"The performance here is of the very highest standard. The clarinetist, Richard Faria, a professor at New York’s Ithaca College, stands out in his supreme command of his instrument, his clear identification with the projection of disjunct lines, and his sheer control." (The Horse With the Lavender Eye by Stephen Hartke) - Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine, July/August 2009
"Their performances sparkled, especially that of guest clarinetist, Richard Faria" (Garth Newel Music Festival) - Charlotterville Weekly
"...an energy level that really ought to be monitored by the Atomic Energy Commission" (Schoenberg Kammersymphonie, Quintet version) - Ithaca Times
"A superb ensemble" (Ensemble X) - The New Yorker
"...flawless prestissimo virtuosity that made the whole evening a prize." (James Matheson Buzz) - Columbia Free Times
"Mr. Faria’s mastery of the less common (basset) clarinet was matched by the members of the (Arianna) quartet. The players demonstrated command of their instruments and the challenges set by the composer, but, more important, showed a complete immersion in chamber music style...the players showed themselves to be not just technical virtuosos but musical virtuosos." - The East Hampton Star
"The inaugural performance of Ensemble X included a blistering performance of John Adam’s new work Gnarly Buttons, with Richard Faria in the solo clarinet" - Ithaca Times
"In Brahms' beautiful Clarinet Quintet in B minor, clarinetist Richard Faria expertly integrated his adumbral and soulful voice among the shimmering strings." - Today's Zaman
Roberto Sierra: Clarinet Works, Fleur de Son Classics (2006) (FDS 57978)
The Puerto Rican-born composer Roberto Sierra hardly needs an introduction, having experienced success in both the concerto hall and the recital hall. That said, he is perhaps more of household name in chamber music, and for good reason; he is one of the few composers who can challenge the genre without losing the audience. A former student of Gyorgy Ligeti, Sierra doesn’t subscribe to a single philosophy, preferring to think in sonic terms; he freely mixes consonance and dissonance to build a world completely his own.
As a faculty member at Cornell University Sierra recruited local musicians for this project – everyone lives, performs, and teaches in New York state. He could not have done better; all the players are highly skilled and tackle the music with great enthusiasm. Ithaca College professor Rick Faria is excellent, boasting a great solo sound, solid technique, a wide dynamic range, amazing comfort in the extremities of the instrument, and an artistic commitment to every piece.
Sierra’s music is a deft blend of classical, folk, and pop; and as one might expect from his background, there is an unmistakable Latin undercurrent. The driving force is rhythm, and even at its most dissonant, his music is hard to put down. The Clarinet Sonata (2006) is the newest piece; its attractive melodies and infectious rhythmic drive should make it a quick favorite in the solo repertoire. The Cinco Bocetos (Five Sketches, 1984) should be a familiar work in the contemporary literature; Faria performs it as impressively as anything here, tossing off the huge leaps across the instrument as if they were stepwise intervals.
The remainder of the program dates from the 1990’s: the Theme and Variations for clarinet and piano, the Tres Pensiamentos for bass clarinet and percussion, and the Fantasias for clarinet, cello and piano. These works are more demanding on the ear and may take more than one hearing to appreciate. But Faria and his colleagues play with such aplomb and conviction, they are difficult not to like; you may even be humming the music after you finish listening. This is a superb recording that belongs on every clarinetist’s shelf. - HANUDEL, American Record Guide, Nov/Dec 2008
"Faria handles the rhythmic complexity with aplomb…plays with a clear brilliant sound that is well suited to the music…displays great virtuosity of finger technique, and a solid rhythmic sense…this CD is worth exploring." - David Niethamer, The Clarinet, March 2008
The Horse With the Lavender Eye by Stephen Hartke, Chandos (2009) (CHAN 10513)
“The Top Classical CDs of 2009” - My shot at the best classical recordings of 2009 turns out to be top-heavy with pianists and French composers. Funny how that happens: You begin a process with what seems like scrupulous fairness, sorting through hundreds of discs, aiming for balance, trying to demonstrate one's wide-openness to the whole musical universe. But somehow, the results wind up reflecting personal preferences, anyway.
