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“Music of fluidity and austere beauty” – THE BOSTON GLOBE

"Stunningly varied works that clearly emerge from a single personality...a distinct voice that is challenging without being elusive... an unshakable emotional core" – BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER

“A nimble imagination; a striking approach to accompaniment, responsive to the texts… her vocal writing has an almost 19th-century naturalness…”– THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Innovative …..powerful, ruminative” – TIME OUT NEW YORK

“Serene and unworldly, exploring space with sound in a way that seems to evoke the time before the universe hosted life" – FANFARE MAGAZINE

"High-craft, high-drama music...hurtles themes of love and devotion through a particularly intense prism of influences and language" – WQXR Q2 ALBUM OF THE WEEK

"One of the brightest stars in her generation of composers.." – AUDIOPHILE AUDITION

"A kind of Song-of-Solomon-like merging of spiritual and earthly ecstacy...unpredictable to the end" – BOSTON CLASSICAL REVIEW

"Ravishingly beautiful...orchestral interludes of great power and beauty" – BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER

“Evokes poetic images through floating gestures and thunderous sonorities…takes [the ensemble] through vast sonic terrain, from delicacy to angry density” – CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER

“Delivers a moving, spiritual experience, both powerful and uplifting.” – MUISCWEB INTERNATIONAL

 “…Like a series of haiku poems, written with an economy that allowed room for the listener to contemplate a multiplicity of meaning as well as the subtle interruptions in symmetry that told you that nothing was what it seemed” – PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

“Outstanding” – BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE

“Beautifully varied, highly textured writing” – MUSICAL TORONTO

“It’s music with a timeless appeal. “ – MUISCWEB INTERNATIONAL

“A fun, accessible…shows off the orchestra’s full breadth and deserves to be heard again” -MUSICAL TORONTO

"Go, listen, and be changed" - THE BOSTON GLOBE


REVIEWS INDEXED BY YEAR of composition

 

A HERO'S WELCOME (2016)

"The work juxtaposes a hymn-like theme with military drums to celebrate the returning war hero. The fanfare built to a jubilant climax, leaving one to reflect on all those who have fought for Canadian ideals...for this listener, however, it was a reminder that while the returning hero may be celebrated, the fighting continues."

- TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS, 23 March 2017 (David Richards)


TANTRIC VARIATIONS (2016)

"The U.S. premiere of Kati Agócs’s 2015 “Tantric Variations” sounded, in a way, like the mirror-image of Gubaidulina’s quartet [#1]. Here the musicians begin the work with toneless scraping that gradually coalesces into musical form. Troubled, searching conversations take shape among the four instruments. At times, they are jagged and confrontational, at others blossoming into the kind of unashamedly soaring, tonal melodies that would not be out of place in the Mozart or Mendelssohn quartets on the program. They conclude in euphonious concord. It was as if the very string-quartet structure that Gubaidulina had dismantled in her piece were being reconstituted here and given a sense of hope by Agócs. The Cecilia, which commissioned “Tantric Variations,” played it gorgeously. The concert marked the 60th anniversary of the gift of the first of five Stradivari to the Library of Congress."

- THE WASHINGTON POST, 18 December 2016 (Joe Banno)


HYACINTH CURL (2016)

“Two voices, soprano and mezzo-soprano sing a text that Agócs derived from a Farsi ghazal (a sonnet-like poem), punctuated here and there by handbells played by the vocalists themselves. With only two voices the piece cannot engage in the dense layering that characterizes Agócs textures elsewhere. Instead we hear a constant intertwining of melodies recognizable as Agócs’s singing lines that are rich and occasionally angular. Subtle expression thus comes to a heated text that describes a “night of Power”, filled with “Beauty’s divan” and “ambrosial perfume” and “a chalice of the red wine of dawn-tide,” ending with the poet turning to worship the face of his beloved as the bells ring over and over. Arditti and Emily Harmon (another guest joining Hub for this concert) blended beautifully, achieving a restrained but effective aesthetic seduction.”

- THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, Hub New Music Debuts with “Strength in Fragility”, January 24, 2016 (Brian Schuth)

"The world premiere of “Hyacinth Curl” was exceptionally transporting. The voices of Arditi and mezzo-soprano Emily Harmon swooned in the sinuous but sparse lines of a Sufi devotional poem, overlapping and swelling into rapturous harmony before joining at last in unison. Occasional arresting peals from the singers’ handbells provided the only accompaniment."

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, Hub New Music Transports with all-Kati Agócs program, January 27, 2016 (Zoë Madonna)


THE DEBRECEN PASSION (2015)

"The record's core is The Debrecen Passion, a mystical confluence of the sacred and secular illuminated by the superb Lorelei Ensemble and BMOP.....sublime"

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, Top Classical Ten Albums of 2016, 25 December 2016 (Zoë Madonna)

"The Debrecen Passion forms the centre-piece of the disc and, at 23 minutes, is the largest work. Agócs’ adventurous score employs 12 female voices, a chamber orchestra, whose motley percussion section includes a cimbalom, and vocal texts drawn from diverse sources. The poems of Szilárd Borbély (1963-2014) form the backbone, and these are interspersed with Latin fragments, a Medieval Hungarian lyric poem, a Kabbalistic Prayer and a Medieval Georgian hymn. The work takes its title from Debrecen, the second largest city in Hungary, home to Borbély, who tragically committed suicide a year before the Passion’s composition. Its central thread is the story of the persecution and death of Christ. Ambitiously constructed, this visceral work is expertly orchestrated, Agócs achieving a myriad array of instrumental colour and texture. The vocal writing, calling for solos, duos, trios and chorus, is expertly crafted. The Lorelei Ensemble under Beth Willer are obviously well-rehearsed, and their flawless ensemble, clarity of articulation, shapely voicings and precise diction helps secure favourable results. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project provide sterling support. Gil Rose’s sympathetic and supportive direction presents music rife with detail and he truly brings the score to life. All told, this work delivers a moving, spiritual experience, both powerful and uplifting."

– MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL, Excerpt from Recording of the Month/Review of The Debrecen Passion by Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Lorelei Ensemble, September 17, 2016 (Stephen Greenbank) 

“On the far end of the program came the evening’s second premiere: “The Debrecen Passion” an ambitious new score by the Boston-based composer Kati Agócs, written for BMOP and the singers of the versatile Lorelei Ensemble. Debrecen was the home city of the gifted writer Szilárd Borbély, who committed suicide last year and whose poems form the spine of Agocs’s “Passion,” surrounded by other texts, of medieval Latin, Hungarian, and Georgian origin, as well as a mystical Hebrew prayer. 

It is a striking work that places a complex sonic palette at the service of a visceral intensity of expression, one that can be glimpsed from the descriptive markings in the score, where Agócs writes at different points: “In large waves,” “Sheets of sound,” and “Arriving – Radiant.” Her billowing vocal writing is likewise highly expressive in an instrumental sense yet also subtle; at one point the chorus divides to sing three different texts simultaneously. As a result of this broader approach, at Saturday’s initial hearing, the precise meanings of the chosen texts felt less clearly distilled, and in some ways less important to Agócs, than the heterodox richness of the sound world she has fashioned for them. Under Rose’s direction, the excellent Lorelei singers and the unflappable BMOP players gave this work a dazzling first performance." 

– THE BOSTON GLOBE, Review of The Debrecen Passion as premiered by Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Lorelei Ensemble, January 24, 2015 (Jeremy Eichler) 

“Effective writing for women’s voices–solo, and in trios and choruses—also characterized the evening’s other premiere, The Debrecen Passion by the Hungarian-American-Canadian composer Kati Agócs. Commissioned by the Jebediah Foundation for BMOP and the Lorelei Ensemble (a Boston-based group of nine female singers, increased to twelve for this performance), this ambitious, wide-ranging piece bore the date 2015 in the program, making it the newest of new music, maybe even a wet-pixel premiere. 

The word “passion” in the title might lead one to expect a retelling of Christ’s Crucifixion. While not attempting that, the new work did aim for emotional and spiritual ties to the great choral works of that name by Schütz, Handel, Bach, and many others, as it set poems on love and lamentation from ancient sources and by the poet Sándor Borbély, who lived in Debrecen, Hungary’s second largest city, until his death last year. 

Besides Borbély’s Hungarian, the chorus sang in Latin, Hebrew, and Georgian—and a modern translation of the oldest known poem in the Hungarian language—as composer Agócs ranged wide in time and geography in search of texts to meditate on, setting them without movement breaks in a continuous performance lasting a little over 20 minutes. 

The vocal performances were consistently clear and expressive, with soprano Sonja Tengblad the standout, tenderly introducing the work with Borbély’s “If I could…” and soaring over her trio-mates in the section “I can’t…” 

Who can resist the sound of women’s voices climbing high in close harmony? Agócs certainly couldn’t, as time after time she twisted rising vocal lines into radiant cluster chords, a sound capable of expressing either intense lament or exultation. 

Just in one section, the setting of a medieval parody on the hymn Stabat Mater, her wide orchestral vocabulary took the music from chant-like vocal lines, delicately accompanied by high percussion and pizzicato double basses, to a fast, three-to-a-bar dance with big-band thunder. 

As the program notes by Robert Kirzinger acknowledged, the other, more everyday meaning of “passion” was well represented in this work, and by the closing pages on the Georgian hymn “Thou Art a Vineyard” the music was animated by a kind of Song-of-Solomon like merging of spiritual and earthly ecstasy. The clouds of complex 21st-century harmony even parted here and there for moments of movie-score lushness. 

But Agócs’s score remained unpredictable to the end, swinging between thoughtful violin solos to broad statements for the full orchestra to unison chants in the chorus. The composer seemed to pick up her texts and look at them from all angles, before closing the piece (and Saturday’s concert) resolutely on a crescendo chord for chorus and orchestra.” 

– BOSTON CLASSICAL REVIEW, Review of The Debrecen Passion as premiered by Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Lorelei Ensemble, January 24, 2015 (David Wright) 

“Last came the other premiere, The Debrecen Passion by Kati Agócs, a Canadian of half-Hungarian-extraction who now teaches at New England Conservatory and has garnered a good deal of attention. Her work is not a passion in the sense of the oratorio-sized works of Bach and other Baroque composers, or in the revived style of Penderecki’s, but is a setting of seven lyric-sized texts, three by Hungarian poet, novelist and literary historian Szilárd Borbély (1964-2014; he committed suicide in Debrecen, where he had lived and worked), two contemplations of Mary, one Latin the other Hungarian, one Kabbalistic prayer and one medieval Georgian hymn. In these settings Agócs examines passions of several sorts, the fragility of love, the greatness of God, and, oh yes, the death of Jesus. In the panel discussion, Agócs said that her funding source, the Jebediah Foundation, had given her carte blanche to create as big and as long a work as she felt like, and this 20-plus-minute piece (her longest to date) is fitted out with impressive orchestral forces, plus the Lorelei singers. While far from inaccessible, her writing is intricate and layered. Much of the choral treatment draws on earlier Ligeti techniques of “micro-polyphony,” densely packed, close dissonant harmony that, in the vocal writing, sounded ravishingly beautiful. Setting modern poetry can be tricky, and Borbély’s was not always easy to parse; Agócs wisely avoided overt word-painting. The orchestral writing was fluent and often did its job well of adding emotional depth to the texts and the vocal lines; in two instances there were orchestral interludes of great power and beauty, and the final Georgian hymn concludes (save a final blast and morendo from the orchestra) in a modally inflected harmony that evokes Alan Hovhaness (okay, he was Armenian, not Georgian, but musically it’s pretty close). 

– THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, Excerpts from Review of The Debrecen Passion as premiered by Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Lorelei Ensemble, January 24, 2015 (Vance R. Koven) 

"A spiraling work for 12 female voices and chamber orchestra. A glimpse of any given moment exposes waves of Krzysztof Penderecki-like vocal clusters, pulsing chant, flurries of Baroque trumpet and sumptuous Late-Romantic orchestration....It's an overwhelming plate of emotion and color...The music's subject matter is, after all, the Passion of Christ.  Agócs filters and rearranges the story through lenses of Hungarian poet Szilárd Borbély, Kabbalistic prayer and ancient Latin, Hungarian and Georgian religious texts. But it's more than a sum of disparate influences. The Debrecen Passion is high-craft, high-drama music that, in certain ways, goes down like an old-school Hollywood score cut to fit the fast, ADD-inspired edits of modern television: think chase-scene drums against big-band orchestral statements, intensely unsettling a cappella drops and religious fervor at its most intense, all within a few bars... or at the same time."

-Q2 ALBUM OF THE WEEK, WQXR, "Kati Agócs's High-Drama Setting of Love and Devotion", 25 January 2016 (Hannis Brown)

"About 23 minutes long, The Debrecen Passion blends the voices into instruments, and the instrumentalists into the voices. Lorelei sings sections of starkly beautiful solo sections, duos and trios, but also vocalizes wordless melismas and dissonant pitches that challenge the mood. The orchestra performs many solos — flute, trumpet, snare drums and violin among them — but also chants some of the text alongside the singers......In the simplest way, everyone is a musician, serving the cause. Even if the texts were not in Hungarian, Latin or Georgian, textural clarity is not the object. Starkly simple and direct solo sections give way quickly to vocal overlaps and dense sonic textures — the meaning obscured in service of the musical goals.....Integrity in this case means that the accessibility of the lyrics is secondary to the sound-world. The feeling is religious, deeply spiritual; but it’s the sound that tells you this, not the words."

-WBUR'S THE ARTURY, "Composer-Performer Kati Agócs Intermingles Sacred and Secular in First Recording": Review of "The Debrecen Passion" by Boston Modern Orchestra Project, 21 January 2016 (Keith Powers)

"Agócs typically assimilates several different cultural influences and multiple languages into her powerful and attention getting style. A perfect example is the amazing Debrecen Passion. Thematically centered on the work of contemporary Hungarian poet Szilárd Borbély and influenced by the particular qualities of the Hungarian language and culture, The Debrecen Passion takes Christian and humanist texts and utilizes them in a unique read of the Passion story but without the usual voices in roles. In many ways I found this approach both refreshingly different and quite moving. This is a strong, dramatic and, occasionally unsettling work."

-Audiophile Audition, Review of album "The Debrecen Passion", 12 March 2016 (Daniel Coombs)


DEVOTION (2014)

“The first of the premieres was by Kati Agócs…her Devotion is a septet for horn, harp, string quartet and double bass, but it often reads as a concertante piece for horn...the motives are developed in the strings with a skillful assortment of moods and colors, with the harp and horn extending the discussion…. The horn part is especially wide ranging, and Sommerville executed it to perfection, earning him a big hug from the composer. The ensemble was conducted by BSO Assistant Conductor Andris Poga, whose sense of line, pacing and dynamics seemed perfectly attuned to the score’s requirements…. there was evidence of ample breathing room for the music to speak its say, which was a moderate and decorous discourse.” 

– THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, Review of Devotion as premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players, February 9, 2014 (Vance R. Koven) 

“Agócs’s septet, “Devotion,” boasts angular yet lyrical horn writing...the work engages the ear primarily by gathering and dispersing its energy in unexpected ways...” 

– THE BOSTON GLOBE, Review of Devotion as premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players, February 9, 2014 (Jeremy Eichler) 

“Agócs’s contribution, Devotion, hovered in an area somewhere between chamber and orchestral music—one could imagine the strings, at times, blown up to a full symphonic complement….The harp (Jessica Zhou) primes the piece with a healthy dose of glitter, a kind of harmonic respiration between diatonic and synthetic scales, under which the strings provide a cushion; over it all, the horn sweeps and soars....The middle section was triggered by Sommerville shifting from the highest part of the horn’s range to the lowest, one snarling pedal tone after another; the viola tiptoes around a melody; the violins and cello stalk soft chords; harp and double-bass keep a hesitant tick-tock. The horn rises back up to the top of its range, an A-section recapitulation, and a wheels-on-the-tarmac unison ending.” 

– NEW MUSIC BOX, Review of Devotion as premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players, February 9, 2014 (Matthew Guerrieri) 


CRYSTALLOGRAPHY (2013)

“Kati Agócs’s Crystallography, set to poems of Cristian Bök, draws fine imagery as sung by soprano Robyn Driedger-Klassen.  The opening songs have some of the wondrous ease and flow that one might find in Canteloube, moving through a more uncompromising, almost New Vienna posture, finally to an even more modern orchestration where exotic rhythms abound. With the soft taps of the percussion ongoing, the close has a hypnotic Bolero-like feel.” 

