Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble director Kevin Noe has always had a flair for the romantic, the dramatic and the sublime, plunging into his music with a compelling youthful enthusiasm and joie de vivre. The second of his summertime series at the Hazlett Theater on the North Side Saturday night added a sense of the absurd, turning the Hazlett into a place where a performer can wear black tails and lime green socks, where lighting played (for the most part) a deft hand, where contemporary music, with its trademark bloops and bleeps, clinks and squiggles, was made enormously palatable.
Noe's musical selections made for a casually chic program designed for a savvy and inherently inquisitive audience, glued together with connections carried over from last week's program in a couple of minute musical segments...But all of this was a prelude before the sturm and drang of Maurice Wright's fantastical journey in "The Lyric's Tale." By turns German chorale and Renaissance song, Broadway and country in a contemporary setting, Wright walked his musical tightrope with uncommon grace and skill.
The play on life and death followed baritone Timothy Jones through a surreal Wonderland of Wright's own making, touching on Galileo, Freud, Thomas Hardy, Mother Teresa and Yogi Berra. There was a section for every letter of the alphabet, 26 in all, simplified, enhanced and often complicated by the Optrans-like projections.
It all could have been overwhelming, but was remarkably forthright and witty, a rarity in "serious" music....the audience found the expected was unexpectedly and delectably altered. Just like life, nothing could be taken for granted. So, with thinking caps tightly affixed, we went along for not just a musical ride, but an odyssey. (Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 15, 2002)
Why do we have to wait until the Philadelphia Orchestra starts performing to begin our classical music season? Together with Karil Middleman's innovative Philadelphia Classical Symphony, the Pennsylvania Academy Of Fine Arts answered that question resoundingly on September 15.
Planning ahead for its current Maxfiedl Parrish show, PAFA recruited Middleman to oversee a contest for new works based on five Parrish favorites. Middleman told the large audience on hand for the results that 1,000 slides of his paintings were sent on request, and 59 entries were received.
Why were even that many composers willing to seek inspiration from a whimsical illustrator? Because of Parrish's lyric style, said MIddleman. What we heard bore himwhile boring hardly anyone....
Every one of these [winning compositions] carried the evening's high standards, held aloft at the center by Temple University Professor Maurice Wright's "Landscape (Music After Arizona)." This was a solidly organized depiction of desert images, unafraid to lapse from contemporary syntax into an antique minuet or a rhapsodic song for its totally absorbing contrasts.
It was played by seven excellent soloists, conducted by the composer....Why not open our season right after Labor Day if the serious fare is going to be this stimulating? (Monroe Levin, The Jewish Exponent, September 1999)
The computer stands in the wings, ready to transform music, its performers and all its forms. Not so far in the wings, either, as the Network fo New Music's weekend concert suggeseted.
It brought together in the Arts Bank the work of some of the founding fathers of music in electronic signals Milton Babbitt and Paul Lanksy with some of the next wave of explorers Peter Rose and Maurice Wright to sketch possibilities in the interaction between human performers and computer output....
Maurice Wright brought players, computer and computer-generated visual images together in his homage to saxophone virtuoso Marshall Taylor, Taylor Series. Taylor and [pianist Charles] Abramovic traveled the intriguing pathways of the first phase, then were joined by images seemingly from interstellar space. The RCA dog appeared and played the saxophone in scenes that unreeled visual puns and slapstick.
The musicians even left the stage while sound and image carried on, then returned to claim their parts in Wright's visionary work, which carries a good deal of lyricism. (Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer, February, 1998)
The 20th Century Consort marked it 20th season Saturday afternoon at the Hirshhorn Museum with a program titled "Especially Espanol." Given the line-up it came as no surprise that music was not so music "Spanish-sounding" as thematically connected by the poetry source and historical points of reference behind the scores....
Wrights' Chamber Symphony for Nine Instruments, written expressly for the 20th Century Consort, based its three movement on specific periods in Central American history. The instrumentation, divided evenly among string, wind and percussion sections, provides refreshing colors. Simple devicesplucked viola and cello, Adkin's switching from violin to mandolinyielded impressive results.
