Quintessence - June 2005
American Quintets II is a collection of works by four composers who are colleagues with the players of Solaris on the faculty of the University of Akron (Ohio) and whose names are probably new to most of us. They offer a range of compositional styles and approaches to the wind quintet medium. This collaboration between local performers and composers has many models and is to be commended and given high praise. Composition is the lifeline of our music and every opportunity to support, encourage and commission our composing muses should be given due consideration. The results, as heard in the virtuosic readings, range from tragic to the comic.... The program is balanced with three Joplin rags and a suite of four songs by Stephen Foster, all tastefully imaginatively done.
One sad note, to acknowledge the accomplished performances here by the late bassoonist, Lynette Diers Cohen - wife of Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinetist Frank Cohen. A high recommendation for this creative program and first-rate performances.
Beacon Journal - October 26, 2003 - by Elaine Guregian
Title belies breadth of musical journey
`American Quintets II' by UA's Solaris has a wide ranging feel to it
"The Solaris quintet's new CD isn't marketed as world music. In fact, it's titled American Quintets II, but at times it feels like a journey to a far-off land. The joyfully curling, skirling lines of University of Akron composition professor Nikola Resanovic's Drones and Nanorhythms are borrowed from music of the Balkans, and they whirl as if under some ancient spell. UA professor Ralph Turek's Jam actually sets the musicians' feet to stomping and hands to clapping.
It's addictive listening from the UA woodwind quintet in residence.
Musicians on American Quintets II are George Pope, flute; James Ryon, oboe; Kristina Belisle, clarinet; William Hoyt, horn; Lynette Diers Cohen, bassoon and guest Todd Ranney, baritone, who sings on arrangements of four songs by Stephen Foster.
This CD makes a good chance to catch up on some Ohio composers, including UA professor Daniel McCarthy and former Akronite Roger Zahab, who is now in Pittsburgh. It also includes several rags by Scott Joplin. The engineering quality on this Capstone Records label is excellent, with the exception of overly boomy acoustics on a couple of vocal selections. All around, this project makes a terrific showcase for this ensemble's polished and compelling musicianship.
Solaris and Ranney will perform pieces from the new CD at 3 p.m. Nov. 16 at Guzzetta Recital Hall of the University of Akron, 157 University Ave., across from E.J. Thomas Hall.
The group's membership has changed since the recording was made. Oboist James Ryon moved to Louisiana and was succeeded by Cynthia Watson. James Rodgers is the new bassoonist in the group. He succeeds Lynette Diers Cohen, who died last summer.
The Nov. 16 performance is part of the UA Kulas Foundation Concert Series. Tickets cost $10 general admission, $3 for students. Call 330-972-7895.
American Quintets II will be on sale for $15 at the concert. It can also be ordered by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org."
American Record Guide - May/June, 2004 - by Steven E. Ritter
"The Solaris woodwind quintet is Quintet in Residence at the University of Akron. I missed "American Quintets", but Mr. Kirkpatrick gave a very favorable review (Jan/Feb 2001), saying that the member os the ensemble have "wonderful tone qualities, virtuoso technique, and excellent ensemble skills". I can only add a hearty "Amen" to that and also add that this program is one of the most intelligently compiled I have seen.
And that is usually the problem with compilation discs - little or no thought is given to its programmatic aspects. We have some serious music here - Roger Zahab's "Doubles Keening", a solemn tribute to the early passing of a personal friend of the composer, and "Tales of the Donner Expedition" by Daniel McCarthy, a woeful tirade of the 1846 California expedition where the party, trapped in the Sierras, resorts to cannibalism to stay alive.
But the tragic is not present in Nikola Resanovic's "Dances and Nanorhythms", a Balkan work that hints of the medieval with its open chords of fourths and fifths, culminating in a wild ride of a final movement, dance-like, but with a hint of more serious purpose. "Three Piece Suite" by Ralph Turek is a rather jazz-flavored piece based on more classical structures, yet the jazz doesn't slap you in the face - a common failing of so many jazz-influenced works.
The program is balanced by beautifully arranged interludes of Scott Joplin and Stephen Foster, some of the most effective arrangements (by Lee Brooks and Noel Stevens) I have heard. My only complaint is the singing of the Foster songs - Mr. Ranney has a robust, resonant baritone, but lacks the last degree of Hampson-like expressiveness that would really set the songs apart.
This is a model of superb programming. And the playing is moving and wonderfully controlled. Capstone and Solaris should be very proud."