAY, CHRONICLE MUSIC CRITIC
JANUARY 24, 1993, SUNDAY, SUNDAY EDITION
LEAVE it to a young American conductor to come up with a fresh idea in the symphonic scene. Last weekend, Gary Sheldon conducted his Marin Symphony in a public reading of six new works. The young composers had a chance to hear how their pieces actually sound before they submit them for concert performances. As about 200 members of the orchestra's audience listened to the composers describe their pieces, to Sheldon's instructions to the orchestra, and then to the readings, this audience became part of the process.
Laura Schwendinger, another doctoral candidate in composition at UC Berkeley, offered a very intense, dark work, ''Night Dances,'' music of considerable power.
The Washington Post
Chamber Players, Striking a Balance by Charles McCardell
February 10, 1998, Tuesday, STYLE
Like skilled playwrights, the Theater Chamber Players know that well-placed levity can function not as a distraction but as a means for intensifying the seriousness of what precedes it. The group's Saturday night concert at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater contained mostly vocal music from the 19th and 20th centuries, heavy in content and dark in mood. Yet with just two bits of absurdity from composer Ernst Toch at the end, the emotional scales almost balanced. These Toch nuggets were necessary, arriving after a lineup that included two melancholy Brahms pieces. The Sonata in E Minor for Cello and Piano found cellist Evelyn Elsing taking the lead role in grand fashion, with unabashed passion and a large tone to match. Leon Fleisher, tentative at first, warmed to the task in the minuet movement and fugue finale. His keyboard efforts assumed a far more sinister character in support of baritone John Shirley-Quirk in the "Vier ernst Gesaenge." Theirs was a splendid partnership; Shirley-Quirk's majestic phrasing of the biblical texts and Fleisher's commanding touch earned a standing ovation.
Mezzo-soprano Patricia Green and violinist Sally McLain teamed up for Boris Blacher's "Francesca da Rimini," in which the spirit of this murder victim speaks to Dante about her desperate love for the also-slain Paolo. Green conveyed the heroine's anguish and pathos with conviction, while McLain added jittery colorations as though depicting the winds of Hades. Green had a more difficult assignment in the world premiere of Laura Schwendinger's "Songs of Heaven and Earth," based on four works by Chinese poet Ts'ai Yen. The pitches assigned made for great leaps in register and dynamics. Green did well recounting the poet's tragic life story, and the septet behind her exuberantly took to the challenges involved. Schwendinger's score has an impressive luster and transparency, even when the textures become thick.
Radcliffe Quarterly - Spring 2003
Laura Elise Schwendinger RI '0
Laura Elise Schwendinger RI '03, a composer and an assistant professor of composition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is creating an orchestral work in one movement for her fellowship project. Her recent works include commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation and the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard, and her music has been performed around the globe. Schwendinger has received the American Academy in Berlin Prize fellowship and a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as other fellowships throughout the United States and in Italy. She earned her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a Radcliffe Institute fellow? Leaving my office in June!
Which trait do you most admire in yourself? My enthusiasm and love of all things beautiful.
What is your most treasured possession?
Chloe, my seventeen-year-old cat.
Predict the next major event in your field.
I would like to see an unparalleled upsurge of interest in art music. Who is your muse?
Euterpe, of course, the Greek goddess of music and lyric poetry.
What do you consider your greatest success? Dawn Upshaw's performance of my song in Just--spring on tour and around the globe.
Which literary character do you most admire? Elizabeth from Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. Tell us your favorite memory.
Watching the sun set over San Francisco Bay with my family.
Who are your heroes? My parents, my husband, and former President Jimmy Carter. If you could dine with any two composers, who would they be?
Igor Stravinsky and Johann Sebastian Bach.
Describe yourself in six words or less. At all times creative. Where in the world would you like to spend a month?
That's easy. The Rockefeller Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy.
Whose tunes do you enjoy? Johann Sebastian Bach and Cole Porter.
What is your fantasy career? To be a composer.
If your life became a motion picture, who should portray you? I'm told I resemble Debra Winger, but I'd prefer Isabella Rossellini.
Why does your work matter? I hope and believe that my music conveys something true about life, human emotion, and the mysterious and beautiful world of sound.