The Washington Post 11/97
On this concert, the new work [Concertpiece for Marimba and Orchestra] by Mr. Wright proves for us that the marimba can be an irresistible instrument. The composer wrote [the concerto] for marimbist Will Hudgins of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a virtuoso of the highest order. Sandwiched around a brief but nocturnal 'entr'acte' are two movements . . . with contrasts between solo instrument and orchestra that are intriguing. . . . Wright knows his orchestra, and he is deft at blending sonorities. In the first movement he uses winds at one point to parallel the solo line in alternating harmonic intervals to create a fascinating effect. Later the soloists performs some octave leaps that are hair-raising. And near the end there is a delicate tete-a-tete between marimba and harp, all of these events happening within an economy of means. The composer is a master who knows when and how to enhance the solo spotlight.
The Music Connoisseur 3/96
Presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society . . . his Trio for piano, violin and cello is in four short movements and is concentrated. Wright, who sometimes describes his music in programmatic terms, calls this work in program notes "blissfully abstract."
Wright is well-versed in a number of compositional styles and media. He has worked extensively with electronic and computer music, as well as with more traditional means. Whatever the vehicle, Wright delivers his thoughts convincingly.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 4/95
In Movement In Time, two percussionists often do the work of four or five. . . . Percussionists Don Liuzzi and Anthony Orlando offered the first performance of a revision of Wright's one-movement work Sunday in a Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Music Series concert at the Academy of Music Ballroom. They didn't just play their instruments; they scurried from one of numerous and sundry instruments to another. The droning of eerie, computer-generated sounds accompanied the frenetic activity.
The musicians struck gongs, pummeled timpani, and played more than a few licks on xylophones and vibraphones. They glided the bows of bass fiddles against a vibraphone. And near the piece's end, they played the same snare drum and even clacked their drumsticks together.
The vast majority of Sunday's listeners reacted with justifiable enthusiasm . . .
The Philadelphia Inquirer 2/95
Parnassus's program on Thursday night dealt mostly with new music's established aristocracy, but some of its more interesting moments came from the younger and less known. . . . Maurice Wright's "October" for winds, strings and percussion was . . . an unfolding melodrama of ardent phraseology and exotic timbral effects. This is music skillfully done . . .
The New York Times 10/94
Jazz elements in non-jazz idioms keep a listener engaged . . . I conclude this after attending a concert of contemporary classical compositions Friday. . . Parnassus, a virtuoso New York ensemble presented . . . October by Maurice Wright [, a work which] included at least a modicum of jazz elements (e.g. syncopated rhythms, sultry harmonies, improvised-sounding melodies), and sustained my interest.
Wright likens Octobera 10-minute composition for trumpet, violin, viola, cello, bass, percussion and pianoto "a chamber music drama about an expanding universe," with everything from a "big bang" to "a final collapse."
The Philadelphia Inquirer 10/94
It's nice to know that contemporary composers can be regular folks. Maurice Wright's Suite for Piano twists and turns and gurgles through an impressionistic journey, and as it turns out, the composer actually intended the work as a set of musical postcards describing a recent trip through the Rocky Mountains. Listen carefully to [Marc-Andre] Hamelin's sparkling performance and you will hear thunderstorms, rushing rivers, the gnashing of truck gears, and even the chugging of beers. The other solo piece [Sonata No. 2 ] on this recital [CRI CD 660] is less whimsical, but shares the lucid and elegant style.
Compared to the almost neo-classical restraint of the solo piano music, the Chamber Symphony is joltingly vigorous. The music just zips along, propelled by a series of upward sprinting motifs. The computer-generated "symphony" seems capable of an infinite variety of sounds, but Wright has shaped his tremendous resources with good taste, and in such a way that the timbral balance makes sense . . . In that respect, this work is a model of restraint . . .
The song cycle Night Watch is enlivened by the subtle theatrical sense and wry humor that characterizes much of Wright's music. The pianist's wife, Jody Applebaum, delivers a bright, agile performance.
