Composer Steven Stucky



Rosen's Turn: The Classical Style
Opera News, June, 2014

Ojai Music Festival: The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts)
BBC Music Magazine, June, 2014

REVIEW: 'Classical Style': Hitting funny bone of opera history
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, June 22, 2014

REVIEW: 'Classical Style' at Ojai Music Festival draws on wit, wisdom
Mark Swed, LA Times, June 16, 2014

Classical Voice of North America
Orange County Register
San Jose Mercury News
Santa Barbara Independent
Sequenza 21
Wall Street Journal
I Care if You Listen
Culture Clash
Berkeley Daily Planet
San Francisco Classical Voice

“In composer Steven Stucky’s ‘The Stars and the Roses,’ chords and colors seem to float upward, like haloes, hovering and circling. Or the music takes on a sense of expectancy, moving in a rush of dappled flight. The effects are sensuous, luminous, taking pleasure in the world. ... His song cycle—based on the lyric and touchingly optimistic wartime poems of Czeslaw Milosz—seems to paint with light. It makes beautiful sounds ... Stucky’s orchestrations were expert, but somehow simple ...”
     – Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News, March 29, 2013
[read full review]

The Stars and the Roses: “With its poignant, resourceful orchestral writing and clarion text-setting, the piece illuminates Milosz’s poetry (in English translation) in a subtle but evocative way.”
     – Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, March 29, 2013
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Steven Stucky’s ‘Symphony’ premiere: “Stucky tends to be a sanguine composer; no matter how serious the score, some sunshine can usually be counted on. Part of that may be less an easygoing quality than his ability to create the sensation of illumination, to suggest light through exquisitely applied color.
     “What makes this a symphony, Stucky said, are the musical materials, which are weighty and suited for development. But he is not one to give himself away in his music. His symphony leaves the listener with the sense that there are layers, maybe undetected but providing a sense of substance and uncertainty underlying the confident surface.
     “The score begins with a plaintive oboe solo, memorably played Friday by Marion Arthur Kuszyk, but the winds absorb it. ‘Outcry’ is powerful, not cataclysmic: What is held back can be more moving than what is revealed. ‘Flight’ is full of fancy, brightly lighted. The final movement is a graceful coming together, less resolution than acceptance.
     “No note felt wasted. To hear Stucky's Symphony once was to want to hear it again. Given that this was a program with only an hour's worth of music, playing it a second time wouldn't have been unwarranted.”
     – Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2012
[read full review]

“The Pulitzer Prize-winning Stucky's new Symphony is as cogent and eloquent as all of his recent music. Stucky seems always to have something concrete to say. He is a musical essayist who connects the dots, laying his thoughts before the listener in clear sentences, paragraphs and periods.
     “The Symphony, 20 minutes long, glows and blazes though its four movements seamlessly, its colors dovetailing (it is splendidly orchestrated), its thoughts sophisticated and coherent. Its brass chorale may be one of the most beautiful things in recent music. A finale that reminiscences on the preceding music ties up the piece into a neat package. The New York Philharmonic takes up the work in November.”
     – Orange County Register, September 30, 2012
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“Steven Stucky’s ‘Silent Spring’ set the tone for the entire concert. A PSO commission by its composer-of-the-year, it is a memorial to Pittsburgh environmentalist Rachel Carson’s seminal ‘Silent Spring,’ published 50 years ago.
     “... Mr. Stucky’s piece began in clear water that gave way to ‘Rivers of Death’ and a downward spiral that cast off musician after musician until silence reigned. In between came a lament by the English horn, strident woodwinds and an anxious, angry orchestra.
     “The entire work seized the thrust of Carson’s mid-century warning about chemical pollutants, but was arresting in a more general way for me. Mr. Stucky’s appropriate pessimism here didn’t discourage as much as it engendered a cathartic response to a subject that often numbs the soul. A brilliant, if unsettling, work.”
     – Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 18, 2012
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“The first section [of ‘Silent Spring’], ‘The Sea Around Us,’ begins quietly in the depths of orchestral sonority. As figurations first heard in low winds and tuba are picked up by higher pitched winds and strings, the bass line moves in a significant musical idea that begins with slowly rising half steps.
     “Musical motifs become more angular in the second section, ‘The Lost Wood,’ which acquires powerful rhythmic thrust as it rises to a peak. ‘Rivers of Death,’ the third section, interrupts with furious energy.
     “The final section begins with high register strings chirping ecstatically over an ominous undertone. The pace slows as winds and horns play expressive lines that are finally sung slowly by a single instrument (the bass clarinet) and fade to silence over a pedal tone punctuated by wide tone clusters.
     Thus Stucky’s ‘Silent Spring" ends with the silence of the birds, which is what led Carson to begin the investigation reported in her book.”
     - Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 18, 2012
[read full review]