- VANCOUVERCLASSICALMUSIC.COM, Review of Crystallography as performed by Standing Wave Ensemble at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra New Music Festival, January 17, 2014 (Geoffrey Newman) 

“Kati Agócs’s Crystallography, which received its U.S. premiere in this performance, sets a collection of excerpted texts from Canadian poet Christian Bök’s 1994 book of the same name. Originally commissioned by Standing Wave Ensemble in Vancouver, the work offers a highly structured celebration of alliteration and assonance. Soprano Brenna Wells’s cantillations negotiated sections of misterioso chanting, thematic folksong, and dramatic exclamation—all artfully employed by Agócs. The work is emotionally and thematically palindromic, with the “Amethyst”, “Ruby” and “Topaz” sections leading up the mountain toward the apotheosis in the exact middle of the “Emerald” text. The texture thins out through the final three sections: “Jade” “Opal” and “Sapphire”—the last of which highlighted Wells’s gifts as an early music singer when the texture reduces to a modal chant accompanied only by drums.” 

- THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, Review of Crystallography as performed by Collage New Music, January 26, 2014 (Rebecca Marchand) 

"Agócs preserves remarkable clarity in her work despite the constant, complex layering...[Crystallography] shifted just often enough to keep the thoughtful listener on edge. The work remains a bit distant from the listener, a beautiful object observed at arm’s length."

- THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, "Hub New Music Debuts with 'Strength in Fragility'”, January 24, 2016 (Brian Schuth)

"Crystallography set poet Christian Bök’s words into ecstatic vocal incantations, sung by soprano Adrienne Arditi. Instruments flowed slowly, wrapping around the central vocal line, and percussionist Maria Finkelmeier laid down a robust processional rhythm."

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, "Hub New Music Transports with all-Kati Agócs program", January 27, 2016 (Zoë Madonna)


SAINT ELIZABETH BELLS (2012)

"Saint Elizabeth Bells conjured up a hallucinatory world of overtones, musical material derived from church bells near the hospital where father lay dying in 2011. The peculiar richness of the cimbalom (played by Nicholas Tolle) generated layers of harmonic haze within which Hub’s Allison Drenkow’s cello sang with lyric melancholy."

- THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, "Hub New Music Debuts with 'Strength in Fragility'", January 24, 2016 (Brian Schuth)

"Saint Elizabeth Bells reminisced on Agócs’s father’s last days. In nine minutes, cellist Allison Drenkow streamed through the spectrum of human emotions. Her instrument’s sound trembled and roared under the otherworldly ring of Nicholas Tolle’s cimbalom, a hammered dulcimer that sounds like a piano echoing in a dream."

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, "Hub New Music Transports with all-Kati Agócs program", January 27, 2016 (Zoë Madonna)


PERPETUAL SUMMER (2010, REV. 2012)

"...a fascinating balance of strength and sadness" 

-PIONEER PRESS, TWIN CITIES.COM, Review of the Minnesota Orchestra's Future Classics Concert, 16 January 2015 (Rob Hubbard) 

"dense, bold and wide-ranging...by turns discordantly suspenseful and richly majestic, complete with crashing cymbals and even a siren." 

- THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, "New Music Takes Center Stage", 16 January 2015 (Kristin Tillotson) 

"The program began with Kati Agócs’s Perpetual Summer.... She introduced her Perpetual Summer as a musical commentary on the apocalyptic effects of global warming, using a huge battery of percussion, complete with three gongs, a giant mallet, and a box-like drum. It produced an array of sound montages to great effect. Agócs borrowed from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Summer) using an amplified sextet of strings and harpsichord, distorting the Vivaldi to suit her purpose. Her gripping work was an ideal choice as an overture for the evening’s program."

- ONTARIO ARTS REVIEW, "Toronto Symphony Shows Its Colours", 10 April 2016 (David Richards) 


NORTHERN LIGHTS (2012)

“Kati Agócs’s Northern Lights is a newly commissioned work from Kibbey’s upcoming tour and album titled The Bridge Project, which celebrates international threads in American culture. Northern Lights ignites with sharp dissonances, moving through a flutey warm melody in the second movement; a Newfoundland folk song comes third, followed by an emotionally complex setting of the “Huron Carol.” The fifth movement swells, then trails off in a rapidly glittering auroral arpeggio.” 


- THE SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT, Review of Northern Lights as performed by Bridget Kibbey, October 13, 2014 (Joseph Miller) 


SHENANIGAN (2011)

"The evening opened with Shenanigan, a hoedown whirl of symphonic fun...a burst of party energy..." 

- THE TORONTO STAR, Review of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, 28 September 2012 (John Terauds) 

"As a warmup to all the musical drama promised for the rest of the evening, we heard a buoyant, tidy rendition of Shenanigan, a 4-minute orchestral hoedown Windsor native Kati Agócs wrote for the Hamilton Philharmonic Orhcestra in 2010. It's a fun, accessible piece that shows off a symphony orchestra's full breadth, and deserves to be heard again." 

- MUSICAL TORONTO, Review of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, 27 September 2012

"Shenanigan begins with loud dissonance, but soon works in a simple tune based on the interval of a fourth that captures the essence of Atlantic Canada's reels. Driven along by the strings, it is a showpiece for solo flute and for percussion. Shenanigan whirls with the energy, struggle, and humour of the people of our region." 

- THE ST. JOHN'S TELEGRAM, "Cheng, David Navigate the Greats", 30 September 2013 (Jean Snook)


VESSEL (2011)

"Also sublime is Vessel, which utilizes the medieval technique of multiple simultaneous texts to create something unmistakably modern."