Fanfare Magazine 8/94
For the persistent listener [Maurice Wright's music offers] many rewards. They reveal themselves exponentially with repeated listenings. . . . He has assembled a disc [CRI CD660] that . . . shows the composer as an adroit artist-craftsman in genres.
It's fascinating to hear a recent release with a work in the style of his Chamber Symphony for piano and electronic sound. The title . . . indicates the huge variety of sounds the listener is in for. . . . A deft amalgamation of sounds, when organized in a dramatic and intelligent way, is always welcome. . . .
The first movement of Wright's Sonata No. 2 for piano (1992) strikes an interesting balance between traditional harmony and a less tonal approach. While not obviously in any key, it clearly centers on one pitch, which begins and ends the piece. Getting away from and moving back toward that pitch is where the movement's energy comes from.
The Suite for Piano (1983) began as a set of musical depictions made during a trip to Colorado. It begins with a flowing, elegiac preamble and ends with a recollection," with four scenes in between meant to depict specific aspects of the trip. "Mountain Road," inspired by the composer's fear of high places, vividly conveys a sense of unease. "The Tempest" is intended to suggest thunderstorms. The first few notes of "The Valley Spirit," meant to evoke the great Western outdoors, are slightly Coplandesque.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 3/94
Maurice Wright is a clever man: excellent composer, inventive thinker. Which is as it should be for anyone concocting anything about Benjamin Franklin. Last night the Electrical Matter Festival presented Wright's Dr. Franklin, an electronic opera whose whimsy and coherence make one regret that it has just one remaining performance.
Taking as its point of departure the Robert Venturi-designed Franklin ghost house, the staging is a pleasure, as efficient throughout its two acts as it is surprisingincluding the 18th-century fireplace that ignites when not summoning images from the inventor's imagination.
The plot is clever, too. Wright strings together Franklin's writings to take the inventor form his deathbed to a revivification today in Pennsylvania Hospital. The epigrams, etc. allow for considerable humor, but the action's not entirely zanydisallowing the fine moment when, to a tune from Bizet's Pearl Fishers, Franklin preserves himself in Madeira, cryogenics not yet being invented.
Nor for that matter will one soon forget the quartet of lawyers badgering the newly resuscitated with copyright claims and endorsements. As anyone who knows Poor Richard's Almanac, the fellow was funny. But the opera's most potent themes are Franklin's efforts "to govern the passions" and his perplexing relationship with his wife.
Still, for any opera, it is the music that matters; and the marriage of voices to computer-synthesized accompaniment is the strongest, most inventive part of this production. Alone, conjuring eerie images prompted by a tolling bell or the bleeps and whistles of a cardiac monitor, the synthesized sounds are cogent and compelling. But in combination with the able cast of singing actors (most of whom sing double roles)they are often haunting. Memorable are a sensuous duo for carousing servants that rises above guitar-like harmonies; a poignant solo for the nurse that stretches across an adagio from Wright's previously composed Piano Sonata.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 10/90
I prefer Wright's language for its characteristic concision and convincing energy. [His] scores always seem to have a life of their own, as Night Scenes (1989) here demonstrates, and the composer writes empathetically for his instruments, especially woodwinds and strings. The contrasts between the leanly frenetic opening of this work and its eye-of-the-storm center are beautifully effected.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 8/90
It's hard these days to write a lucid, listenable orchestra piece that neither looks backward nor sells out but . . . Maurice Wright [has] done it. Wright's Night Scenes is . . . polished. A savage opening leads to sad woodwind lines mingling in early-Sessions dissonance and Wright's always elegant textures.
The Village Voice 7/90
Last night's concert by 1807 & Friends had a reward at the end for the patient listener . . . a brilliant piece by Maurice Wright. . . .
Wright's Chamber Symphony for Eight Instruments (1985) also received, far and away, the most convincing and enthusiastic performance of the evening. In fact, his composition brought forth from 1807 & Friends some of its best playing this season.
Wright showed an appreciation for a musical language that uses dissonances selectively. To be sure, there are aspects of [his] Chamber Symphony that look back to earlier generations. It has the warmth of Copland, the humor of Poulenc and the vigor of Honegger. Harmonically speaking, the piece never ventures further than early Stravinsky. But there is something entirely original in the way that this traditional harmonic language is used.
