Regarding The Giver:
A “remarkable new work… Kander’s adaptation ably tackles the philosophical complexities of Lowry’s Newbery Award-winning dystopian story set in the not-too-distant future. In a particularly clever stroke, Kander briskly handles the novel’s expository details and narrative movement by means of a Greek-style chorus; her instrumental scoring is atmospheric and unobtrusive, and the production’s chamber orchestra performed them sensitively. But the vocals take priority. … this isn’t really an opera driven by grand arias or scenery-chewing relationship melodrama – the ensemble is primary, as fits a tale centered on “the Community.” This adaptation is a sophisticated and subtle work, in terms of both music and story. Like Lowry’s novel, it never panders.”
“Susan Kander’s cycle for violin and piano, Hermestanze, is a wonderful work on many levels. The 14 short movement titles takes one through the life of Hermes, naming his parents, Zeus and Maia. the Lyre, an instrument folklore claims he invented, the river Styx, as well as his brother Apollo, the god of music. These references give the listener Ms. Kander’s perception of a musical journey through a part of Greek Mythology, but more importantly, we become aware of her virtuosic compositional ability to use the range and abilities of the violin and piano. As Hermes was a many faceted character, Ms. Kander uses this work to explore a variety of instrumental sounds (most especially striking in the Lyre movement). Throughout the 30 minute work, my interest never wavered. There is a vital energy to the writing and as each movement came to a close, I looked forward to hearing the next.”
Ani Kavafian, violinist and chamber musician
Artist Member, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Professor of Violin
Postcards from America on the Overheard:
From Audiophile Audition:
“…a very clever work that seeks its inspiration from feelings….the music depicts what sense of the unreal or the imposing or even a little frightening a person who has never seen New York before must feel. This is a most interesting work, is quite effective and to Kander’s credit, does avoid any traps of clichéd writing.”
From BBC Music Magazine:
“…a poignant narration of the immigrant experience.”
From Fanfare Magazine:
“…Michele Fiala’s oboe and Donald Speer’s piano tell the tale in a most effective manner.”
The Lunch Counter on Bassoon Transcended:
From Fanfare Magazine:
Review of Bassoon Transcended (MSR1439)
“Kander’s Lunch Counter alone is so fascinating that it is worth the price of the recording.”
From American Record Guide:
“Susan Kander’s Lunch Counter stands as a work of art that seeks to make a point through the juxtaposition of the ridiculous and sublime. One movement, ‘Olivia’, depicts an excited little girl who gets to go out for lunch with her father because she hasn’t wet the bed in three days. Another, ‘Margaret’, speaks to the grief and loss that a mother feels from losing her son to war. Nevertheless, the piece is held together by the thread of very real and perceivable emotions. Since hearing oboist Michele Fiala perform Kander’s ‘Postcards from America’, which alluded profoundly and dissonantly to the irony of the American dream and the illusive search for prosperity (MSR 1403, May/June 2012), I was quite eager to hear this.”
Regarding the January 7, 2008 concert of works on Ms. Kander’s new CD:
Anthony Aibel, New York Concert Review:
Susan Kander presented an extraordinary variety of her work… mature and compelling….
Five Movements for my Father, scored for small ensemble and baritone soloist, this work has exceptional interweaving of melodic lines and textures. It touches the audience with a gamut of emotion. The soloist was the impressive Keith Phares who provided great expression and diversity of color. The scoring is quite busy, which keeps the listener that much more enthralled. The group was … polished-sounding as a topnotch CD recording.
Pas de Deux for clarinet, cello and chimes had an advanced touch for counterpoint and harmony – with an inventive exploration of interval relationships and voice crossing. Cellist Pitnarry Shin and clarinetist Lino Gomez were an excellent pair and worked together well.
A Cycle of Songs was given an appealing performance by Roberta Gumbel, clarinetist Lino Gomez – who doubled on sax, bass clarinet and Eb clarinet – and pianist Tom Schmidt. The texts…added a refreshing human element and a good deal of humor in [the] storytelling.
Lonely House from Street Scene by Kurt Weill was marvelously arranged by Kander and the Debussy Sonate for violin and piano was given a solid reading by violinist Curtis Macomber and pianist Schmidt. The placement of the Debussy on this program was a smart choice and worked well. Ms Kander…has a deep affinity for quality presentation, theatricality and text.
