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Composition Reviews and Press


Frankenstein Symphony

Review: Frankenstein’s Monster Wakes at Berkeley Symphony, San Francisco Classical Voice, May 10, 2016
"Grey’s musical textures captured the Gothic mystery and melancholy of Shelley’s story."

Review: Berkeley Symphony previews a ‘Frankenstein’ opera, San Francisco Chronicle, May 6, 2016
"Like a movie trailer, Grey’s 35-minute orchestral work is assembled out of some of the choice scenes from the full offering, arranged not in narrative order but so as to make things feel all the more alluring. Listening to these selections — which are robust enough to stand on their own, yet still teasingly partial in their dramatic effect — made a cogent argument for the virtues of the opera...Grey’s command of the orchestra is often striking, with ingenious combinations of instrumental color and a dramatic sense of scale that shows off those resources expertly."

Review: ASO delivers a night of monsters and masters, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Feb. 26, 2016
"Image painting is apparent from the first thunderous chords of the piece, which portray Frankenstein’s reanimation and awakening at the beginning of the opera. Thundering timpani, crashing cymbals and lots of dissonance lay the groundwork for an unsettling, ominous story. Throughout the work, Grey moves from sound to sound, creating impressions and emotions — dread, anticipation, hope."

TWENTY

Review: Map of the New: Alan Gilbert’s NY Phil Biennial, The New Yorker, 6/27/16

Review: Jennifer Koh Asks 32 Musicians to Respond to Paganini, The New York Times, 6/1/16

Review: JACK Quartet and Jennifer Koh in the NY Phil Biennial, The New York Times, 5/25/16

Left for the Dogs (part of the Violin Futura project)

Gramophone talks to Piotr Szewczyk, violin, Gramophone, July 2016
Page 3
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Review: Piotr Szewczyk ‘Violin Futura,’ Kathodik, 5/3/16

Review: Violinist and composer Piotr Szewczyk brings his Violin Futura Project to a recording for Navona Records with terrific results, The Classical Reviewer, 4/18/16

Review: Piotr Szewczyk, solo violin – “Violin Futura” – Navona (2 discs), Audiophille Audition, 3/12/16

Review: Violin Futura: 21st Century Solo Violin Project; Piotr Szewczyk, violin, InfoDad.com, 2/11/16

Review: Piotr Szewczyk, Violin Futura, 21st Century Solo Violin Project, Gapplegate, 2/2/16

Sparrow's Echo

Review: At Summergarden, a Steamy Evening of Exploratory Sounds,The New York Times, July 20, 2015
"The 15-minute piece teems with asymmetrical rhythmic figures, spiraling thematic lines, steady pounding chords and cyclic repetitions of scale patterns."

Awake the Machine Electric

LA: A Spring 2014 Concertgoer’s Journal, Part 1, New Music Box, April 16, 2014
"The two premieres commissioned by the LA Phil New Music Group and conducted by John Adams were more conventional, confident works by composers in their prime. Mark Grey’s Awake the Machine Electric was a bit like a mashup of Annie Gosfield and Tchaikovsky, with industrial sound effects juxtaposed with Romantic-sounding orchestration and thematic ideas."

Maximum Minimalism at Disney Hall, Sequenza 21, April 12, 2014
"This is exciting music, fast-moving and full of energy and the keyboard synthesizer playing of Joanne Pierce Martin was especially alert and effective...After downshifting a few gears, Awake the Machine Electric sped up once more, building a tension that was relieved only by its conclusion. As the applause began the composer was called up to the stage to shake hands with John Adams and tellingly, Mark Grey next reached out to the synthesizer player, as if acknowledging the concertmaster. Awake the Machine Electric is certainly aptly titled."

The L.A. Phil's Minimalism marathon, Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2014
"Grey's 'Machine' was the result of a trip to Perm, formerly Molotov, Russia. Once a center for Soviet munitions manufacture, it led Grey to the creation of a kind of musical Molotov cocktail, mercurial and madcap. Sometimes Coplandesque pastoral, sometimes chugging Adams-like and sometimes employing old sci-fi electronic sound effects, this is an addictive score ever changing from minute to minute."

