“songs that elegantly combine personal fervor and worldly sophistication” (on From a Book of Hours) -Corinna da Fonsecca-Wollheim, New York Times
“…James Primosch’s gorgeous “Dark the Star.” Set to texts by Rainer Maria Rilke, Susan Stewart and the Book of Psalms… it featured a brooding opening section, soaring and expressive vocal lines and creatively scored, beautiful instrumental writing.” -Vivien Schweizer, New York Times
“balm for the soul and food for thought” -Christian Carey, Musical America
“Primosch’s text-setting instincts are seemingly unerring: his vocal lines always convey the words authentically and honestly, while the instrumental accompaniment provides added depth and drama…” – Joshua Rosemblum, Opera News
Recent CD from Bridge Records
A CD devoted to music for voice and ensemble has been released by Bridge Records. Susan Narucki and William Sharp are the soloists; Christopher Kendall conducts the 21st Century Consort. It’s available at Amazon and at Arkiv Music.
“he cares very deeply about the words… airy, thoughtful, and challenging, as any real sacred endeavor should be” -Stephen Ritter, Audiophile Audition
“Soprano Susan Narucki, who sings three out of the four cycles, has musical intelligence to spare, as well as a clear, ingratiating delivery and sure intonation…”
“Baritone William Sharp uses his resonant, authoritative voice to provide a gripping, inexorable build…”
“Corde Natus Ex Parentis” from the cycle Four Sacred Songs, has a straightforward, attractively contoured, plainchant-style melody, but the composer adorns it with imaginatively layered instrumental counterpoint in subsequent verses. “Christus Factus Est” has another clearly tonal melody, but the subtly dissonant leanings of the accompaniment form a painfully apt depiction of Christ on the cross. Narucki’s performance of this quietly devastating number is a delicate marvel…”
“These songs are unfailingly compelling, whether the musical language is complex or seemingly simple… Christopher Kendall skillfully and sensitively leads the 21st Century Consort, which provides superb accompaniment.” –Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News
“fabulous new CD of vocal music” – Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay (blog)
“…the music is eclectic, as there are many influences: plainchant, expressionism and folk songs are a few. Yet this is an integrated eclecticism, where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts, and all is formed into a widely (this is important) expressive language, one that has a basis in tonal relationships, but that can be abundantly clear or mysterious. It is hard for some composers to know when to stop or be quiet, but Primosch gauges that well in these works. The pacing is elegant, movements are never too long or over stay their material, and the balancing of movements is delicate and done with assurance. The music… doesn’t strive always to be in a holy space, but instead to describe it and give it a human response. In this way Primosch is able to take us to, be in the presence of, and then take us out of, sacred time and space, an attribute which is at the center of the Western musical art form. For example, Dark the Star, on beguiling texts by Susan Stewart, is a bit of an askew palindrome, and at 22 minutes passes swiftly but with the sense of a journey taken that is of note and meaning, finding sacred space and then retreating from it. The other works are similarly well judged in their pacing and emotive reach.” -Daniel Asia, Huffington Post
A 2016 Albany release, this album features Sacred Songs and Meditations, eight movements – some vocal, some instrumental – based on old sacred melodies. Soprano Mary Mackenzie joins the 21st Century Consort and the Folger Consort, combining modern and ancient instruments, while the choirs of the National Cathedral intone the melody each movement is based upon. Christopher Kendall conducts.
“Cathedral Music, the 21st Century Consort’s new Albany recording, revels in the space. Soprano Mary Mackenzie’s supple rendition of James Primosch’s Sacred Songs and Meditations sounds clear as crystal. The song cycle collects ancient hymns and refashions them into a beautiful collection of graceful, often chant-inflected, melodies.” – Christian Carey, sequenza21.com
Four chamber works for strings, piano and clarinet are on this New World disc. The Cavani Quartet plays String Quartet #2 and is joined by the composer for the Piano Quintet; the Leonardo Trio offers the Fantasy-Variations for piano trio; and Aleck Karis, piano, with Jean Kopperud, clarinet, perform Icons, which combines electronic sound with the live instruments.
“These four terse, resonant chamber works transform brusqueness into poetry…His music arises from the heart of the Western tradition, and in the four works here, there are evocative references to other parts of that tradition, including virtuosity, jazz and the spiritual. The Piano Quintet is emblematic of his work. The big first movement — in which he is the dauntless pianist — builds relentlessly with craggy rhythmic patterns and melodic strength. In the next movements, the weight lightens until the spiritual “Motherless Child” is played and varied with the lightest textures. Jazz echoes through the final section as the composer keeps alive moods of great seriousness and primal fun.The early Icons (1984) for piano, clarinet and tape, uses taped sound to shuttle between the sounds of piano and clarinet. Its air of mystery is unflagging, as if the two instrumentalists hold the key to riddles behind almost every bar. The Fantasy-Variations for piano trio soars as the climax of this recording. Members of the Leonardo Trio meet the pieces’s virtuosic demands and at the same time find the poetry in its writing, which is sometimes no more than a wisp of high violin tone. Primosch has synthesized the skills of the working instrumentalist with the high vision of the composer.” -Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer
Complete discography here