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, Top Classical Ten Albums of 2016, 25 December 2016 (Zoë Madonna)

"Vessel dates from 2011 and is written for two sopranos, alto and seven instrumentalists. Agócs combines English, Hebrew and Latin poems with interrelated subjects. They represent "three perspectives on a lover addressing her beloved (or child or loved one)". It is economically scored, and each performer is sharply profiled. Gil Rose strives for a pliant account of linear clarity and nuanced voicing. It’s music with a timeless appeal."

– MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL, Recording of the Month/Review of The Debrecen Passion by Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Lorelei Ensemble, September 17, 2016 (Stephen Greenbank) 

"Vessel acts as a meditative, lyrical aftermath to the dizzying colors and twists of the previous music. At least relatively speaking: set for two sopranos, alto and seven instrumentalists, the music simultaneously delivers three poems in three languages – English, Hebrew and Latin Texts – building over a bed of shifting tempi and orchestral colors until only a single, repeated piano note is left to drift into (as the English text, by EE Cummings, declares) "the deepest secret nobody knows."

- Q2 ALBUM OF THE WEEK, WQXR, "Kati Agócs's High-Drama Setting of Love and Devotion", 25 January 2016 (Hannis Brown)

"...music that seems to come directly from nature...reveals a wonderfully accessible lyricism that unfolds with both drama and complexity....a subtle hint of spirituality ...colorful and individual music that takes risks with both the ideas and the use of the instruments."

- THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS, Citation for the 2014 Arts and Letters Award in Music


EYSIUM (2010)

"Elysium assumed a programmatic approach, juxtaposing a tape part consisting of spoken-word field recordings recounting shipwrecks (almost a counterpoint in itself, the voices of the various narrators being interwoven in such a deft manner) with a score through which the sea is perfectly heard, with the solo cello representing nothing less than the voice of God, who eventually saves the lives of the mariners"

- BLOGUE BIEN TEMPERE (Montreal), Review of ECM+ "D'un ocean a l'autre" program, 3 February 2011 (Lucie Renaud)


...LIKE TREASURE HIDDEN IN A FIELD (2011)/PEARLS (2009)

"Inspired by texts in Mattthew 13:14-16, ...like treasure hidden in a field urges the reader to keep spiritual values at the forefront of the mind. It’s structured as a five-linked movement sinfonietta, and offers the percussion section a field day. Chinese wind gongs and bells add that extra fillip of vividness to the canvas, evoking an aura of mystery and magic. Once again the Boston Modern Orchestra Project acquit themselves with distinction under Gil Rose’s charismatic direction."

– MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL, Recording of the Month/Review of The Debrecen Passion by Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Lorelei Ensemble, September 17, 2016 (Stephen Greenbank) 

"filled with attractive ideas..."

- THE NEW YORK TIMES (Steve Smith), January 2009

"Kati Agócs embraces the orchestra’s vast scope and possibilities for layered schematics and resonances..." 

- Q2 ALBUM OF THE WEEK, WQXR, New York, Review of American Composers Orchestra, Emerging Composers digital-release CD: 'While sounding at home, ACO nevertheless goes big'. March 17, 2012 (Olivia Giovetti) 

"Pearls, by the promising Kati Agócs, an American Composers Orchestra commission, was artfully shaped for the 35-member ensemble, and its thoughtful, unhurried performance was led with able defininition by George Manahan...Based on a parable from the Gospel of Matthew about the value of selling everything to buy the best pearl, its 'jeweled sonorities' include chimes, tuba, and rattles..." 

- NOTES ON NOTES, Review of American Composers Orchestra, February 20, 2009 (Leslie Kandell) 

"Gorgeous...a local composer to watch" 

- THE HUB REVIEW, Review of Boston Modern Orchestra Project performing ...like treasure hidden in a field, a 2011 orchestral re-working of Pearls (2009), "Bolcom, BMOP, and the Graceful Ghost of Ligeti', March 6, 2011 (Thomas Garvey)

"...like treasure hidden in a field takes its title from the Gospel of Matthew and winds the orchestra through a maze of left turns and unexpected flashes of discovery."

- Q2 ALBUM OF THE WEEK, WQXR, "Kati Agócs's High-Drama Setting of Love and Devotion," January 25, 2016 (Hannis Brown)


REQUIEM FRAGMENTS (2008)

"Cast in the context of a requiem, Requiem Fragments traces a lifespan from idyllic childhood and onwards through the complications and complexities of everyday life. Feeding into it are the experiences of expatriates and refugees, so it has a burning resonance today. Insecurity and loss of innocence inform the narrative, and the music conveys a sense of forward movement throughout."

– MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL, Recording of the Month/Review of The Debrecen Passion by Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Lorelei Ensemble, September 17, 2016 (Stephen Greenbank)

"Requiem Fragments was moving and taut: rolling waves of tangled activity breaking into a cathartic tonal chorale - only to crash and collapse into a quiet, scattered ending". 

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, Review of Boston Modern Orchestra Project, 28 May 2010 (Matthew Guerrieri) 

"Hypnotic" 

- THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, Review of Requiem Fragments as performed by Boston Modern Orchestra Project, May 2010 

"In the opening, piccolo and solo violin warily circled each other with super-high pianissimo notes and artificial harmonics. The effect was not so much ethereal as it was unearthly, the faint music of suns millions of light-years away." 