Minimalism to the max in classical music marathon at Disney Hall concert, Orange County Register, April 10, 2014


Ātash Sorushān (Fire Angels)

Divine Life Force, Please Meet Truth and Existence, New York Times, April 1, 2011
"At Zankel Hall (Jessica Rivera) joined the pianist Molly Morkoski and Ensemble Meme, conducted by Donato Cabrera, for the premiere of 'Atash Sorushan' (Fire Angels). Mark Grey wrote the work in honor of the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Set to a text by the writer and theater artist Niloufar Talebi, this tale of love, connection and transcendence meshes ancient Eastern and modern traditions to relay a story about Mana (the Persian term for divine life force) and Ahsha — an Avestan (East Iranian) term that signifies truth and existence in Zoroastrian theology."

Jessica Rivera's Fire Angels, San Francisco Classical Voice, April 3, 2011
"It was Grey’s new score that generated the most interest from the audience and elicited the most vivid response from Rivera...Grey’s 20-minute score, fresh from its world premiere at Carnegie Hall, alternates between moments of frenetic activity and otherworldly serenity. It also poses myriad challenges for the vocalist, who sings her elaborate parts in English and Persian, with wide intervals and dynamic extremes over an often-agitated instrumental backdrop. Rivera handled it all with tonal sheen, dramatic urgency, and tremendous poise."

Mugunghwa: Rose of Sharon

Korea night at the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Douglas Neslund, March 11, 2011
"A very special musical event followed intermission, a world premier performance of a work entitled Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon) by American composer Mark Grey, an inventor of sound whose career must be followed based upon the tremendous success of Mugunghwa, an incipient opera perhaps(?) based on a series of letters and poems written by Namsoo Kim, a Korean who was born in the North, fled to the South, was separated by war from his intended bride and family, spent his life hoping for reunification of the peninsula but ultimately died, not having achieved his dream.

The poetry – at least the English translations thereof – was hauntingly beautiful, and spoke to the sad yearning of not only the Korean people, but universally to all people whose lives and destinies are separated by brutal, lethal forces. One felt the powerful emotions as they were sung, a truly enormous achievement for all concerned."

Los Angeles Master Chorale Presents World Premiere of Mark Grey's Mugunghwa: Rose of Sharon
'LA is the World Initiative Highlighting City's Vibrant Multi-Cultural Influences'
Korea.net, March 11, 2011

Mugunghwa.jpgL.A. Master Chorale sings 'Stories from Korea'
Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2011
"Grey is never short of ideas. His style is broadly (very broadly) post-minimal, and it is not surprising to hear the influence of Adams’ harmonic language. But Grey’s voice is singular and he has found an intricate method with which to incorporate Korean melodic and rhythmic elements into a moody sonic and poetic atmosphere, to tell a story and to keep the listener in a pleasant state of suspended animation."

A World Premiere for the Los Angeles Master Chorale, ConcertoNet.com, Matthew Martinez, March 6, 2011
"Grey’s composition is impressive in its lack of self-awareness. With poems so descriptively dark, it would be easy for a composer to go to the extremes of compositional techniques and stay there, but by only occasionally doing so, Grey creates balanced textures and arcs that stay away from over-the-top expression. Grey’s music is most effective in his understated settings of the 'Sister’s Letters,' which were highlighted by beautiful solos sung by Claire Fedoruk and Adriana Manfredi.

Grey’s settings of Kim’s poems are often rhythmic and non-linear with voice sections creating a texture by focusing on a key word, at odds with the adjacent section. The piece’s harmonic language is tonal, but not predictable with some much needed moments of fury and dissonance, often provided by the solo instruments in the orchestra. This brings us to the violin solo. To call it such really understates its part in this piece, as the instrument is incredibly busy with concerto-quality lines for over a half hour. Violinist Jennifer Koh, whose personal interest in the music’s subject matter brought her to the piece, played intensely and masterfully. Her tone was edgy and frustrated when necessary, but always beautiful and pleasant. Her virtuosity was stunning."

LA Master Chorale: Stories from Korea
SoCal.com, March 2011
"The most anticipated event of the evening was the world premiere of Mark Grey’s Mugunghwa: Rose of Sharon featuring violist Jennifer Koh, soprano Claire Fedoruk and mezzo-soprano Adriana Manfredi. Violinist and Korean American Jennifer Koh gave a spirited performance. At times, the aired sounds streaming from her 1727 Stradivari violin resembled the voice of the human spirit full of emotion and passion."

