Reviews – Laura Kaminsky

Alphabetical by work title

1968 – 10,000 Go-Go Boots (from Jeannette Rankin: Fierce Grace)

The fight for peace was perhaps (Jeannette) Rankin’s defining purpose; she famously voted against U.S. involvement in both world wars.  Kaminsky wrote the music for “1968 – 10,000 Go-Go Boots,” representing 87-year-old Rankin’s involvement in the anti-Vietnam movement. The slow melodies halted and meandered like an aging mind and spirit, a bit confused by her surroundings but pleased to still be relevant.” – Classical Voice America

A Dream Revisited

A Dream Revisited for amplified flute and percussion is delicate and imaginative.” – The New Yorker

And Trouble Came

And Trouble Came: An African AIDS Diary is a narrative and a meditation, skillfully combining words and a wide range of musical styles in a moving and uplifting experience.” – American Record Guide


In And Trouble Came: An African AIDS Diary, Kaminsky has fashioned a text that interweaves three poems and some brief Biblical fragments (from Job and the Psalms) with words of her own, the latter reflecting her experience living for a time in Ghana, where she had the occasion to meet a number of AIDS patients. The words are compellingly, simply, and movingly delivered by the actor/stage director Mark Lamos. The lesson this piece teaches is both simple and profound: to love the dying. This disc is crucial listening for anyone who values life and its meaning.” – Fanfare


And Trouble Came: An African AIDS Diary comes slowly and fully ornamented with dramatic effectiveness and quiet boldness. Narrated by Mark Lamos (nothing is sung), the journal entries light places in the heart and later in the mind that resemble the humanness we seek and sometimes stumble on the way. Classical in its simplicity and texture, neither too dark and never audacious in effect, Kaminsky’s selection of poetry and scription set to her long smooth cello deserves mass attention.” – 4Front Magazine

As One Press

Deception

Laura Kaminsky‘s strikingly intense diptych, Deception (with clarinetist Moran) Katz’s moody, richly burnished low register in tandem with the cello built an air of mystery and foreboding, occasionally punctured by the piano. The second movement worked clever variations via individual voices in a very Debussy-esque arrangement that also offered a nod to Shostakovich and possibly Penderecki as well.” – Lucid Culture

Fantasy

… an extensive Fantasy for solo piano by Laura Kaminsky (N.Y. premiere) explored, in episodic fashion, piano sonorities from Debussyesque gongs and watery burbles to jazzy dialogue between the hands …  with its moderation of expression and close attention to nuance and detail, [the piece] often had one imagining an atonal Amy Beach composing A Hermit Thrush at Eve in 2017. Oppens’s insight into the score, communicated through a varied tonal palette and keen-eared voicing, was a reminder of why composers from John Adams to Elliott Carter have queued up to write pieces for her.” – New York Classical Review

Homage to Havel

The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Laura Kaminsky’s “Homage to Havel,” a tribute to the Czech Republic’s first president, Václav Havel. Kaminsky is a skilled composer who fully understands the capabilities and strengths of each instrument, combining sounds in a way that is both intriguing and unique. Her thought-provoking piece was electrifying throughout and Cygnus performed it with energetic confidence. – Feast of Music

Interpolations on Utopia Parkway

Ms. Kaminsky’s substantial duo, Interpolations on Utopia Parkway, reflected her contact with life in Africa, where the sense of how events move through time is so different from ours, and her piece engaged the listener in an unusual manner.” – New Music Connoisseur

Marriage Equality

Almost painful in its beauty.” – Classical Voice America

Piano Quintet

a comment on the chaos and brutality of what passes for political discourse in Trump-era America.” – Allan Kozinn in the Portland Press Herald


Kaminsky’s new quintet proved a concise work of considerable substance and atmosphere.”  – New York Classical Review


In three big movements, each with unusual titles, the quintet had a variety of styles that were challenging for the performers and always interesting for the audience. Opening with anthem, the group had to deal with a changing rhythmic groove in 13/8 that was a mix of West African drumming and Eastern European dances.  Next was lamentation; coming into light, where the title describes the music quite well. Same for the finale, maelstrom, and… which was quite powerful and eventually led to a calm and peaceful ending that faded away beautifully.” – American Record Guide

Rising Tide Press

River Music

In a gesture of typical good will, Laura Kaminsky (the driving force behind Musicians Accord) presented this free concert while inviting attendees to make contributions toward the 9/11 Relief Effort via the Accord’s charitable status. Suitably enough she programmed the concert as a reflection of her own and surely others’ concern for humanity. Her own River Music could not have been more pertinent, as it suggests her wide travels and love for music rooted in the soil and in the heart, as the program title conveys to us. The 17-minute work for flute, percussion and piano is made up of five movements, with a traditional balance of tempo, dynamics, and general musical character throughout; it closed the first part of the program in a rousing fashion. – from a review in the New Music Connoisseur of Music of Earth and Spirit, a concert produced by Musicians Accord a month after 9/11