- THE HALIFAX HERALD CHRONICLE, Review of Requiem Fragments as performed by Symphony Nova Scotia: 'Festival Opener Delivers Emotional Authority', January 8, 2011


SUPERNATURAL LOVE (2008)

"The music speaks of loss and redemption...The moods vary throughout the movements. The first is spectral, wounded, desolate, and cold. The second is open, warm, rhapsodic and elegant. The third is emancipated, explosive, monolithic, nattering frantically like music from a charnel ground. Vivid and strong work." 

- SHOWTIME.CA, Review of Duo Concertante, Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, August 2008 (Stanley Fefferman) 

"Melting, ice-like, high-register piano notes open Kati Agócs's Supernatural Love, followed by beams of sunlight in the violin. A slowly evolving urgency characterizes the next movement. The third movement begins with racing chords on the piano, echoed by counterpoint in the violin. The duet takes on a masculine-feminine argument, along with simultaneous pizzicato violin with percussive single-note piano. The overall effect is serene and unworldly, exploring space with sound in away that seems to evoke the time before the universe hosted life." 

- FANFARE MAGAZINE, Review of CD 'Boston Diary' by Ibis Camerata, July/August 2010 

"Supernatural Love began with silent, haunting keys accompanied by sad strokes on the violin. The strokes of sorrow tied together as the piano chimed. Nancy Dahn used her violin to amplify an inner, womanly call, gradually slowing the music to a still point. Then, the composer created a music of “empty sound.” It was an extraordinary moment, showing emptiness, or loss, as a triumph over sorrow, clearing away an obstruction to life. There lies the Supernatural Love.” 

- THE VERNON MORNING SUN, Review of Duo Concertante, North Okanagan Concert Association, Vernon, British Columbia, 20 April 2008 


BY THE STREAMS OF BABYLON (2008)


  "For By the Streams of Babylon Agócs puts on her soprano hat, joining Lisa Bielawa for this delightful piece, a setting of Psalm 137. Using the Latin text, it narrates the grief of the Israelites in exile. The two voices blend superbly, their vocal lines weaving and hovering over the sumptuous orchestral musings."

– MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL, Recording of the Month/Review of The Debrecen Passion by Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Lorelei Ensemble, September 17, 2016 (Stephen Greenbank) 

"The newest member of the composition faculty, Kati Agócs, was represented by By the Streams of Babylon, for two sopranos and orchestra, a brief setting of Psalm 137 that encased the text's lament in music of fluidity and austere beauty." 

 - THE BOSTON GLOBE, Review of Boston Modern Orchestra Project with Kati Agócs and Lisa Bielawa as soprano soloists,  17 January 2009 (David Weininger)  

"Set in Latin for its liturgical significance (rather than in the Hebrew of the psalm), the work requires two sopranos to sing in straight tone, also evoking the history of medieval liturgy. The sopranos, Lisa Bielawa and the composer herself, captured this mysterious historicity with their gorgeously clear voices." 

- SUITE 101 CLASSICAL MUSIC PERFORMANCES, Review of Boston Modern Orchestra Project, January 2009 (Sarah Canice Funke)

"Equally impressive is her setting of Psalm 137, By the Streams of Babylon. This is a brief, straight and altogether beautiful rendition of the famous verse in which Kati and the acclaimed former member of the Philip Glass ensemble, Lisa Bielawa, sing wonderfully."

Audiophile Audition, Review of album The Debrecen Passion, 12 March 2016 (Daniel Coombs)

By the Streams of Babylon sets Psalm 137 in Latin. Sung by the composer, with fellow composer/soprano Lisa Bielawa, above a staccato instrumental accompaniment, the text follows scales upward and downward in a manner that evokes Philip Glass — rich text above simple (although not in this case minimalist) instrumentation. A delightful rising horn triplet serves as a outro cadence."

-WBUR'S THE ARTURY, "Composer-Performer Kati Agócs Intermingles Sacred and Secular in First Recording": Review of "The Debrecen Passion" by Boston Modern Orchestra Project, 21 January 2016 (Keith Powers)

"By the Streams of Babylon is a setting of a psalm, the lament of a people in a foreign land who can no longer bring themselves to sing the hymns of their homeland. The piece is haunting and reflective..." 

- THE DAILY GAZETTE (Schenectady, New York), Review of the The Albany Symphony Orchestra, Dogs of Desire Ensemble, 13 April 2008 (Bill Rice) 


IMMUTABLE DREAMS (2007)


“...we need to hear more of this composer.”

- THE SARASOTA OBSERVER, 25 September 2016 (JuneLeBell)

"The three movements of Kati Agócs's mesmerizing Immutable Dreams take a quintet through vast sonic terrain, from delicacy to angry density. The second movement is an homage to the late György Ligeti in which the piano plays a bold cadenza (Lisa Kaplan made it a commanding moment), while the finale, "Husks," evokes poetic images through floating gestures and thunderous sonorities."  

- THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, "Eighth Blackbird Soars in Modern Fare", 18 March 2009 (Donald Rosenberg)

"Immutable Dreams closed the concert with an indelible impression. Muscular and direct, it comprised three intense and strongly contrasted movements. “I feel the air of other planets…”, a discursive study in color and articulation beggars description: my notes say things like “shapes and rising calls”, “folding/unfolding shafts of light”, “fallings and cascades.” “Microconcerto (in Memoriam György Ligeti)”, only “micro” in its relative brevity, featured authoritative playing from Hub pianist Ashley Zhang. She realized the wide-ranging textures from cool soliloquy to crashing clusters with a visceral force that never turned harsh or ugly. This set up the essay in extremities of tone that defined the final movement, “Husks”, that culminated in a manic, occasionally shrieking race to the end. This experience lingered well after the concert ended."

- THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, "Hub New Music Debuts with 'Strength in Fragility'", January 24, 2016 (Brian Schuth)

"The final piece was Immutable Dreams, a restless memento mori for Pierrot ensemble with a haunting pulse. The instruments’ colors imperceptibly blended, fragments of ostinatos picking up on each other and spiraling outward."

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, "Hub New Music Transports with all-Kati Agócs program", January 27, 2016 (Zoë Madonna)

"Three pieces on the program were scored for the full ensemble. “Microconcerto [in Memoriam György Ligeti]” from Kati Agócs’s 2007 work Immutable Dreams, is a highly concentrated piano concerto. Gauzy wisps of sound from Karen Kim and Nicolas set the promised dream-state at the start, giving way to an all-in crescendo. Lyrical lines set akimbo in each “orchestra section” led to a rhapsodic solo piano cadenza which Weiss attacked with passion and precision. The ensemble returned in a furious descending passage that resolved in a return to the offset lyrical lines, a tribute in sound to Agócs’s Hungarian heritage and the inspiration of Ligeti, who passed away during the composition of this work."
- I CARE IF YOU LISTEN, "New York-based Third Sound Ensemble Debuts in Old Havana," December 15, 2015 (Arlene and Larry Dunn)

"The centerpiece of the program [was] the newly commissioned work by Kati Agócs [Immutable Dreams]. This piece, written in the light of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, displayed new constellations of timbre – some raw, some effervescent, some irridescent, some incandescent, and some luminous. Composer Agócs marshals this galaxy of sound into a brilliant new composition that, metaphorically, is visually striking, and aurally gorgeous. The ensemble’s playing was wonderful." 

- THE NEW MUSIC CONNOISSEUR , Review of The Da Capo Chamber Players’ “Second Viennese Roots and Shoots” Program, Merkin Hall, New York, January 2007


I AND THOU (2007)

"Kati Agócs's music is blessedly unsophisticated in any conventional way. Instead it has heart; it reaches the hearer through melody, drama, and clear design. Even a brief recent cello duet, I and Thou, with its soulful directness, and its naturalness of dissonance, reveals much about the composer’s address to the listener." 

- THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS, Citation for the Charles Ives Fellowship, Awarded May 2008

"Both cellists were heard in I and Thou, a new piece commissioned from Kati Agócs, a gifted young composer who recently earned her doctorate from Juilliard. A brooding first movement, punctuated with courtly trills, segued into a second movement in which syncopated melodies were draped across chugging ostinatos. The performance could have used more polish, but the music warranted Ms. Agócs’s inclusion in such notable company." 

- THE NEW YORK TIMES, Review of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s Second Helpings Series, Notable Women Festival- - Works by Joan Tower, Libby Larsen, Tania Léon, Jennifer Higdon, and Kati Agócs, 12 June 2007 (Steve Smith) 


DIVISION OF HEAVEN AND EARTH (2006)

"Very physical…Division of Heaven and Earth by the Hungarian-American composer Kati Agócs was premiered after the intermission. It is an exploration of the magician's box of romantic fireworks where the pianist is captivated in maniacal and almost vertiginous runs between the extremes of the keyboard." 

- DAGENS NYHETER (Stockholm, Sweden), Review of solo piano recital by Fredrik Ullén, 1 December 2006 (Sara Norling) 

"Programmatical metamusic.....by talented American with a Hungarian father.....” 

- SVENSKA DAGBLADET (Stockholm, Sweden) Carl-Gunnar Åhlén, 1 December 2006 


EVERY LOVER IS A WARRIOR (2006)

"An innovative composer moved to write for the instrument after encountering a major player…in Every Lover Is a Warrior, the promising young composer Kati Agócs spins folk materials into a powerful, ruminative suite. Add it all up, and calling this a strong contender for the year’s most distinguished debut CD doesn’t seem like an overstatement.” 

- TIME OUT NEW YORK, Review of CD Love is Come Again by harpist Bridget Kibbey (Steve Smith) 

“The other works on the program [Britten’s Suite for Harp, Carter’s Bariolage, and Hindemith’s Sonata for Harp] are about what the notes say, as opposed to the program’s world premiere, Every Lover is a Warrior, by the 30-year-old composer Kati Agócs, which is more about what the notes suggest. The music itself is like a series of haiku poems, written with an economy that allowed room for the listener to contemplate a multiplicity of meaning as well as the subtle interruptions in symmetry that told you that nothing was what it seemed. With Kibbey’s atmospheric range of articulation, the piece seemed as fine as any around it.” 

- THE PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER, Review of recital by harpist Bridget Kibbey, March 2006 (David Patrick Stearns) 

"Sensitively scored...naturally attuned to the harp's evocative qualities" 

- THE WASHINGTON POST, Review of recital by Bridget Kibbey, March 2011 (Joe Banno) 

“John Riley”, a movement from a work for solo harp called Every Lover is a Warrior, freely adapted an Appalachian song that cycled prettily through a number of decorative variations. Guest artist Ina Zdorovetchi, the coordinator of the Boston Conservatory harp program, played it with an elegant and relaxed virtuosity.

- THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, Hub New Music Debuts with “Strength in Fragility”, 24 January 2016 (Brian Schuth)

 The virtuosic first movement of “Every Lover Is a Warrior,” based on the Appalachian ballad “John Riley,” had harpist Ina Zdorovetchi wheeling and tumbling through the octaves, drawing out striking, earthy tones. The solo instrument became a full bluegrass ensemble, both melody and rhythm.