AHSHA: Fanfare for Orchestra

Atlanta Symphony review: Runnicles’ emotional Bruckner and a jolly Mozart concerto with Spano
ArtsCriticATL.com, January 30, 2011
"The two-and-a-half-minute fanfare opens with low brass and horns in a majestic, perhaps exotic, setting. As the rest of the orchestra joins in, the mood darkens and starts to churn and the soundworld becomes prismatic, begging us to invent visual images."

A Rax Dawn

Review from The Soundmind, April 20, 2009
"(Rax Dawn) is a major piece of music, filled with awe, energy, and power, easily matching the scenery of southern Austria...Molly Morkoski played with enough vigor to fill two grand pianos; the piece was written specifically for her. This is expansive music, 'cinemascopic' music, mountainous music, and towards the end, a surprising, and tenderly beautiful, lullaby-type melody breaks in -– almost as a relief to what had been already played. The conclusion suggested to me the first hints of a fragrant morning rain just beginning to fall from beneath the mountain clouds."

Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio

'Enemy Slayer' musically stunning, Deseret News, May 2, 2009
"Musically, 'Enemy Slayer' is stunning. It moves from breathtakingly beautiful and lush passages to sections that are stringently dissonant, and finally ends peacefully and simply. Yet everything is cohesive and quite seamless. It is a hypnotic work that makes quite an impression on the listener."

'Enemy Slayer' draws big crowds, Salt Lake Tribune, May 3, 2009

A "Best Classical Release" of Q1 2009, Allmusic.com
"Grey knows the value of a good recording, and percussive effects pack a punch; the recording is big, spacious, and captures all of the details of the orchestration and chorus in spite of the size of the forces involved."

"From the standpoint of Western music, however, Enemy Slayer is a revelatory and utterly different musical experience in the realm of oratorio — an admirable achievement indeed."

Colorado Music Festival's 'Enemy Slayer' powerful, Daily Camera, July 2008
"Grey and Navajo librettist Laura Tohe have created a glorious tapestry of sounds and sensations that celebrate both the culture of the Diné people and a more general faith in humanity. Grey's entirely acoustic music does not indulge in overt 'modernism,' and he always seems to have the ears of the audience in mind."

'Enemy Slayer' explores angst of the returning warrior, Rocky Mountain News, July 2008
"Using a poetic, English-and-Navajo text by Laura Tohe, and augmented by projected images of the Southwest by photographer Deborah O'Grady, Enemy Slayer guides us into a native American society that treats its returning warriors with far greater respect and compassion than most communities in this country."

"Grey is a promising talent and this work does carry a potent message embracing world peace - and inner peace."

Denver Post, July 2008:
"On the surface, the oratorio — beautifully performed Friday night by the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony Chorus and baritone Daniel Belcher — is an absorbing statement on our time of war and its ravaging effect on the human psyche. At its core, however, composer Mark Grey and Navajo librettist Laura Tohe relay a communal journey of salvation and spiritual restoration.

Before a full house at Boulder's Chautauqua Auditorium, conductor Michael Christie masterfully navigated the work's progression through the four cardinal directions — East (birth), South (youth), West (adulthood) and North (death).

Belcher shone in his role and delivery of the protagonist, "Seeker," representing a universal soldier who achieves inner peace by silencing the demons within. Vocally powerful and intuitive, Belcher's persuasive dramatization of the score further enhanced its ultimately triumphant message of healing and hope.

The fine festival orchestra fully realized the work's robust — often explosive — instrumentation, even as the chorus carefully shaped its muted phrasings with precise diction and a fitting sensibility."

Navajo oratorio a triumph in Phoenix - Opera Today, February 2008
“A triumph... an achievement that has all the markings of a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk — a composite work of art that might well prove a major monument of early 21st-century music."

"The carefully prepared performance of Grey’s lush and loving music brought home just how original the composer is in his understanding of the design of music. He has created here a collage of colors that brings the many voices of soloist, choir and instruments together with near-magical homogeneity."

Universal truths, ancient wisdom - Navajo Times, February 2008
Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio reveals deep meaning of creation story -- "An experience so moving that some audience members shed tears, and no one was left untouched by its depth of meaning." 

Premier performance bridges cultures - Navajo Times, February 2008

Oratorio evokes tears of pride, recognition, hope - Navajo Times, February 2008

For audio clips and videos on the making of Enemy Slayer, visit the Multimedia page.