Some Light Emerges

Through the personal stories of its characters, both moving and humorous, Some Light Emerges reveals how political and spiritual conflicts can be better understood and ultimately resolved through art while honoring the people who create and support such art.” – Broadway World Opera


Some Light Emerges, the new opera commissioned by Houston Grand Opera through its community collaborative initiative, dives right into Rothko and de Menil’s shared spiritual vision with plaintive, purposefully meandering music by Laura Kaminsky and an audacious libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed. The 75-minute chamber piece — written for seven singers and seven instruments — just might be the best articulation of the Rothko Chapel’s purpose in modern times … it’s nothing short of a pronunciation of American ideals. The piece remained sublime, a testament to both the performers and the writing.” – Houston Chronicle


The Great Unconformity

The Great Unconformity begins with double stopping and continues with runs and percussion. Her music leaps from rock to rock and, like the voracious river, conforms to few man-made rules … The music is interesting and the sound crystal clear.” – Fanfare

Today It Rains

It all takes place on the train, and the well-constructed libretto, by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, ingeniously smooths the transitions. Reed’s video and still photographs, projected behind the stage, are an essential component in defining time, location and movement. The effect is musically engaging and often dramatically engrossing … Kaminsky’s score, for eleven players, is compact and vibrant, alternating between expansive lyricism, driving minimalism and snappy evocations of the Jazz Age … The opera achieved its greatest potency in solo scenes — a luminous aria for O’Keeffe, sung to her beloved box of paints, and a shimmering, light-filled finale, as she disembarks in New Mexico at the end of the journey.” – Opera News


Rather than O’Keeffe, the real heroine of the evening was composer Laura Kaminsky. Her writing for the eleven-piece instrumental ensemble was nothing short of masterful. She’s achieved a fluidity of pacing that is so idiomatically theatrical that it’s hard to believe she’s a relative newcomer to opera. Kaminsky’s contrapuntal writing is particularly strong — her ability to juggle several simultaneous lines is reminiscent of the textural clarity in Schoenberg’s chamber symphonies. Minimalism was also at play in the score (which) displayed a sophisticated integration of leitmotivs…(her) system of musical signs is fully integrated into her rich compositional palette. In fact, her personal style is somewhat reminiscent of O’Keeffe’s. There is the same balance of contrasts found in the painter’s canvases — the interplay of dynamism and stillness, for example, or the co-existence of finely drawn details and hazy ambiguity. And like O’Keeffe, Kaminsky finds beauty in both the natural world and the man-made” – San Francisco Classical Voice


The inventive charm of Kaminsky’s music keeps finding new sonic possibilities with economical resources. (She) shows a blessed willingness to write dramatic music with a strong rhythmic backbone. Today treads with suave assurance through the fields of both sexual and artistic politics … Today It Rains comes as a welcome bestowal from a team of artists plowing new and interesting terrain, just as its subject did. It seems ripe for adoption by opera companies nationwide. – San Francisco Chronicle

Triftmusik

“a colorful and sharp-edged evocation of an Alpine climb.” – The New York Times

Twilight Settings

Not only a tone poem of nature at day’s end, Twilight Settings also depicts a world where twilight, and the inevitable darkness which follows, are harbingers of death. The music is very spare and evocative; traces of gamelan flicker in the percussion ostinatos, and some folkish triads — especially in the opening and closing songs — warm the soprano lines. The work ends effectively and beautifully.” – American Music


Undercurrent

Laura Kaminsky’s Undercurrent (2015) scans the subconscious depths of the human psyche with mesmerizing colors hued in quarter tone malaise and propelled by pitch slides and ominous low chords on the piano. The piece occasionally reaches the bright surface but like the Gulf Stream, ultimately runs silent, swift and deep. An important if harrowing addition to the violin/piano duo pantheon.” – performingartsreview.net

Until A Name

I was strongly drawn to [a] more serious work that uses dialogue as [its] main dramatic structure. In Laura Kaminsky’s Until A Name, based on Conversation by Elizabeth Bishop, the exchange is between rapid passage work and evocative long tones. Fascinated by the awareness of the breath within the sustained tones, I became a participant in the drama rather than an onlooker. Terri Sundberg’s playing is especially expressive at the climactic moment of stillness when a series of repeated notes begins the work’s denouement into a dissonant silence.” – New Music Connoisseur