While the title may seem like an oxymoron (a symphony for eight instruments?), the treatment of the orchestration helps to justify the name. There is a wide range of orchestral textures, colorful instrumental combinations and an imaginative variety of solo and tutti passages. The shape of the whole piece is symphonic, too: four movements, each with a distinct personality.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 3/90
Although electronic sounds have been an important part of music-making for decades, it is still refreshing to hear a composer use the full palette for clearly expressive purposes, rather than for novelty or to make a theoretical point.
That's why Maurice Wright's Chamber Symphony was such a delightful element of Monday night's Merkin Hall performance by the Chamber Players of the League of Composers / International Society for Contemporary Music (League / ISCM). The Chamber Symphony, for piano (Eliza Garth) and electronic sound, was engrossing for the way Wright blended and contrasted the electronic and acoustic sources and for the music he made with them.
Wright's work, written in 1977, is three movements played without pause. The prerecorded electronic sounds came from speakers on both sides of the stage and in the rear of the house. It opened with a confetti of electronic dots and sparkles sprinkling down around the more substantial, lyrical sound of the piano. Although only the half the performance was live, it sounded like true ensemble playing.
The electronics varied from that light opening to thicker, darker sound, to horn-like chorales and spare sobriety during the slow middle section, and then a sprightly, cheerful carnival effect descended from the carousel pipe organ. Through all this, the piano provided a warm cushion, the familiar sound of wood, felt and cable resonating within the wood and steel frame.
It was indeed an old-fashioned chamber symphony in overall structure, even to the internal details of imitation, broken chords, phrasing and so forth. But the sounds themselves could only have been created by modern instruments.
New York Newsday 2/90
Adjectives prove elusive in describing the scope and achievement of this powerful disc [New World 378-1], which, for repertoire [Ives: Concord Sonata; Wright: Sonata] and execution, is a milestone in contemporary piano recording. Marc-Andre Hamelin's rising international fame should be familiar to music lovers in Philadelphia, as should the music of Maurice Wright, whose 1982 sonata sprints about with conviction and a high degree of pianistic suitability.
The 15-minute work, divided into nearly equal and contrasting sections, abounds in personalilty, while its internal structure, never pedantically apparent, contains many delights, including the ease of its contrapuntal writing, and its consistent, cohesive voice. Hamelin's performance of the Wright piece should be a major boost to its future. No less than those felicitous sonatas of New Rorem, Vincent Persichetti and Samuel Barber, it warrants a place in the recital hall.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 4/89
Zeus wears a paisley dressing gown and watches the war on television in Maurice Wright's new opera, The Trojan Conflict. More often he plays his cello in a quartet of gods and goddesses that includes Hermes, the winged messenger, on French Horn. Wright has slivered the main events of Homer's tale into cogent scenes and interludes, which begin with Zeus' decision to have Paris decide which goddess gets the golden applethe beauty contest that started the Trojan War. About an hour and a half and many laughs later, the Trojan Horse arrives via a filmed projection, and the two-act opera is over.
Wright wrote the words and music for The Trojan Conflict in two months. The result, however, is not in the least slapdash, but ingenious and cohesive. The music is the best part, beginning with the instrumentation, which balances a quartet of synthesizers with cello, horn, oboe and viola.
Zeus' acoustic group sits center stage in front of the television, since we're meant to view the proceedings as from a Mount Olympus living room. To the quartet's right is the synthesizer band; to its left are Hera, Aphrodite, Achilles and a chorus of Greeks and Trojans who enact the 10-year war. As they do so, a video camera records the goings-on, which also can be viewed from Zeus' screen.
Composed in a searching but not overly dissonant modern idiom are Paris' whining aria, "Why me?," and the solos of Hera, Aphrodite and Athene as they bribe the silly Paris. Later the music convincingly flows into different styles, from choral exchanges that sound like Renaissance madrigals to Paris' and Helen's syrupy love duet mimicking turn-of-the-century operetta.