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, Hub New Music Transports with all-Kati Agócs program, 27 January 2016 (Zoë Madonna)


AS BIDDETH THY TONGUE (2006)

"A perfect large-scale solo work...As Biddeth Thy Tongue feels like a dramatic soliloquy and possesses a wide expressive range thanks to its juxtaposition of great lyricism and extended techniques." 

- SEQUENZA 21, The Contemporary Classical Music Community: Review of CD 'Glint' by saxophonist Timothy McAllister, December 2010

"Kati Agócs proves Hector Berlioz's assertion correct that the saxophone most emulates the human voice in her single-movement rhapsody, As Biddeth Thy Tongue, displaying gradients of nuance rarely heard from Adolphe Sax's unweildly invention." 

- INNOVA Web Site, Review of CD 'Glint' by saxophonist Timothy McAllister, December 2010


HYMN/COLORATURA (2005)

"The understated, sonic beauty of Kati Agócs's Hymn performed by the Prism Saxophone Quartet was a haunting work that resonated with me. It explored the contrast between the independent instrumental parts within the timbral unity of the ensemble. It was one piece that could have been longer. A rare quality in new music." 

- HURDAUDIO.BLOGSPOT.COM, Review of 2011 Bang on a Can Marathon, New York: 
http://hurdaudio.blogspot.com/2011/06/bang-on.html 

"Kati Agócs’s beautiful Coloratura incorporates both the vocal and intervallic strengths of the saxophone. It’s made up of six short motets that are modeled after choral music; a sighing “Introit,” a pensive “Laud,” a nervous “Hoquetus,” a “Lamentation” that features quiet chattering, a poised, eruptive “Fuging Tune” and a gorgeous “Hymn” that begins with the warmth of Das Rheingold." 

- THE BIG CITY (NEW YORK), FOUR BROTHERS BLOG, Review of CD "Breath Beneath" by the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, February 2010


VERPRECHEN (PROMISE) (2004)

Versprechen (Promise) by Kati Agócs was a tour de force for the player, in this case, cellist, Rafael Popper-Keizer, who handled the challenges heroically. With incessant double stops and encompassing the full range of the cello (at one point, a leap of two octaves brought the cellist’s left hand within a couple of inches of the bow), Promise is gripping to watch and hear. The title, Versprechen, [alludes to] that of a Lutheran chorale (Ist Gott mein Schild und Helfersmann) that was harmonized by J.S. Bach. Though presented abstractly at first, the chorale melody gradually emerges from the depths of the cello’s range to build to a hard-won D major chord.” 

- THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, Review of Versprechen as performed by Dinosaur Annex, October 24, 2014 (Nick Dinnerstein) 

“Kati Agócs’s Versprechen, for solo cello, was grimly dramatic… its source a Bach chorale, amplified into double-stop impasto, boiled away to a wisp of harmonics, finally coming into hard-won light.” 

– THE BOSTON GLOBE, Review of Versprechen as performed by Dinosaur Annex, October 24, 2014 (Matthew Guerieri) 

"My favourite piece is Kati Agócs's Verprechen (Promise), which reimagines a Bach chorale using the sort of variations on note sequences favoured by Serialist composers. This is beautifully varied, highly textured writing that Regehr executes with elegant ease, as he does every other one of the very difficult pieces on this album." 

- MUSICAL TORONTO, Review of Versprechen as recorded on ‘Full Spectrum’, CD by cellist Vernon Regehr, Daily Album Review, 24 November 2012. 


IMAGINATION OF THEIR HEARTS (2004)

"Ms. Agócs’s work is a song cycle, its texts drawn from Latin, Hungarian, and English poetry and a letter from Joan of Arc in French. The fifth movement will be a setting of an Italian text, the piece’s point being the universality of the passions and the way they fire writers’ imaginations. A nimble imagination; a striking approach to accompaniment, responsive to the texts…Although her harmonic style can be fairly dense, her vocal writing has an almost 19th-century naturalness. She has, in other words, avoided the unnatural leaps and spiky rhythms frequently heard in vocal works by composers whose harmonic sense she has embraced.” 

- THE NEW YORK TIMES, Review of Imagination of Their Hearts as premiered by Brenda Patterson and Antares, January 2004 (Allan Kozinn) 

"The outstanding work [on the disc] is Kati Agócs's Imagination of Their Hearts (2004), a cycle for voice and four instruments setting medieval and folk poems in five languages..." 

 - BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE, Review of CD 'The Ice Age and Beyond' by Patricia Green and Midori Koga on Blue Griffin/Albany Label, June 2009 


CARITAS (2001)

 “The Yale fellows gave an assured performance of Kati Agócs's intriguing Caritas, in which well-behaved but oddly unsettling two-part counterpoint for flute and cello becomes discombobulated when the stark piano part enters.” 

- THE NEW YORK TIMES, Review of Caritas, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, 2001 (Anthony Tommasini) 


AT FIRST LIGHT (2000)

At First Light by 25-year-old Juilliard student and professional soprano Kati Agócs, stood up proudly in good company. It combines great tensile strength with a gorgeous unfolding of luminous lyrical episodes, rich inventive counterpoint, and a feeling of deep, elusive mystery. Agócs reveals her procedural machinery in the music’s final moments, but the mystery remained long after this superb performance was over.” 

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, Review of Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, 2000 (Richard Dyer) 

“Imagine my delight when a passage in the cellos soon captivated my ears with the makings of a truly individual voice, a voice that increased in color and ingenuity as the work continued.” 

- THE BOSTON HERALD, Review of Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, 2000

 

 

INDEXED BY
WORK TITLE

Solo Works and Duets Reviews 


Chamber Ensemble Reviews


Orchestra and Large Ensemble Reviews