“[In Silent Spring] Stucky does not pester his audience with excessive use of dissonance, and he proves above all to be a refined magician of timbre, to the extent that the notes sometimes seemed merely a necessary vehicle for the application of color.”
     - Die Presse (Vienna), October 30, 2012

“... one discovers here a piece of well composed, entertaining music, whose indulgences in the splendors of late romantic color were savored by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with relish.”
     - Wiener Zeitung (Vienna), October 30, 2012

“Evoking Carson’s argument for conservation in a musical score is a tall order. But Mr. Stucky ... typically draws on a vast timbral palette to create vivid textures. And with the title as a prompt, it is easy to hear what he had in mind in this explosive, shape-shifting 17-minute tone poem.
     “In his opening passages Mr. Stucky uses low-lying woodwinds and brasses to suggest a primordial soup from which a riot of activity gradually emerges. If the score, with its buzzing brass figures; slow-moving, melancholy string phrases; pillars of commanding, rich-hued chords; and chaotic, swirling woodwind lines had a visual analogue, it might be a Jackson Pollock painting.
     “But just as you begin to think that this spring is anything but silent, Mr. Stucky strips away the brightest layers, and then the softer ones, leaving nothing but a repeating pianissimo bass tone.”
     - Allan Kozinn, New York Times, February 27, 2012
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“Steven Stucky’s re-orchestration of Stravinsky’s Les Noces: One of Stravinsky’s aims was to ‘de-personalise’ the music by his choice of instruments, but here, with the full range of orchestral sound at his disposal, Stucky was able to deploy a riot of colour that evoked the chaos and emotion of the village wedding preparations. In that sense it was not only a re-orchestration but also a re-personalisation of Stravinsky’s score and ... the performance was full of energy and vitality.”
     - Paul Hopwood, The Australian, April 23, 2012
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“Steven Stucky’s ‘Son et Lumière’ (1988), though only nine minutes long, draws expansively on an orchestra’s resources, particularly its brasses and percussion (though the strings and woodwinds come into their own late in the piece). Minimalist ostinatos propel the piece, but Mr. Stucky has so much going on, in so many layers and usually at contrasting tempos, that his use of repetition seems a secondary concern.”
     - Allan Kozinn, New York Times, February 24, 2012
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“[In Rhapsodies] ... melody is literally everywhere, but the relentless intensity results in a rather delirious kind of texture music ... Stucky’s command of what we might call ‘aural perspective’ is impressive; despite these occasions when instruments are allowed to project outwards, he bravely restricts their dynamics so that, while unmistakeably in relief, they nonetheless remain very much part of the overall texture, distinct but embedded.”
     - 5:4, July 8, 2011
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“Steven Stucky's Rhapsodies (2008) provided the DSO with the perfect vehicle to show off both musicians and and also proved why a great hall is important. (Luckily, we have one.) The dynamics of this piece range from intimate to bombastic and the juxtaposition of those extremes created some stunning sounds in the Meyerson. At only ten minutes, Stucky's Rhapsodies left me wanting more.”
     - Dallas Observer, June 7, 2012

Rhapsodies ... is a crescendo-decrescendo essay in textures, some of great complexity, rather than thematic contrast or development. Van Zweden and his charges managed every twitter, rustle, swirl, burble and chatter with assurance and élan.”
     - Dallas Morning News, June 7, 2012

“... Steven Stucky achieved, to my ears, an even more impressive level of musical accomplishment with deft handling of ideas and a succinct, economical structure, in his ten-minute Rhapsodies ...”
     - D Magazine, June 8, 2012

“Stucky’s angular, percussive and, at times, strangely lyrical [Piano Quartet] brought, for me, the most arresting and galvanic performance ...
   “Composed in one movement, the piece championed dissonance and flirted with rhythmic patterns, yet proceeded in a linear but never predictable trajectory. Stucky made sure each instrument leaped to the front of the soundstage. A middle passage, all churn and burble, served as an oasis before the music plunged recklessly into jazzy slashes for the strings and a driving, engine wheel of sound from the piano.
   “This was music that perched itself on the edge of a cliff and by turns floated like a feather and crashed to the ground after a dramatic plunge.”
     – John Fidler, Reading Eagle
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“[Radical Light] is a study in wondrous sonorities: thick string clouds, incandescent brass, chattering and glittering winds. Fast music invades slow music but doesn’t overpower it. The end is one big rapt, rich sound, with the strings shimmering, rippling, a grand but still muted sunrise. The piece has the feeling of Sibelius’ sound but provides a sensual pleasure all its own.”
     – Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

