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En el Escuro es Todo Uno

Kelly-Marie Murphy understands – indeed embraces – the implicit compact between composer, performer, and audience in all successful concerti.  Following her spectacular Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, En el escuro es todo uno featuring the unexpected combination of cello and harp is a brilliant addition to the duo-concerto repertoire.  At its core are Ladino folk materials, but this is no conventional folkloric rhapsody; rather the evocative shards of musical materials are fused into rich webs of sounds – some dramatic and rhythmic (as in the astonishingly vital second movement “Si veriash a la rana”), others are more meditative or mysterious.

Virtuosity abounds, but not in the shop-worn scale passages, endless arpeggios, or brazen double and triple stops favoured by lesser composers. Murphy demands virtuosity of colour and texture, not superficial flash.  Not that the piece lacks in drive and intensity; but it keeps both those essential elements as part of an enchanted vision, a vision that evaporates into thin air when what’s to be said has been heard. The piece is a remarkable success by any standard.

David Gordon Duke, who writes for The Vancouver Sun, The American Record Guide and Classical Voice North America

Four VSO performances include brilliant violin concerto…

…Murphy’s violin concerto shows its lineage with absolute clarity; a big virtuoso work explicitly linked to traditional values.  It’s a very good piece, given an extra up-to-date lustre by its title and inspiration… the concerto works brilliantly; a rich solo part (commandingly delivered by Nicholas Wright) matched by deft orchestral writing that, however menacing, never overwhelms the soloist.  This is a work that deserves the widest possible hearing, and performances by the great violinists of our day.
– David Gordon Duke, The Vancouver Sun

Borealis Quartet, Kasman generate sparks at Birmingham concert

…Kelly-Marie Murphy’s fiery, dissonant “Ashes” was a strangely appropriate segue… It exploded with glissandos and condensed into smoldering embers. A pizzicato section popped and crackled like burning logs. Yet it often drew on early 20th century quartet writing, making it sound, at times, like Bartok on steroids.
– Michael Huebner, The Birmingham News

National Youth Orchestra of Canada conducted by Jacques Lacombe:
“Selections from the 2008 National Tour”, 2 CD

…”Through the Unknown, Unremembered Gate”… 8-and-a-half minutes of brooding mystery that swells through angelic spaces and into an energetic beyond.

Korea Music Foundation presents Allant Piano Trio in Review

…“Give Me Phoenix Wings to Fly,” … found the violin in a leadership role (in fact standing) through three highly expressive movements that evoked (as the Ms. Murphy describes) “fire, bleak devastation, and rebuilding.” In confrontational exchange of jagged virtuosic gestures one could easily envision the violent darting of flames, and the trio played up the drama to the hilt, as was fit. The dark second movement was haunting and beautifully connected in spirit to the Ghost Trio (ingenious programming), but all finished brilliantly with resurgence of energy in the third, as the phoenix began its rise. Ms. Murphy is an exciting and imaginative composer, much in demand especially in her native Canada and deservedly so.
Rorianne Schrade for New York Concert Review

Excerpt from review of Ashes:

Borealis Quartet, Kasman generate sparks at Birmingham concert

…Kelly-Marie Murphy’s fiery, dissonant “Ashes” was a strangely appropriate segue.  Composed in 2008 for the Borealis, it was inspired by incendiary references — friction, sparks, flames, and the like — and is perfectly suited to these performers.  It exploded with glissandos and condensed into smoldering embers.  A pizzicato section popped and crackled like burning logs.  Yet it often drew on early 20th century quartet writing, making it sound, at times, like Bartok on steroids.

-Michael Huebner, The Birmingham News

Excerpt from review of Through the Unknown, Unremembered Gate:

National Youth Orchestra of Canada conducted by Jacques Lacombe:  “Selections from the 2008 National Tour”, 2 CDs:

…CD 1 is opened by Kelly-Marie Murphy’s “Through the Unknown, Unremembered Gate”.  8-and-a-half minutes of brooding mystery that swells through angelic spaces and into an energetic beyond.