The synthesizers, used sensitively and avoiding excess clatter, give a modern chill to the war scenes and a colorful nostalgia (bells, organ and harpsichord sonorities) to the festive ones. Some of the most effective writing occurs for the full ensemble, which in climactic moments has depth and warmth because of the acoustic instruments. Of several fine choruses, the most striking was the male ensemble preparing for battle; the music has a darkness and pulse reminiscent of late Stravinsky.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 4/89
[Movement In Time] is an involved work by Maurice Wright, who wrote it on commission from the two percussionists [Don Liuzzi and Brian Prechtl] in honor of Charles Owen, who died in early 1985. Mr. Owen, after 18 years as principal with the Philadelphia Orchestra, came to the University of Michigan, where both soloists studied with him.
The vigor of the work and its rhythmic thrust are to suggest the very active life and career of Mr. Owen. It succeeded superbly, as performed splendidly and with infectious joy. It was quite an opener for Music Today!, the Toledo Symphony's latest adventure in bring music to the community.
The Toledo Blade 5/87
Except for Benjamin Britten, who had his own tenor, Peter Pears, in residence, modern composers have written relatively little for the tenor voice. The reason is a simple matter of supply and demand: A good tenor has the rarest of voices, and those that are available can get paid a lot money for singing "Di quella pira" or "Recondita armonia." So why should they bother with that atonal stuff? Many of the seem unaware that any music has been written since 1929.
So it was almost as surprising as it was gratifying to hear a first-class tenor, David Gordon, performing with the 20th Century Consort Saturday afternoon at the Hirshhorn Museum. . . . Cantata by Maurice Wright . . . exemplified what is best in . . . contemporary vocal music.
The Washington Post 1/87
Grand Duo for Viola and Percussion (1985) by Maurice Wright opened the program. One the city's more prolific composers, Wright also produces some of the most consistently pleasurable pieces to be heard on local stages. There's a witty, jazzy tone to many of his workseven those, like Grand Duo, that seem to explore more serious subjects.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 11/86
Maurice Wright's Movement in Time (1985) celebrated the attributes of its instrumentsan impressive assemblage of four gongs, four timpani, vibraphone, xylophone, snare drum, bells (and two loudspeakers.)
Dedicated to Charles Owen, who was for many years a percussionist in the Philadelphia Orchestra, this fine work was a witty and sometimes vindictive vision of music from the underappreciated percussionist's perspective.
The two players, Don Liuzzi and Brian Prechtl, dashed around the stage from one instrument to another, banging and drumming away and making a grand old racket. The piece was virtuosic, rhythmically appealingjazzy, brisk, suaveall in all, fun to hear and apparently good fun to play, as well.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/85
The Emerson Quartet has cultivated a rich, warm wound in its playing that lends itself well to a blending ensemble and to beautiful solo passages without sacrificing internal clarity. . . . Maurice Wright's new Quartet (1983) proved a pleasant surprise to the audience, as most seemed to like it upon first hearing.
A great part of the success in any new work depends upon the understanding and enthusiasm of the players as well as their ability to convey the same to the audience. For the new quartet, all of these factors were working, but even more importantly Wright knows how to write in a contemporary idiom comprehensible to his audience, an ability which Haydn and Mozart would certainly have approved.
Charlottesville Observer 3/84
An unashamedly modern work ripped through the serene classical atmosphere established by the Mozart quartet that preceded it in last night's concert by the Emerson String Quartet at Sherwood auditorium.
The Mozart work, Quartet in C major, K.465, is nicknamed the "Dissonant" quartet, but it was Maurice Wright's contemporary work, titled simply Quartet (1983), which rightly deserved this label.
Bitonality, unresolved dissonances, and warring articulation battled for the forefront, as the piece brandished all the conflict-ridden musical techniques for which the era's style is known.
The second movement of the Wright work, "Pastorale," was a good example of the inherent contradictions in the piece. For from setting a peaceful "day in the country" mood, a viola solo set against a wavering arpeggiation in the other three instruments designed a vacillating image as elusive as a mirage. This was a rootless music, supplying an uneasy resting place.