“Stucky’s ‘Radical Light’ a feast of mood, color: ... Radical Light unfolds in a single span that encompasses a wealth of moods and orchestral colors. ... What proved most striking here was the composer’s command of harmony, and particularly the way the piece moves deftly in and out of the world of traditional tonality. The densely packed string textures of the opening - more notable for their chilly coloration than any harmonic content - suddenly resolve, in a bit of harmonic legerdemain, to a dark minor chord.”
     – Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, December 5, 2009
[read full review]

"'Radical Light,' the opening work by PSO's composer-of-the-year Steven Stucky, did something equally compelling with orchestra form. Asked to pen a work to fit between two monumental Sibelius symphonies, Nos. 4 and 7, Stucky distilled the essence of the great Finnish composer. Fragments and allusions swam in a shimmering sea of harmonic clusters. More than anything, it was Symphony No. 5 that bobbed up, to the point that it sounded as if we were listening to it submerged, like a sunken cathedral of its own. ... it is clear he is a fascinating voice in American composition."
     – Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 22, 2011

“[Second Concerto for Orchestra is] a colorful, delight-bringing score, it has the feel of music we know well lovingly replanted to charm new surroundings ... a perfect fit for an orchestra, conductor and audience. It is music expertly designed to show off the Philharmonic, Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Disney acoustic at their dazzling best.”
     – Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

“... a distinguished addition to [his list of works created for the Los Angeles Philharmonic]. ... a fascinating amalgam: color, rhythm, propulsion ... bright solo instrumental writing and breath-stopping dark sonorities.”
     – Alan Rich, LA Weekly

Son et lumière has “... a great deal of energy, brilliant orchestration and thematic interest.”
     – Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun

“Stucky writes for the orchestra with great flair and confidence and the piece delivers exactly what the title promises: interesting sounds featuring an enjoyable interplay of light and shade.”
     – David Hurwitz,

Dreamwaltzes is both stylish and substantial, a neatly shaped 15-minute work whose dynamic energy is considerable and whose orchestration is consistently well-crafted.”
     – James Wierzbicki, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“... a clever, affectionate collage that puts some old stylistic skeletons through provocative new paces. Dreamwaltzes left little doubt that past-tense creativity, when applied with craft and imagination, can be amusing as well as engaging.”
     – Martin Bernheimer, Los Angeles Times

“... Stucky, with his feeling for big gestures and love of timbral variety, is at his best – or at least at his most free – when writing for full orchestra ... imaginative, affecting.”
     – Mark Lehman, American Record Guide

“Mr. Stucky set off Purcell’s music [Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary] as if in quotation marks, with a sense of distance built in. Sometimes the melody dwindled to a mere outline, like a bald patch in an old tapestry; at other times it withdrew behind a gentle overlay of modern harmonies, which slightly distorted it, as if viewed through rippled glass.”
     – Anne Midgette, New York Times

“The lush sonorities of Pinturas, inspired by five paintings by 20th century Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo, fell easily on the ear ... Pinturas is that rare achievement, a piece of programmatic music that is neither too abstract nor too literal ... The audience paid Stucky the ultimate compliment.”
     – Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun-Times

“... there’s always the chance of hearing something that will survive the lifetime of its composer ... Boston Fancies by Steven Stucky may be one of those special works ... clear structure of the alternating sections ... a marvelous migration of instrumental highlighting ... what is so impressive about Stucky’s achievement is that the declaration of immediately obvious structure allows him to delight the listener with breathtaking transitional passages between sections.”
     – Jeff Dunn, San Francisco Classical Voice

“[Boston Fancies's] seven connected sections alternate between quick, rhythmic material and reflective musings. Stucky creates suspense by taking seven players through abrupt changes of mood and color. The music percolates, stops to sigh and sometimes gives the musicians the freedom to improvise in aleatoric passages that are notated but not strictly timed.”
     – Donald Rosenberg, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[Nell’ombra, Nella Luce (In Shadow, In Light)] was a piece with far more light than shadow in it and great arcs of tensely radiant harmony, beautifully imagined for the medium.”
     – Paul Griffiths, New York Times

Nell’ombra, Nella Luce is a significant addition to the repertoire. ... As the title’s visual metaphor suggests, it is concerned with the contrast between darkness and light. The composer uses the full palette available, from basics such as high and low notes to less common techniques, including harmonics and sul ponticello ... But unlike most color-study pieces of music, Stucky’s new quartet satisfies the listener with an inner coherence undoubtedly strengthened by his close study of the music of the late Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski.”
     – Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

“The 20-minute, four-movement [Concerto Mediterraneo for Solo Guitar and Orchestra] rarely raises its voice above an inviting, relaxed mezzo forte. Modernist techniques in the score blend with the often lovely guitar lines and soft-edged support from the orchestra ... exquisite phrases ... delicate and fragile touches ... It’s a work well worth hearing again.”
     – Pierre Ruhe, Washington Post

Additional reviews and complete information about Steven Stucky’s compositions are available from Theodore Presser Company.

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