Excerpt from review of Blood Upon the Body, Ice Upon the Soul:

Concert’s new work proves breathtaking

…Murphy’s violin concerto is simply breathtaking. Startling orchestration, but Murphy knows how to achieve both effects and emotions. Unlike so many modern orchestral works which find the orchestra underused, Murphy knows her instrumentation inside out and has a grasp of tone colours and voicings

-Harry Currie, April 1, 2006

Excerpts from reviews of And Then at Night I Paint the Stars:

Harpist revels in world premiere of concerto

…This world premiere revealed Murphy to be a most modern creator, employing layered climaxes and jaunty passages where orchestral soloists salute a comrade. Loman revelled in it, depsite a broken string and subsequent emergency repairs on stage. A delightful harp cadenza followed, as did fully deserved intermission Standing O.

-Geoff Chapman, The Toronto Star, June 13, 2002

An exquisite valedictory send-off

…The centre of the evening, though, was the farewell appearance of the orchestra’s great harpist, Judy Loman. The irreplaceable Loman is leaving the orchestra after an incredible 43 years as its principal harp. To makr the occasion and show that she is leaving at the top of her form, Loman and the orchestra premiered a new concerto, entitled And Then at Night I Paint the Stars. composed expressly for her by Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy.

The concerto is a striking piece, by no means vanguard but vividly written for the orchestra and full of brilliant tours for the harpist.

-Ken Winters, The Globe and Mail, June 14, 2002

Excerpt from review of Dance Me to Your Beauty With a Burning Violin:

Muscular Grace

…Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Dance Me To Your Beauty With a Burning Violin, written for Duo Concertante, caught everything essential about the two players and their partnership.  For Dahn there were furious cadenzas; for Steeves, tinkling arabesques at the top of the keyboard; for both (most tellingly), two long sections in a fast quintuple meter with intricately interlocking rhythms that both players nailed like competitive archers putting the arrow nonchalantly through the bullseye the fiftieth time in a row.  I think Kelly-Marie Murphy knows these two musicians very well.  Call it a double portrait.

-Michelle Dulak, October 19, 2002, all rights reserved

(Michelle Dulak, editor of San Francisco Classical Voice)

Excerpts from reviews of Another Little Piece of My Heart:

Ottawa’s String Quartet Festival, Continued…

…Even before you hear the music, you’ve got to like the young woman who calmly explains that she has written only two quartets, and the reason for this being No. 4 is that she started with No. 3. And the title? It’s not about the Joplin song, she says, but prompted by her puzzlement that a simple muscle is taken as the seat of emotions, something that can be broken or left in San Francisco. So she wrote two outer movements about heart-the-mystery, and two movements in-between dealing with the physics of the heart, such as beating fast when the adrenalin is flowing or, “when you have to speak about your composition in public.”

And the the Alcan Quartet starts playing Murphy’s music and it’s an instant love affair with the audience even though there is nothing cheap or condescending in its accessibility.

At 35, the Virginia resident is rock solid in her technique, she writes music that’s “old-fashioned” tonal and yet completely of our time. Those “emotional” outer movements are simple, unpretentious, speaking directly to feelings (the first movement ends with sadness, but the final movement presents hope), but what makes Murphy the great promise for the future are the two fast inner movements.

The scherzo- and presto-like movements (Murphy does not mark them in the program) are fluent and tide-like: developed, not repeated. The second movement is just a bit “Bartokian” (what good modern string quartet isn’t?), but my favorite, the third movement is “choice Murphy”, all hers, strong, confident, attractive music, taking the listener on a wave.

The commissioning Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will soon broadcast this world premiere performance, so there will be a larger audience for it. I am hoping to hear it again, and Murphy’s other works as well. Who knows, she could take a hint from the “Star Wars” marketing phenomenon, and produce those two missing quartets as prequels.

-Janos Gereben, Post Arts Editor, San Francisco, Wednesday May 12, 1999

Stringed wonders never cease

…Chicoutimi’s Alcan Quartet gave the world premiere of String Quartet No. 4, Another Little Piece of My Heart, by Kelly-Marie Murphy, who was the festival’s composer-in-residence. In this work, Murphy explores the contrasts between emotional time — the sorrows of the heart — and “ticking time,” its medical trials and tribulations. Murphy makes imaginative and expressive use of string colours in this piece, yet you never feel she’s throwing in the modernist techniques for their own sake.

-Tamara Bernstein, The National Post, Monday May 10, 1999

Excerpts from reviews of Utterances:

ESO’s Winspear debut a solid, exciting event

…Kelly-Marie Murphy, resident composer for the rESOund Festival, had her work Utterances given its world premiere. A very black and white piece – no grey here – that, when it’s not pinning you to the back of your seat in its propellant percussive drive, draws you passionately into its tender middle section. Then blasts you back again, though it finishes with quite a whispered “utterance”.

