Reviews

(Even more so that the rest of this website, this page is a work-in-progress. ) 

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Turning

His work begins in Debussyesque tonal pictures, transforms into spooky film music, and ends in cascades of sound. Somehow is all comes together as a pleasing tone poem. Will “Turning” show up again somewhere? Who knows? But it deserves further hearings.

— Peter Jacobi, Bloomington Herald-Telephone

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The tone colors are sumptuous … the rhythms, especially in the percussion-propelled finale, have the same kind of raw energy that keeps the Rolling Stones in business.

— James Wierzbicki, St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

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A showcase of American music at Blossom … In the first section, the limpid, coloristic writing owed a debt to Webern for clarity and to Varese for wraparound sounds the seemed to move through the orchestra … a gorgeous close-up study of the orchestra … the middle section’s jazzy hurricane of sound did have an American flavor. Zooming crescendos in the third section of “Turning” reinforced the feeling of drive that fuels this powerful work that Slatkin premiered with the St. Louis Symphony. Let’s hope he’ll do more scores from Phillips. After all, playing American music is only half of the battle; playing great American music is more important.

— Elaine Guregian, Akron Beacon Journal

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The 12-minute piece’s greatest fascination is the way in which it changes color, in kaleidoscopic fashion, throughout … a good piece of orchestral fun for the audience and the large Amphitheater audience greeted the work, its performance, and its composer with warm applause. 

— David B. Levy, Chautauqua Daily (guest reviewer)

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Just  a quick note to that you for attending the DePauw Symphony performance of “Turning.” Since the concert I have heard nothing but great things about your piece. People actually were more prompted to speak about your work … 

— Orcineth Smith, conductor

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Rain Dance 

“Rain Dance,” by Mark Phillips, was a riveting work … that deserves a future. 

— Ralph O’Dette, Columbus Dispatch 

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Porch Music 

… hugely wide-ranging in style, but contains some good-natured evocations of Appalachian fiddle music, which the string players deliver gracefully, with some affecting inflections.  

— David Kettle, The Strad (reviewing the CD recording on Equilibrium Records)

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String Quartet No. 2

The CD begins on its high point, the Second Quartet … Phillips has total command of the medium and a good sense of structure.

— American Record Review. (reviewing the CD recording on Capstone)

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My Aunt Gives Me A Clarinet Lesson  

The most memorable pieces of the concerts all had the authentic ring of personal connection. A highlight of one of the chamber music concerts was Mark Phillips' “My Aunt Gives Me a Clarinet Lesson,” based on a poem by Gregory Djanikian. Lisa Ford Moulton served as narrator and a catlike dancer in a slightly painful but funny memoir played by Rebecca Rischin, clarinet, and Roger Braun, percussion. 

— Elaine Guregian, Akron Beacon Journal

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The last and most memorable piece on the program was “My Aunt Gives Me a Clarinet Lesson” … it includes a nice jazz section where the clarinetist can really wail. Whatever it was, it was entertaining.

— Review of the International Clarinet Association in December 2004 issue of “The Clarinet”

Sonic Landscapes 

The music by turns shimmered, monkeyed around, haunted, and ultimately boogied…. The piece was always impressive, often gorgeous. 

— Barbara Zuck, Columbus Dispatch 

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Fire & Ice 

Of the remaining American works, the more striking was Mark W. Phillips's ''Fire and Ice,'' a concise, mildly chromatic work, in which trills and ostinatos created a dramatic effect. 

— Allan Kozinn, New York Times

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Dreams Interrupted

In five unbroken movements, Phillips brings jazz, blues, city life and the power of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into focus. This was lively music, bringing the soul of Memphis to Duluth, and reminding us of the lively rhythms and tensions that created both music and murder during the ’60s.

— Samuel Black, Duluth News Tribune

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As for the MLK connection, that came from “Dreams Interrupted,”  an intriguing 2005 piece by Ohio-based Mark Philips. Using a small, jazz band-sized orchestra and interweaving audio clips of conversation (about King and racism) and ambient sounds recorded in Memphis. It's a compact, mostly effective piece that sneaks up on the listener, evoking images and moods that subtly shift form the ordinary to the chilling. Thakar led a subtle, atmospheric performance.   

— Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun

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The work very powerfully tells the story of the civil rights history of Memphis, paying tribute to its blues tradition. This piece packs a real emotional punch.  

— Markand Thakar, conductor