Mountain Interval (String Quartet)

Mountain Interval draws its title, the titles of its seven movements, and much of its inspiration from the work of Robert Frost. It’s also inspired by the seven movements of Beethoven’s Op. 131. I can tell you that this work had no uninvolving stretches; it grabbed my attention from the beginning and held on tight until the end 26 minutes later. Sometimes the continuity of the music was mysterious but it still never failed to make sense. The style of the score ranges from a kind of lyrical atonality to tonal sections which could have been written decades ago, but there is nothing stale about this music…Judging from its first impression on one critic, as well as the cheering reception from the audience, we may have witnessed the debut of a piece of music that will last.

– “A Star is Born,” Leslie Gerber reviewing the Borromeo String Quartet’s performance at Maverick Concerts, Boston Musical Intelligencer, Aug. 22, 2016

Eurydice (A Serenade for Strings)

By the sound of it, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is having a lot of fun this weekend at Kleinhans Music Hall. Music Director JoAnn Falletta is conducting a concert of American music…Platt’s “Eurydice” [was written] for a Swiss orchestra and it is European and traditional in tone, full of ethereal and lovely harmonies. It is the kind of music that floats in the air and could remind you at times of Wagner or Mahler. The cellos and violins play yearning, sensuous lines. The music has a gentle pulse that slows and calms your mind—transports you, you could say. At the end the piece kind of faded away. It was a wonderful moment and how nice that Platt was on hand to appreciate it. He was called back for several bows.

– April 26, 2014, Mary Kunz Goldman, The Buffalo News [U.S. premiere of the work]

Now That We’ve Come to the End

 “In 2002 Mr. Platt composed “Paul Muldoon Songs,” five settings of Mr. Muldoon’s poems, for tenor and piano. He has arranged one of the five into what he calls a “song without words” for instrumental septet, which takes as its title the first line of Mr. Muldoon’s “Avenue”: “Now That We’ve Come to the End.” The brief, lovely work starts with gauzy high notes in the strings opening into seductively forbidding lines for the clarinet (the eloquent Romie de Guise-Langlois) and piccolo (the dazzling Alex Sopp). All the instruments finally achieve an ominous consonance, with a dark, subtle undercurrent in the double bass. The dull rumble of the motors of boats passing [Bargemusic] was an unexpectedly perfect accompaniment.”

Sep. 18, 2011, Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

Extended Night (Poems of Jeffrey Greene)

But Russell Platt’s contribution — another Three Greene Songs — offered the most musical pleasure of the evening, especially in “Extended Night,” the meditation of a man caring for his dying mother, with Chopinesque, onomatopoetic raindrops in the piano part, and a rush of melody in the postlude that registered as a surge of emotion. [Mirror Visions Ensemble concert at SubCulture NYC]

– June 2014, Fred Cohn, Opera News

From Noon to Starry Night: A Walt Whitman Cantata

 “The songs truly evoke a cantata by setting Whitman’s words for long stretches with close-knit, pungent block harmonies for three singers.”

May. 05, 2010, Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

Two Whitman Panels

“Two Whitman Panels” (2006), drawn from Russell Platt’s cantata “From Noon to Starry Night” (2006), treats Whitman’s poetry with a straightforward, occasionally folksy lyricism, and Jesse Blumberg, a baritone, gave the songs a shapely reading. But the music’s real charm is in its inventive, richly detailed piano writing, which Steven Beck put forth with suppleness and agility.

Sep. 03, 2009, Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

Concerto for Bassoon and Strings

Russell Platt’s new Concerto for Bassoon and Strings is a lock to become a standard work for bassoonists aspiring to more than sideman status in classical music. Platt’s idiomatic writing made the instrument sound good, and Peter Kolkay’s warm, commanding playing made Platt’s striking melodies sound wonderful.

In his program notes, Platt cited the influence of Schoenberg and Copland, among others. But my ear detected far more Debussy and Stravinsky in the mix, with maybe a little Bartok in the finale…A hint of jazz harmony, as understood by European ears early in the last century, spiced up the middle section.

This concerto, as familiar as it might sound at first hearing, is no mere echo of music past. Platt’s own ideas about the interaction of form and harmony are intriguing, and his ways of knotting up and – presto! – untying chords are clever and satisfying. The first movement, for example, turns on open, watery, Impressionist harmonies that collapse ever so gradually into dissonant clusters. He builds his large-scale climax on this original but easily grasped idea. Platt reverses and compresses this trick in the second movement, in which clusters expand and resolve in pairs of chords beneath a singing, meandering melody. Ostinatos built on repeating, crunchy little dissonances drive a cheerful, dancing finale.

Nov. 16, 2008, Tom Strini, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Trio for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano

The Verdehr Trio [visited] the Phillips Collection on Sunday bringing with it two of the almost 200 pieces it’s commissioned over the years, one, a world’s premiere, and both, attractive, coherent and entertaining….The premiere was of Russell Platt’s “Trio for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano,” a three-movement set of fantasies with a first movement “Outdoor Overture” full of contrasting musical ideas, a lyrical second-movement “Song Without Words” and a playful finale that explores a colorful palette of textures and spacing. This is music with an accessible architectural road map that leads light-handedly through a rich emotional journey.

Mar. 09, 2009, Joan Reinthaler, Washington Post

Autumn Music

Sheer sonic beauty has always been the salient feature of Frank Almond’s violin playing. It was in full bloom Wednesday, amid a roster of American composers who hold sonic beauty in high esteem. Almond and Brian Zeger, whose touch drew nothing but luscious and subtle sound from the piano, played music by Peter Lieberson, Ned Rorem, Russell Platt and Philip Lasser on a Frankly Music program at the intimate recital hall of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.

Russell Platt’s [piece] jumbles styles – sometimes it sounds like Fritz Kreisler, sometimes like Bartók, and sometimes like I don’t know what. But each of its elements has its charm, especially when bathed in the empathy and buttery sound of these two performers. Platt made a fascinating argument in at least one stretch of music, as a water-torture piano plink-plink morphed ever so gradually and miraculously into a gorgeous melody.

– Jan. 11, 2008, Tom Strini, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Russell Platt’s (b. 1965) Autumn Music is in two movements, and the first is more “advanced,” but the second becomes a rapturous Brahmsian chaconne whose invention is up to its model.

– Robert Carl, Fanfare magazine [review of Innova album “Portraits and Elegies”]

Sonata for Violin and Piano

We already know Russell Platt as a writer (for The New Yorker and The Observer, among other places)….We were also aware that he is a composer. I suspected I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed when the concert we finally heard Saturday night was postponed last summer, due to the imminent delivery of the violinist’s [Livia Sohn] first child. However, those of us who were there were rewarded with Platt’s Violin Sonata, a piece neither conservative nor aggressively modern, simultaneously adventurous and compelling. Platt uses a style, similar to that of Bartók’s Violin Sonatas, writing in different styles for the two instruments according to their nature. The first movement was intense, dramatic, and rhythmically involving. The slow second movement had an interesting style of contemporary lyricism; the third became suddenly tonal, then veered away in a very dramatic and exciting manner…the work’s emotional content made itself felt immediately and drew me completely into the spirit of the music, where I gladly remained throughout its nearly half-hour length. I truly look forward to hearing more of Platt’s music, and I would be glad to hear this piece again.

Aug. 01, 2007, Leslie Gerber, Woodstock (NY) Times