-D.T. Baker, The Edmonton Journal, Thursday February 11, 1999

Edmonton Symphony rESOunding good

…Kelly-Marie Murphy is the festival’s composer in residence, and we heard the world premiere of her Utterances. This was a highly charged piece that used [percussion] players to rather bombastic effect. It was highly listenable and well constructed… The audience loved it…

-John Charles, The Edmonton Sun, Saturday February 6, 1999

Excerpts from reviews of This Is the Colour of My Dreams:

Passionate evening with ESO

…Rolston followed up the Elgar with a bit of fresh magic – Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy’s This Is the Colour of My Dreams. This fascinating work courses through a pretty wide gamut of emotion and virtuosity in its dozen or so very effective, edge-of-your-seat minutes.

-D.T. Baker, The Edmonton Journal, Saturday February 6, 1999

A standing ‘O’ for Shauna on the cello

…Murphy (who’ll be in residence next week for the rESOund Festival) has written a 12-minute piece for amplified cello that moves unerringly from beginning to end. Full of eerie, rustling sounds, it soon turned into a mighty gallop, with xylophone dancing above big chunky brass chords. A middle section had a lovely clarinet solo, then plunged to a finale with blazing brass. That’s when the ovation from the audience of 1,500 occurred.

-John Charles, The Edmonton Sun, Saturday February 6, 1999

Soloist Rolston, KWS offer electrifying evening

…Rolston followed the Saint-Saens with a dazzling little piece by Kelly-Marie Murphy. Called This Is the Colour of My Dreams, this gem had beautiful tone colours, gorgeous orchestration, and, unlike much modern music, it was extremely listenable.

-Harry Currie, The Kitchener Record, Saturday November 28, 1998

Symphony’s Saraste opens musical ears

…In This Is the Colour of My Dreams, Kelly-Marie Murphy produced a brand new 10-minute mini cello concerto of striking effectiveness for the prodigiously talented Shauna Rolston, virtuosic in its demands on both the soloist and the orchestra. Indeed, it resembled at times a grafting together of two pieces, one showcasing the solo instrument, the other the orchestra, both of which were treated with remarkable understanding by a composer with relatively little orchestral experience.

-William Littler, The Toronto Star, Thursday November 6, 1997

Shaky start, stirring conclusion

…Composer Kelly-Marie Murphy jokingly described This Is the Colour of My Dreams as “aerobics for cello and orchestra” and the surging momentum of the piece certainly gave cellist Shauna Rolston a workout. Rolston was equally adept during the introspective interludes, spinning out stark, beautiful lines with dramatic flair. A duet with concertmaster Gwen Hoebig was an occasion for lovely interplay between the cello and violin. The drama of the work – Murphy’s second orchestral effort – was heightened by the lighting on Rolston during her solos. Audience members sprang from their seats in a prolonged ovation as soon as Rolston and the string sections signaled the end of the piece with a flourish of bows.

-Jill Wilson, The Winnipeg Sun, Saturday January 31, 1998

Concert delivers explosive impact

…Kelly-Marie Murphy’s This Is the Colour of My Dreams was commissioned by the CBC for cellist Shauna Rolston, who performed it here Thursday night. Inspired by a surrealist painting by Joan Miro, the work explores the evocation, development and understanding of one’s dreams. Murphy explained how she is partial to Celtic fiddling and incorporated some into this highly technical piece. Rolston’s playing was extremely expressive with nothing held back. From the plaintive bending of notes to the agitated “aerobics for cello and orchestra,” the audience was caught up in this visceral, revealing dream.

-Gwenda Ramsay, The Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday January 31, 1998

Excerpts from reviews of Give Me Phoenix Wings to Fly:

Young piano trio deserves praise

…One of our brightest talents, Murphy evokes in three contrasting movements the Phoenix’s immolation, it’s barren aftermath, and the energy of reincarnation. Without being slavishly descriptive, the writing manages to be both legible and evocative and the Gryphon treated it with the same seriousness accorded Haydn and Brahms.