The frenzied "Finale" brought to mind the flipping tails and flashing water created by a feasting school of piranha. A strident tone and a flurry of well-integrated flourishes gave this work an aptly restless finish. Standard repertoire.
The Emerson Quartet turned in a sterling display of balanced, musical playing Friday in Herbst Theater... in an uncommonly interesting program. Mozart's Quartet No. 23 began the program, followed by the first local performance of Maurice Wright's Quartet, a work commissioned for this ensemble.
Wright, from Virginia, is on the faculty of Temple University. His rare qualities of sound craftsmanship, plus an inventive mind free of ivory-tower notions, made the Quartet (1983) a fine experience in effective, virtuoso style.
In form, Wright's Quartet leans on Baroque models. It opens with a "Sinfonia"really an introduction and toccata. Then follows a "Pastorale," "Gigue" and busy-busy finale. But here's the thing: the music is not remotely Baroque kitsch.
Melodically and harmonically, the music owes nothing to any time other than our own. It uses free dissonance, tied to a tonal base, a bit French in manner. Wright's second movement was especially effective.
San Francisco Chronicle 2/84
Many attending the Emerson String Quartet's concert Sunday afternoon in the Wadsworth Theater probably came to hear how the quartet played rather than what it played. And in thatfrom the veiled opening of Mozart's "Dissonant" Quartet to the whirlwind close of Schubert's "Death and the Maiden"they were not let down.
But priorities must be set straight.
As superbly as the foursome played, of more lasting importanceone hopeswas the local premiere of Maurice Wright's Quartet (1983), a work that proceeds purposefully, colorfully, tunefully, painting novel soundscapes and using syntax an audience won't have to wait half a century to unravel. In short, a stimulating, satisfying work that should fit snugly into the literature. It courts its listeners without compromise; it imparts a desire for, but doesn't require further hearings in order to be enjoyed.
Los Angeles Times 2/84
The music, Maurice Wright's "Solos," has a movement titled "Ghost Songs," and the scene at its performance Saturday night at the Hirshhorn Museum was in fact ghostly. Flutist Sara Stern stood alone on a packed stage. Behind her was a harp, tuned and ready, with no harpist in sight. Flanking her on all sides were empty chairs with empty music stands.
Stern had three flutes of varying sizes, one for each of the work's three movements, but the sounds filling the auditorium were not merely hers. There was an invisible organdeep, rich and haunting in tone; a room full of metallic percussion, pinging and clattering from all sides; there was something that made a noise like wind blowing through a hole in a window, and something else that sounded like the world's biggest slidewhistle. There squeaks, grunts and groans that could not be identified with any instrument.
All these sounds, interlocking ingeniously with her delicate threads of solo melody, were produced from a standard magnetic tape, encoded partly from a synthesizer and partly from natural sounds. As striking as the sound was the lyricism in Wright's musicperhaps a part of the avant-garde's current effort to reach out and touch audiences. At any rate, it was strangely beautiful, with the accent on the second word.
The Washington Post 11/82
The Smithsonians's 20th Century Consort began its fifth season on Saturday with a diverse program ranging from very early Leonard Bernstein to the premiere of a 1982 work by Maurice Wright. The consort, made up of a dozen eminent local musicians, six of whom are principals of the National Symphony Orchestra, performs in the beautiful and comfortable auditorium of the Hirshhorn Museum.
Wright's Solos for Flute(s) and Electronic Sound is a substantial three-movement creation pitting the soloist against a tape made by a Moog synthesizer. The soloist's material is lyric and beautifully crafted to contrast with a recording that is sometimes like a continuo, sometimes like a ground bass, and sometimes carrying the principal motif.
The Washington Times 11/82
Several months ago, the Smithsonian released the first installment of a series by the Twentieth Century Consort (N 1022.) In the second volume, these young, versatile players continue their survey of what the annotator calls "a new plurality of styles." The consort gravitates toward composers (mostly well-known) who have settled on specific streams of language that are familiar, but not quite "mainstream," and who seek to establish a working contemporary vocabulary by drawing on those styles. Often, these composers combine several elements of twentieth-century style and extend the language, adding personal touches.