Navajo Oratorio premiere
From left to right: Composer Mark Grey, visualizations designer Deborah O'Grady, whose
Southwest landscape photography was projected on a 12-by-21-foot screen during the
performance, baritone soloist Scott Hendricks, and the librettist Laura Tohe.
Photo courtesy of The Phoenix Symphony.

Leila Josefowicz, violinElevation, violin concerto

“Undeterred by a steady rain cascading on Boulder 's Chautauqua Auditorium, the single-movement work for solo violin and orchestra received a well-executed debut in the competent collaboration of violinist Leila Josefowicz and Michael Christie directing the Colorado Music Festival Chamber Orchestra...The work consists of soaring violin passages that seem to hover above the orchestra. Indeed, the exciting, interactive orchestration sometimes rhythmically embraces, sometimes harmonically repels the violin themes. As in a swell of emotion, the work crescendos until it reaches an absorbing resolution, a sense of unity between violin and orchestra.” ~Sabine Kortals, Special to The Denver Post, July 10, 2006

“Headlining the program was the premiere of a one-movement violin concerto by the young pony-tailed composer Mark Grey. With the always-dazzling Leila Josefowicz as soloist, Elevation proved a complex, sometimes thorny, mostly invigorating listening experience. In its 19 minutes, the piece bubbled over with musical and rhythmic ideas, always providing plenty for the soloist to do. This is dense music that is best listened to in an abstract way - as an intriguing journey that unfolds in a fashion that is felt rather than understood. As its title suggests, Elevation spends much of its time in the solo violin's tricky upper register, which might normally pose problems for a soloist. But our soloist is no normal fiddler. Whether negotiating those stratospheric flights, or a tricky series of double-stops, or plowing through some diabolical arpeggios (not to mention a killer cadenza), Josefowicz made easy work of this virtuoso piece. Which makes sense, since the concerto was dedicated to and, no doubt, inspired by her. She plays with an intensity rivaled only by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg - pulling the listener into the music through the sheer force of her onstage personality. This was a tough work to judge on a single hearing. Yet it's clear that Grey has some original thoughts about composition and is certainly a musical voice deserving of attention.” ~Marc Shulgold, Rocky Mountain News, July 10, 2006

“Grey's violin concerto, 'Elevation,' was premiered last month at the Colorado Music Festival, and as the title suggests, it's a pastoral sort of mountain piece -- sweet-toned, airy and bright. The orchestra provides backdrop of lightly scored chords and the violin traipses across them, its knapsack on its back. The resulting trek is a little long, and by the end, I felt as though I had seen all the relevant sights, some more than once. But the effect was invigorating, and Leila Josefowicz -- playing from memory, no less! -- was a lovely soloist.” ~Joshua Kosman, The San Francisco Chronicle, August 15, 2006


Leila Josefowicz, violinSan Andreas Suite, for solo unaccompanied violin

"Bay Area composer Mark Grey originally wrote the San Andreas Suite, for unaccompanied violin, on guitar - Eddie van Halen was a particular inspiration - and then adapted it for violin. The outer portions of the tightly constructed score have something of rock's punch; in between comes a meditation with a hint of Eastern music...The suite makes one helluva vehicle for (Leiila) Josefowicz's startling technical facility, burnished tone and superior musicality." ~Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun, December 9, 2004

"The other solo work was Mark Grey’s 'San Andreas Suite,' an elegant showpiece calculated to make the instrument and a strong performer playing it appear at their best. In the outer movements, Ms. Josefowicz roamed around a large repertory of traditional virtuoso effects. The slow movement is simple melody with left-hand pizzicato accompaniment." ~Bernard Holland, The New York Times, November 12, 2005

“After the intermission, the violinist played another unaccompanied solo work, written for her: the San Andreas Suite of Mark Grey, who was present in the audience. This evocation of life in California didn't seem, at first hearing, as particularly profound (in contrast to the Salonen), but the composer is undeniably talented. The variety of sounds he creates from a single instrument is impressive, even when it is inspired by the guitar playing of Eddie Van Halen. Best of all is the second movement, a quiet, intense portrait of Clear Lake, using Asian-like musical language. Josefowicz was even more of a virtuoso here, and her ability to hold the whole thing together with such loving intensity makes this a definitive performance.” ~James Hennerty, Special to the Times Union, Albany, NY, December 5, 2004