-William Littler, The Toronto Star, Wednesday, October 28, 1998

No tricks, just treats in Gryphon Trio concert

…Murphy’s craggy tour de force (literally as well as figuratively) was an almost uninterrupted study in tension. The first movement was full of whirling, disjointed rhythms, pushing the envelope of tonality, but never crossing into pure serialism. The second, with its lack of time signature, was mysterious and foreboding, with eerie slides and glacial harmonics from violin and cello that owed an obvious debt to Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste. In the finale, one wondered whether the phoenix had gone from the fire to the frying pan: It was a pulse-pounding barrage on the senses that left the audience physically drained.

-Warren Wilson, The Globe and Mail, Thursday October 29, 1998

Much to admire during Gryphon Trio performance

…Murphy’s “Give Me Phoenix Wings to Fly” is a dramatic and evocative piece in three contrasting movements. The first, an aggressive, heavily accentuated model of post-Stravinsky primitivism, suggests the whirling fury of fire, while a provides and extremely effective evocation of the devastation left in the wake of fire with haunting themes in the extreme upper register of each instrument. The finale, a depiction of rebirth after the devastation, had its exciting moments as well, although after the breathtaking slow movement, it did seem rather an abrupt and anticlimactic ending to the work. The trio demonstrated a remarkable flair and sensitivity for contemporary repertoire in this piece, resulting in a truly memorable performance.

-Glenn Colton, The Evening Telegram, Saturday November 15, 1997

Gryphon Trio’s music is magic

…A composition especially commissioned for this Atlantic Debut tour by the Gryphon Trio was Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Give Me Phoenix Wings to Fly…. The first movement consisted of vibrant sixteenth-notes interspersed with crashing chords. It was extremely rhythmical and vivid and was written as a true trio not favoring one instrument over the others. The middle movement was very atmospheric. The cello emerged from stillness, representing the flaming of an ember. The final movement was more complex. Patipatanakoon and Borys played an extended pizzicato section with elan, and the work drew to a close in a densely-textured section.

-Vivienne Anderson, The Daily Gleaner, December 1, 1997

Excerpts from reviews of Dance Me Through the Panic:

Murphy work shines with cold, starry beauty

…The highlight of the evening was Murphy’s Dance Me Through the Panic – a succinct, colourful, five-movement work written in 1996 that takes its title from Leonard Cohen’s poem Dance Me to the End of Love. The evocative central movement (called Interlude) gestured respectfully toward Bartok and folk music. But Murphy’s voice spoke with arresting clarity in the music’s cold, starry beauty – a moment of being flanked by perpetual-motion movements of “becoming”.

-Tamara Bernstein, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, February 28, 1998

Canadian composers emerge as significant voices

…Emotionally Desjardins’ piece was cool, cooler at least than Murphy’s quintet, Dance Me Through the Panic, whose five movements took the listener through a story of alternating melancholy and anxiety. Though the viola was often featured as a solo voice in Murphy’s quintet, it was not continuously in dialogue with the quartet. In general, melancholy found its expression here in melody and panic in rhythmic drive. The frenetic pace of the second and fourth movements stimulated, but the flow of melancholy ultimately attracted the listener more; the duet between viola and cello in the heart of the third movement was particularly lovely.

-John Lehr, The Toronto Star, Sunday March 1, 1998

Excerpts from reviews of From the Drum Comes a Thundering Beat…:

Symphony finds something new in Beethoven

…Take for instance Murphy’s From the Drum…, a 1996 CBC commission for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and an enormously savvy work. At 13 minutes long, it’s just the right length for a mainstream, Beethoven-friendly audience to accept. And what’s really radical about it isn’t the modern-sounding bits ÐÐ the clashes coming from edgy orchestral chords rushing headlong into a timpani and drum fusillade — but the five soloist sections where you could hear the subtlety of thought behind the piece.

-Peter Goddard, The Toronto Star, Friday June 5, 1998

TSO’s Beethoven concert far too short on passion

…The concert opened with Kelly-Marie Murphy’s From the Drum Comes a Thundering Beat…. This was the first piece the 34-year old Canadian composer wrote for orchestra, and it shows the exuberance of an imaginative mind turned loose in the musical equivalent of a candy shop. Inspired by a native American legend, it makes prominent use of percussion and flute, which serve as shamanic agents of creative renewal. Julie Ranti made the silver Western flute sound like an exotic wooden instrument. The percussion section’s pounding on a variety of drums provided the other musical pole of this invigorating, colourful piece.

-Tamara Bernstein, The Globe and Mail, Friday June 5, 1998

Kelly-Marie Murphy, composer