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string quartet no. 1 "Astral"

David Dzubay’s expansive, imaginative String Quartet No. 1, “Astral” (2008), keenly realized by New Fromm Players Samantha Bennett, Sarah Silver, Jocelin Pan, and Jesse Christeson, gathered miscellaneous styles under a buzzing, rustling, shimmering sonic umbrella. It was chased by Eric Nathan’s 2012 “Toying,” for trumpet (George Goad), a whimsical, charming cracker-jack box of extended techniques. Dowling returned for Anthony Cheung’s 2010 “Roundabouts,” virtuosic clouds of piano resonance, the concert’s emphasis on sound summarized in ringing haze.

Matthew Guerrieri [Boston Globe]

Saturday’s most effective work was David Dzubay’s five-movement String Quartet No. 1, Astral, from 2008. None of the four voices in this quartet ever feels like an afterthought, each contributing equally as the music traverses a dazzling array of sonic qualities. A running figure paces the first movement, “Voyage,” as a bright, lyrical melody ranges on top. The second (“Starry Night”) and fourth (“Wintu Dream Song”) movements evoke infinite space with their crushed harmonies, while “S. E. T. I.” bridges the two with a playful, active confusion.

The energy pent up at the beginning of the finale, “Supernova,” revisits the first movement’s jogging pattern before finally exploding in a brilliant flash. The quartet (violinists Samantha Bennett and Sarah Silver, violist Jocelin Pan, and cellist Jesse Christenson) brought passion to the work, and showed acute awareness of each other, matching their dynamics perfectly.

Eric C. Simpson [Boston Classical Review]

Composers representing the middle generation, now in their late 40’s to 60’s included David Dzubay, Andrew Waggoner, Anna Weesner, Michael Gandolfi, Steven Mackey, and John Adams, the latter included by a happy error. This group’s work can be characterized as highly accessible, extroverted and dramatic, and, predominantly tonal. Dzubay offered a sonorously enticing “Astral” String Quartet (2008) given a spectacular performance by the New Fromm Players string players. The five movements have programmatic links (titles and compositional procedures relating to the topic of the starry sky) but the work stood on its own with a strongly defined arc of energy and drama, showing strong contrasts of mood and sonority across its five sections.

Larry Wallach [The Berkshire Review]

Threnody for string quartet

David Dzubay's "Threnody" (1987/1993) was an ideal follow-up. The music is a parody, "in the respectful sense," the composer writes, of "Mille Regretz," an alluring chanson by the Renaissance master Josquin des Prez. Mr. Dzubay fashioned musical layers, juxtapositions and riffs around the frame of the Josquin work. Some elements of the original are only glanced at; others are musically magnified.

Anthony Tommasini [New York Times]

all water has a perfect memory

A piece memorializing drowning victims might seem a strange way to open a concert and a concert season. But David Dzubay's new chamber work titled All Water Has a Perfect Memory was a hauntingly beautiful curtain-raiser Sunday evening for Dallas' modern-music ensemble Voices of Change. The Indiana University professor, who has a growing profile as a composer, was in the audience at Southern Methodist University's Caruth Auditorium. You might expect mighty rushing waters, but this is mostly gentle shimmer and eddy, waters blended in a soft-focus kaleidoscope. A set of variations on a hazy theme introduced by clarinet, it also parcels out soloistic writing throughout a string quartet. The first violin gets the one patch of high anxiety, but the second violin gets a high-flown keening. The latter, in fact, may be the piece's high point, after which the epilogue seemed unnecessary padding. The piece got a finely focused, exquisitely shaded performance from clarinetist Paul Garner, violinists Maria Schleuning and Kaori Yoshida, violist Cornelia Demian and cellist Kari Nostbakken.

Scott Cantrell [Dallas Morning News]

American Midlife: Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra

Written in a lyrical, lavishly orchestrated, 20th-century style, the work enchanted listeners from the very first note. ...American Midlife affords many opportunities for expressive cantabile in well-structured phrases, explores the instrument's capabilities with a judicious use of multi-phonics, and plenty of fast, technically challenging passages for the virtuoso within us all. The soloist is often doubled by instruments from the orchestra, creating a pleasing "floating" sensation. Dzubay's piece is great and a welcome and significant contribution to the clarinet repertoire. James Campbell...lived up to his reputation, captivating everyone with a truly artistic interpretation, always supported by his solid technique, which made the difficult passages sound easy. With the help of excellent conducting by Mr. Dzubay, the I.U. Philharmonic Orchestra provided a polished accompaniment, with both an attractive orchestral sound and the precision required for this piece.

Luis Rossi [The Clarinet]

Shadow Dance

Equally effective are David Dzubay’s magical Shadow Dance , a revisitation of Pérotin’s Viderunt omnes and John Mackey’s hyperactive Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble. Dzubay takes the concept of organum to remarkable extremes, creating a frenzied, irreverent modern equivalent of the 13th-century composer’s primitive polyphony. It has little to do with the medieval—excepting, of course, the concluding monk-like chanting of the cantus firmus —but everything to do with joyful celebration of the past.

Ronald E. Grames [Fanfare]

Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano

...Dzubay's strongly argued and eminently coherent Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano was played with similar devotion.

Bernard Holland [New York Times]

sun moon stars rain

...proved infectiously joyous in its unflagging rhythms. It's a post-modern version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, owing as much to bebop as to the baroque.

Stephen Wigler [The Baltimore Sun]'s unlikely that sun moon stars rain, with its aggressive, punchy rhythms and spooky effects, will ever sit meekly in the background. This is foreground music. It commands attention. It's also extremely well-written. Dzubay....has a vivid imagination. He also knows how to translate his imaginings into bright, unusual orchestral sound.

Michael Anthony [Minneapolis Star Tribune]

Snake Alley

Mr. Dzubay writes in an ecletic style, which is essentially tonal, but which raids atonal techniques when they suit the work's thrust. ...this is a vital piece that holds one's interest.

Allan Kozinn [New York Times]

...Dzubay's terrific tone poem depicting an excursion to a marketplace in Taipei. ...the orchestra dove into the piece with no hesitation. They gave the impression that they liked it ‚ that this stuff was, ahem, right up their alley.

John Huxhold [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Highly ordered despite apparent disorder, Snake Alley is a playful romp that at various junctures evoked Stravinsky, Varese and Christopher Rouse while remaining distinct and refreshingly concise.

Andrew Adler [The Courier-Journal, Lousiville]

Symphony No. 1

...David Dzubay's Symphony No. 1...reflect[s] how composers and listeners seek similar emotional and intellectual hooks. "Rage, Rage..." goes the marking of the opening movement, plunging the ensemble into ferociously difficult attacks, searing dynamics and textures that transmutate in an instant. Yet harmonically, the symphony's anger never forces the ear into protective shutdown, and suceeding portions seduce through orchestration that is lovingly specific.

Andrew Adler [The Courier-Journal, Lousiville]

Sonata for Cello and Piano

Programmatic ideas are fine, but good music is better, and this music was strong and vivid. Mr. Dzubay is clearly a man with something to say that is personal, well-molded and worth hearing

John Ardoin [Dallas Morning News]

It opens with an intensely mournful slow movement that is followed by a fast movement that is propelled by motor rhythms and, at one point, a bebop-style pizzicato ground bass. Beautifully conceived for the instruments, the music bears a distinctive stamp...

John von Rhein [Chicago Tribune]