With each encounter, I'm taken with the sparkle and virtuosity, the rhythmic vitality, melodic invention and overall alertness of Hartke's music. There's the sense that the Los Angeles-based composer has taken a thousand influences, everything from Japanese court music to Stravinsky, tossed them into a blast furnace and melted them down to something essential and unique. The performances here, by the Los Angeles Piano Quartet, clarinetist Richard Faria, violinist Ellen Jewett and pianist Xak Bjerken, are exceptional; they breathe this music. - Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News
Possibly one of the most beautiful pieces ever written, even for such an unexpected trio: clarinet (Richard Faria), violin, (Ellen Jewett) and piano (Xak Bjerken). Deep, heartbreaking, painful, wonderous, glorious, moving, breathtaking... Beautiful. - New Music Express, February, 2010
Around sixty years ago some of the most prominent U.S. composers—Stravinsky, Carter and Copland among them—were deciding that neoclassicism was played out. Many of their successors are now striving to prove them wrong, not least Stephen Hartke, represented on a new cd The Horse with the Lavender Eye (Chandos CHAN 10513) by a selection of chamber and piano compositions from the 1980s and 90s. Everything here is highly accomplished, engaging, witty and kicked off by ideas brimful of vim—all Stravinskian virtues. And Stravinsky himself is sometimes just over the edge of the disc, as in the third movement of the title work, scored for violin, clarinet and piano, where the trilling clarinet almost quotes from The Rite of Spring. One might be reminded occasionally of Messiaen, too, though this is very much U.S. music, and by no means only in the jazz movements, such as the catchy centrepiece of the Piano Sonata. A fourth Gymnopédie, one of several ‘post-modern homages’, speaks with a transatlantic accent, and The Horse winds toward a slow close somewhere between Messiaen and Copland.
Like neoclassicists before him, Hartke tweaks and formalizes older notions of phrase, pattern and texture but structurally goes where these things take him. That Piano Sonata ends up in twinkling territory where the abrupt chords of the first movement keep being re-encountered. Xak Bjerken is the pianist here, elegant and spry, and he has fine colleagues playing with him in the chamber pieces: Richard Faria on clarinet and Ellen Jewett on violin in The Horse, and fellow members of the Los Angeles Piano Quartet in The King of the Sun—a work that has been recorded before, though not with this precision and life. - Paul Griffiths
Born in 1952, Stephen Hartke grew up in Manhattan, studied with George Rochberg (among others), and has lived in Southern California since 1980. In the course of this transcontinental migration this very gifted composer has achieved his own synthesis of East and West Coast “schools” of American music. From his academic training he gained a highly sophisticated technical assurance and expressive intensity, while from the West Coast he absorbed a more relaxed, multicultural, sensuous, fanciful aesthetic that by now embraces every sort of historical, exotic, and vernacular idiom known to man (and some dreamed-up ones known only to Hartke). Whatever the style and source of inspiration, Hartke has been searching and imaginative, exploring all sorts of new and inventive timbral combinations and conveying wit, delicacy, and poignancy in new and striking ways.
As a result, performers are much drawn to Hartke’s music, and a fair amount of it has been recorded. The fine Violin Concerto and Second Symphony are on New World 80533 (N/D 1998: new), King of the Sun for piano quartet and Sonata-Variations for violin and piano (this last a masterpiece of its kind) on New World 80461 (N/D 1995: new), the 1988 Piano Sonata on CRI 830, the Clarinet Concerto along with other works for chamber orchestra (which Allen Gimbel described as “major works by a gifted American composer”) on Naxos 559201 (Jan/Feb 2004), two large-scale vocal works that Josh Mailman lauded for their pathos, subtlety, and originality on ECM 1192 (Jan/Feb 2004: new), and the calmly mysterious, quasi-Medieval Wulfstan at the Millennium on New World 80568 (Sept/Oct 2003). This new, beautifully-performed-and-recorded Chandos offers second recordings of Hartke’s 1988 King of the Sun and 1998 Piano Sonata, along with two first recordings: four selections from his piano cycle of Post-Modern Homages, and The Horse with the Lavender Eye, a 1997 sequence of four “episodes” for violin, clarinet, and piano. What comes through most memorably in all this music, despite interludes of manic disruption and off-kilter, Conlon Nancarrowish rhythmic entanglements, is Hartke’s inimitable sweetness and lyricism. Like all authentic artists, Hartke has an intuitive sense of the power of understatement—his balance of complication, energy, conflict, fervor, and drive with clarity, distance, ceremony, and quietude has a spell-casting perfection rare in music today or any day. Listen for instance to the last two movements of The Horse with the Lavender Eye to hear the magical way that Hartke’s melodies flower, now tiptoeing, now dancing, now sighing, now spinning out into the graceful tendrils of some shape-shifting creature sashaying across a cartoon landscape of hovering butterflies, flitting birds, inquisitive beetles. This image-rich, enchanting music, with its pastel shadings of childlike wonder and tender longing, sounds like no one else. I’m grateful for the chance to hear and recommend it. - LEHMAN, American Record Guide, July/August 2009
"The performances are precise and probing..." - Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone Magazine, April 2009
The Consolations of Scholarship by Judith Weir, Albany Records (2004) (TROY 803)
“profoundly moving…Ensemble X easily encompass the work’s combination of bravura and intimacy. The piece has an impressive chamber music feel….this disc is doubly welcome” - Robert Hugill, MusicWeb International
“Powerful, streetwise, colourful – a Judith Weir showcase…Exemplary performances given, resonant recordings, and strongly recommended.” - Arnold Whittall, Gramophone
"Freeville's fun couple." - David Sedaris