Maurice Wright contributes a cantata for tenor, percussion, and electronic sound. His vocal lines, though rhythmically sharp and melodically angular, express the seventeenth-century texts with concision. Yet the work's greatest appeal (and the element that made Wright's Chamber Symphony for piano and tape one of the more memorable works in Volume 1) is the tight interaction between the tape and live participants. At the start, he provides in the tape part a hazy hint of an offstage chorus. Later, with the help of a voice-synthesizing computer program (developed by Charles Dodge), that hint is realized, and the electronic voices supply both an interesting contrapuntal segment and a choral part that runs in tandem with the tenor.
High Fidelity Magazine 11/82
Wright's "Riverside" had its first hearing. For string trio, prepared piano and two winds and tape, the work developed rich sonorities beyond the seeming potential of the forces involved. Its series of brief scenes were touched with humor and showed all the orchestral gestures compressed into flashes of sound separated by pauses. The taped middle section and the final blending of tape and instruments grew into a natural, almost ecstatic close.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 1/82
Dedicated to preserving elements of the culture, the Smithsonian Institution regularly produces recordings of contemporary music . . . Maurice Wright's Chamber Symphony . . . is an immediately attractive work. [It is] played here by Lambert Orkis, and shows the possibilities tape can provide to expand the sonorous worlds of the instrument.
The Philadelphia Inquirer 7/81
Charm me asleep, and melt me so
With thy delicious numbers,
That being ravished, hence I go
Away in easy slumbers . . .
These words by Robert Herrick (an early 16th century poet) probably would be sung to the sound of instruments such as lutes . . . but the song seemed right at home Wednesday evening, set to the accompaniment of electronic sounds and percussion. Tenor David Gordon [performed] the "Cantata" by Maurice Wright [and] the result was pleasing and captivating.
The [Charleston, SC] News and Courier 5/80
Maurice Wright's Chamber Symphony for Woodwind Quintet (1977) is first-rate in every regard. The musical ideas are original, the compositional technique is sure, and the writing for each instrument as well as for the ensemble as a whole is beautifully handled. As the title suggests, this is a large-scale work, not necessarily long in playing time, but big in conception. There are four movements: the first and fourth are brisk, assertive, and strongly rhythmic; the inner movements are both nocturnesthe first of these emphasizing subtle timbral contrasts, and the second made of quietly flowing melodies whose flexible rhythmic pulsations are somewhat reminiscent of the music of Elliot Carter. The harmonic language is basically tonal, albeit very freely so, and it is used masterfully and with enormous range. The work begins with a sequence of bitingly dissonant chords, and it ends on an octave-unison concert C. Along the way between these opposites, one can find all sorts of gradations, including one juicy passage of parallel seventh chords and a section of heterophony, wherein unisons and seconds seem to chase one another. But this is no eclectic grab bag. Everything is handled logically and is carefully controlled. This is not an easy work to perform, but a reasonably competent woodwind quintet should take pleasure in meeting such technical challenges as may occur. This should be a most gratifying work for performers and audiences alike. Mobart Music Publications has produced a clear reproduction of the beautiful manuscript score.
MLA Notes 1/80
If last night's program is an indicator, we are in for some glorious music from contemporary composers. . . . Maurice Wright's "Cantata" . . . was a work of wit and imagination. [His] scoring was careful and delicate and [his] writing reflected exceptional integration of electronic and natural sounds.
The Washington Post 10/79
Mr. Wright's four Madrigals were very stylish, modeled after centuries-old examples, yet fresh and sensitive in the treatment of the texts.
The New York Times 4/79
Maurice Wright's Stellae delivered a lot of fanciful washes, stabs, and arches of nocturnelike rhapsody.
The Village Voice 8/78
Maurice Wright . . . tells his story with a sure hand. . . . in a style that capitalizes on the comic side . . . without becoming heavy-handed about it.
The New York Times 5/77
Maurice Wright's Chamber Symphony was given its first performance in this recital. The piece was written for Robert Miller and was just completed a few weeks ago. . . . It was a very exciting work, and certainly the program's high point.
The [University of California at Davis] Aggie 5/77