Other Reviews:

Washington Post, March 2005

Metroactive, Santa Cruz, California

Press:

National Gallery of Art

John Hopkins University

Carnegie Hall/Zankel Hall


Bertoia I and Bertoia II (for Kronos Quartet)

“Two installments of Mark Grey’s Bertoia asked the quartet to sculpt other-worldly compositions in thick air using mysterious electronic aids.” ~Martin Bernheimer, The Financial Times (London), November 19, 2003

Visual Music, Kronos Quartet - Sydney, Australia

Sydney Opera House

Kronos brings music to the eyes - Melbourne, Australia

Kronos Quartet Visual Music


Creators at Carnegie

Time Magazine

NPR


General Press

String Section - State of the Arts

Kronos Quartet Makes Visual Music at Zankel Hall - Sequenza21


Sands of Time
"Bay Area cellist Jeanrenaud, formerly with the Kronos Quartet, has been fruitfully experimenting with cello contexts. Here, she presented two premieres: Mark Grey's 'Sands of Time' blends the live cellist and four prerecorded and processed tracks of her, building a kind of one-person Kronos effect; her own 'Hommage' found her gracefully layering varied melodic materials atop real-time- generated loops." ~Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times, March 9, 2004

San Francisco Bay Guardian


Blood Red
"Cellist Joan Jeanrenaud (late of the Kronos Quartet) was a superb soloist in Mark Grey's 'Blood Red,' which mixed live and electronically processed sounds in a slow-fast one-two punch that drove to a great and deeply moving conclusion."
~Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 2000

"...Beginning with the remarkable Blood Red, by Mark Grey, performed by the very remarkable Joan Jeanrenaud. Here cello and electronics were in close consort, building up to a level of high emotion." ~Mark Alburger, 21st-Century Music



Sound Design Reviews and Press

Reviews of John Adams' Dr. Atomic

Lyric Opera of Chicago's "Dr. Atomic," one of the most memorable and haunting operas of recent years
~R. Todd Shuman, OperaOnline.us

Reviews of John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls

"As was the case in Avery Fisher Hall at the premiere, the loudspeakers throughout Segerstrom Hall became like cathedral windows opened to the New York street, with sirens and footfalls welcomed in. [Mark Grey]'s sound design vividly spreads the orchestra and chorus throughout the hall as well. [John Adams] further enhances the spatial effects with an offstage trumpet that alludes to Ives' 'The Unanswered Question.'" ~Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2003

"...(John) Adams and sound designer Mark Grey are creating what the composer describes as a 'tuned resonant space' that subtly 'gives a very warm, otherworldly, cathedral-like effect to the live sound.'" ~Elena Park, andante.com, September 17, 2002

"Washed in the Sound of Souls in Transit...Mr. Adams uses taped sounds of the city as a faint aural backdrop for the work: cars swooshing by, brakes squealing, fleeting laughter....Sound design for this piece was by Mark Grey." ~Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, September 21, 2002

"The sound design by Mark Grey was another glory of the experience." ~Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, September 21, 2002

On the Transmigration of Souls - Nominated for Grammy

Reviews of John Adams' oratorio El Niño - American premiere in San Francisco

"Whether it is the industrial ping of his chords, guitar figures against a pointillistic flute, massed pizzicato against mallet percussion, violent jolts of lower brass or shuddering evocations of water, the listener is made to see through every sonority. The sound is both full and open, and the use of amplification so subtly rendered that it is scarcely noticed as such." ~Bernard Holland, The New York Times, January 15, 2001

"...All exceptionally mellifluousand wondrously pristine in projection lends a serene, otherworldly quality to much of the work. The delicacy of the orchestral writing - an ominous bassoon flourish here, a guitar interjection there, a trombone harmony lingers in the mind; amplification and sampling are deployed discreetly." ~Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Chronicle, January 13, 2001

Interview with John Meyer of Meyer Sound Laboratories

Q: "Who are some of the outstanding sound designers working on Broadway and live concerts?" A: "Tony Meola - I like the work that he's doing. Abe Jacob, of course, plus Roger Gans, Mark Grey, Jim Lebrecht, Bill Platt, Francois Bergeron and Jonathan Dean. These are also people who are pushing the envelope. We're starting to develop the next level of technology with steering the sound, and we'll give tools to these new designers." ~Mix Magazine, April 1997

 
 
 
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