MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Jonathan LESHNOFF (b.1973)
Piano Concerto [25.22]
Symphony No. 3 [34.36]
Joyce Wang (piano)
Stephen Powell (baritone)
Kansas City Symphony/Michael Stern
rec. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Missouri, 20-22 2016, 22-24 November 2019

One of the joys of reviewing is the opportunity to encounter the music of composers outside personal comfort zones. Sometimes, there is disappointment, when the music is at best banal, at worst of no discernible merit. The true delight is to encounter a composer with something very distinctive to say, and best of all is when the encounter sends the reviewer in search of other discs by the same composer. That test has certainly been met here, and with flying colours.

When first heard, Leshnoff provides music overwhelmingly tonal, rich in melody, with a confident momentum. It is exciting in both variety of timbres and in its immediacy. Repeated hearings reveal new depths of expression – real emotional engagement without lapses into sentimentality.

The Piano Concerto has something of the Symphony in its construction. In four movements (Fast/Slow/Scherzo/Fast) rather than three, there is an obvious affinity, but so too is the symphonic, even Wagnerian, size of the orchestra. Forces are often reduced for a concerto: here we have a full body of strings (15/13/9/9/6), 3 flutes, piccolo, 3 oboes, cor anglais, 3 clarinets, E-Flat clarinet/ bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 6 horns, 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion and harp. (The symphony adds an extra violinist, a second percussionist, and has one fewer trombones). Sound, unsurprisingly, is robust, but in the Concerto, Joyce Yang is never overwhelmed. Her playing is suitably forceful, but the slow movement, with the title ‘Neshama’, which is Hebrew for ‘breathing soul’, the third level (of five) of soul in Jewish mysticism, has a poised simplicity, a meditative quality wonderfully captured. The concerto overall deserves to be widely performed – even the most conservative concert-goer would enjoy its riches.

Leshnoff’s Symphony No.3 (of 4, so far) was inspired by the First World War, and the letters home by U.S soldiers. It is in 3 movements, Slow/”Gevurah,” with burning intensity/ Calm. The first movement has a long development from its string beginning to a powerful climax, with loud chords and two anvils played, each on opposite sides of the stage. The long second movement is comfortless and ferocious – with burning intensity. The final movement has many beautiful moments, though I am in two minds about the inclusion of the two letters written home by survivors of the Great War. Certainly they are sung with great eloquence and clear diction by Stephen Powell, but somehow they lead to a relaxation of tension, and I am not altogether convinced that their content is sufficiently intrinsically interesting to justify their place in the work: their significance rests not in the quality of the sometimes poetic wording, but rather in the external circumstances of their composition, in what we know about them rather than what they say. Many listeners will disagree fiercely with me; and I might change my view in future listening.

This quibble does not detract from the real substance of the music, nor the intensity of the performances, splendidly captured in SACD sound.

Michael Wilkinson

Previous reviews: John Quinn ~ Lee Denham (Recording of the Month)

Interview with the composer

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing