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Article 26.08.2010 23:57

Press opinions on the music of James Erber

Seguente (1976-80) for oboe and piano


"I also liked very muchJames Erber's Seguente for oboe andpiano, beginning with bright jabs from both instruments, the piano pluckedinside, and developing into the broad, strenuous keyboard polyphony which leftthe oboe on the outside."

Paul Griffiths, The Times


Cantata 1 (1980-81) for soprano, piano and percussion

  "This concert was alsovaluable for the chance to hear a really good piece by the 30-year-old JamesErber: his Cantata on 15th-century Javanese texts offered a mixture of quirkyindividuality and technical assurance which promises much."

Keith Potter, Classical Music


"Da konnte die expressive,vielgestaltige Cantata von James Erber schon eher überzeugen: die mit vielorientalischer Melisma aufwartende Singstimme... wird nuancenreich begleitetvon Metallo- und Marimbaphon."

Jo Trillig, Darmstädter Echo


Music for 25 Solo Strings (Epitomaria-Glosaria-Commentaria)(1981-84)

  "The premier of JamesErber's Music for 25 Solo Strings was certainly the high point of this...concert. The piece itself remained impressively lucid throughout in a domainwhere obscurity often reigns. A disciple of Brian Ferneyhough, Erber followedalong similar paths to his teacher in producing a composition which consistedof layer upon layer of commentary being added to a five-part motet by WilliamByrd. But, as this measured and well tuned performance... showed, a musicalinstinct guided its complexity as surely as the intellectual formulations ananalyst might uncover."

Meirion Bowen, The Guardian


"...the work's basicmaterial, a relatively simple chordal-rhythmic matrix being only graduallyoverlaid with layer upon layer of decorative 'commentary' and retaining, evenin its final fulness, an ecstatic incandescence of sound that was a tribute tothe fineness of Mr. Erber's ear."

Bayan Northcott, The SundayTelegraph


"James Erber's new Music for 25 Solo Strings looksformidably Ferneyhovian but sounded confidently, even luxuriantlylyrical..."

Keith Potter, Classical Music


Abiya (1995) for solo piano

  "[Ian] Pace... first fittedin a long recital of (mostly) new works, all requiring utmost virtuosity. Thefour-part writing of James Erber's Abiya was texturally bracing."

Paul Driver, Sunday Times


You done torn yourplayhouse down (1996) for solo piano

  "Erber's plangent lament Youdone torn your playhouse down...sustains interest in the [harmonic] domain, notably with the combination ofwhole-tone sonorities and carefully-chosen foreign pitches. The gestures thatmake up the counterpoint are stylised, there is an ambiguous coda, and thepiece has a satisfying rounded shape."

Geoff Hannan, Tempo


"Like an eager child letloose on the instrument, James Erber goes traight for the extreme registerswhich frame his piece, You done torn your playhouse down, at both ends. Some of the midway textures have analmost erotic lushness."

Malcolm Troup, Piano Journal

"...a magnificentlyfractious and buoyant piece."

Philip Clark, InternationalPiano Quarterly


"Some of the music iscompelling: James Erber's You done torn your playhouse down, based on a Clarence Lofton blues number, spins outseparate lines at the top and bottom of the keyboard that are juxtaposed inways that are intense and involving. The structure is clear and elegant."

American Record Guide


"Childlike at first (emphatic single notes), it'sultimately anything but. Crisp rhythms bow to the early baroque, evenMonteverdi... Increasingly elaborate fingerwork leads to an accelerated climaxboth funny and disturbing."

Walt Mundkowsky, la folia online musicreview magazine


I'm particularly pleased to include the first CDrecording of an Erber work (I intend to record more of his music - he hasnumerous other pieces for piano, and ensemble works I'd like to record with Topologies);his work is extremely powerful and visceral. In the piece on the disc, Youdone torn your playhouse down, he begins with an abstracted'riff' derived from a style of jazz piano, though cast in atonal terms, andworks this into this labyrinthine, hallucinatory polyphony. His work should bemuch better known than it is - I would love to see someone take up again hisfantastic piece Music for 25 Solo Strings.

Ian Pace, Interview with Marc Bridle, February 2001


Strange Moments ofIntimacy (1999-2001) for soloclarinet in C

  "Erber's fascinating andthoroughly innovative work, heard for the first time, deserves future outings.Clarinet pitches and rhythms are bent and 'instrumental intimacies' intrudeuntil 'extended vocalism' (by playing whilst inhaling, etc.) marks the piece'sdevelopment 'from the abstract to the more overtly physical'.

Peter Graeme Woolf, Music onthe Web


At 16:25 Erber’s  Strange Moments of Intimacy (1999-2001) is by far the longest and most notable effort. Pace and pitches arerigorous in the first half. I imagine a film with sharply cut still shots, notmarkedly unlike each other, creating perspective and tension. Erber employsmouthpiece sibilants of several types to clear the slate, and key clicks aspunctuation. Slurs, glissandos high and low, and fragments of riffs join in;the proceedings stop without emphasis. I applaud Romano’s skill at stressingindividual notes during rapid runs, and the whole is highly inventive withinits chosen limits.

Bart Scribner, la folia online musicreview magazine


The 'Traces' Cycle for solo flute (1991-2007)/piano works

Erber’s 'Traces' Cycle, for solo flute — given its first complete performance by the outstandingMatteo Cesari — lasted nearly an hour, yet was never boring... Erber is a kindof New Complexity neoromantic — his ardent piano pieces, such as àNeM and Aurora, played superbly by Jonathan Powell, attested as much[.]

Paul Driver, Sunday Times



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