Regarding The Donkey, the Goat and the Little Dog:
…a friendly, pain-free and often hilarious introduction to the string quartet for the 4-and-older crowd….billed as “the first all-talking, all-acting, in-motion string quartet.” Each of the instruments took on a distinct personality, and Kander had them laugh, cry, play and argue together, while the players romped around and spoke their roles to make the story clear. The whole thing was hugely enjoyable, ending (as all dramas properly should) with everyone eating ice cream together. The audience showed its approval with clapping, emphatic squeals and much bouncing in the seats.
Regarding Joshua’s Boots:
The Wall Street Journal:
…lively music…and a clever libretto…
River Front Times (St. Louis):
…a thoroughly enjoyable, exciting and touching piece… it is really worth a trip, even if you’re no longer a young person.
The Kansas City Star:
…engaging and heartwarming…
AMERICAN VISIONS, The Magazine of Afro-American Culture, St. Louis:
…summertime magic… an enchanting show…
Regarding Museum Pieces:
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/23/2005:
The music for Modigliani’s “Reclining Nude” is patently sexual, with a shimmering viola solo symbolizing the title figure. (Violist Paul) Silver made the most of his opportunity, beautifully delineating languor, desire and tristesse. Disjunct meters and rustic airs give a humorous spin to Breughel’s “The Harvesters.”
The Syracuse Post-Standard:
The children’s opera “She Never Lost a Pasenger” gives its audiences a graphic, compact introduction to one of American’s most heroic characters, Harriet Tubman….The show certainly fascinated its audience of schoolchildren.
Susan Kander’s music is in a simple lyrical style that lets the singers emphasize the words. And every so often, Kander shifts into a folk tune, such as as “Let My People Go” or “Gift to be Simple.” …Kander’s work, even the more difficult passages, stays accessible to young audiences.
Regarding Somebody’s Children:
The Kansas City Star, 2/27/2002:
from a feature article:
Takka-takka-tak … History rolled through Glendale Elementary School in Independence on Thursday with the rhythm of a train. It rode on the voices of fifth-grade children who were learning things about themselves they said they had not known. They could sing in front of a crowd. They could act. They could experience emotions that made history real to them, reliving the journey of orphans who rode trains to Missouri under the looming storm of the Civil War. “We got to sing, not just do written work,” said 11-year old Courtney Wickman. “It was so sad, when the orphan children didn’t know where they would go.
“They’re learning how to perform for an audience,” (teacher) Rathke said. “They’re learning what’s in an opera performance, including what’s behind the scenes. And they’re learning a lot about history, about slavery, the Civil War and the orphan trains. It’s a great experience for the kids.”
Regarding The News from Poems:
Paul Horsley, The Kansas City Star:
Susan Kander’s “The News from Poems” was a richly varied group of William Carlos Williams settings. I liked the short bursts of sound at the opening, the yelps and staccato cries of “The Loving Dexterity” , the aggressive but controlled fortissimo of “Defiance to Cupid” and the choral imitation of plucked strings in “This is Just to Say.”
Regarding One False Move:
The Pitch – Best of Kansas City:
The Lyric Opera made all the right moves in presenting composer Susan Kander’s compelling One False Move, which starred an all-female cast of high school and middle school students. The Lyric kept the performance short (it clocked in under an hour), the dialogue snappy and the plot easy to follow. The disquieting story line hit home with the largely underage audience, as did the multi-layered melodies and the pitch-perfect harmonies. The teens who witnessed it likely made two mental notes: stop bullying classmates and learn more about this whole opera thing.
John W. Lamert , Classical Voice of North Carolina:
Many operas contain violent episodes, but few address violence as a social issue…. One False Move worked well as an action-packed and intense bit of theatrical drama with music…. This little opera will engage you on levels you might not think possible.
Rebecca Sundet-Schoenwald, Exec. Dir. Fargo-Moorhead Opera:
The music really touches you very deeply. It’s very sad and really gets to the heart of the despair and the hurt that the girls are feeling.
The Forum (Fargo):
Today’s Best Bet.
Tasha Elsbach, head of Middle School, The Brearley Bulletin (New York):
The opera One False Move puts a face on girls’ fears and illustrates how social dynamics can play out in a school setting. Originally created for a small ensemble, the score was equally well suited to our large Middle School Singers group and was a beautiful showcase for the students’ musical and dramatic talent.
Anthony Aibel, New York Concert Review:
Pas de Deux for clarinet, cello and chimes had an advanced touch for counterpoint and harmony – with an inventive exploration of interval relationships and voice crossing.