The eighth album by American pianist Matthew McCright surprises us with its astonishing sonic continuity from start to finish (a single guiding thread, as the title itself, Hanging By a Thread, predicts). McCright, known for championing 20th and 21st-century American music (Gene Gutchë, Justin Merritt), dares once again with an unconventional repertoire, featuring prominent minimalist elements, subtle touches of spectralism, and an intense exploration of rhythm and sound.
As the performer himself comments, “the album opens with To Spill Oneself Away by Dorothy Hindman (with whom he collaborates again after Endurance, recently released in 2021), an unsettling piece that uses perpetual motion to achieve a remarkable sensation of being pulled in all directions simultaneously, both forward and backward, up and down,” creating a state close to madness. A rather literal approach is taken in Alican Çamci’s work, where the sound of a ripe fruit falling is represented almost directly. The metaphorical element fades as the piece progresses (a short piece, just over two minutes), while deep, low notes mark the impact of the fruit hitting the ground, contrasting with the crystalline gestures of the higher keyboard sections.
The centerpiece of the album is Andrea Mazariello’s As Far as You Can Stretch a Web, a composition that stands out notably for its energetic personality, characterized by the extensive use of triad chords (both major and minor), an uncommon choice in contemporary music. However, a skillful interplay of variation and contrast creates a cohesive atmosphere throughout its five movements, reaching its climax in the final recapitulation.
Gradually, light becomes increasingly prominent. The gentle and delicate tones in Takuma Itoh’s Intermezzo immerse the listener in a state of serenity, creating the impression that the piece lacks a clearly defined beginning and end. It serves as a soothing interlude leading into the final stretch of the album. A similar sensation is evoked in Echoes by Kirsten Soriano Broberg (who was previously featured on McCright’s debut album, Second Childhood, released in 2009), where the range of harmonics associated with a fundamental sound is subtly explored. This exploration allows the piano’s inherent resonance to emerge as the true core of the composition. Your Hands, As They Are by Andrea Mazariello represents the album’s most tranquil moment, returning to those familiar triadic chords and concluding with a perfect B major.
This record concludes with the powerful Blue Diamonds by Paul Dresher, with its multiple sections that twist and transform like refracted light on this coveted gemstone, through intricate passages, rhythmic games, changing time signatures, and recurring themes that encapsulate the essence of this album. A highly meticulous effort is evident in the search for a shared aesthetic, which is particularly challenging given the diversity of composers featured in this series.
José Alberto Morales – International Journal of Music
A Minneapolis resident who is a member of the piano faculty of Carleton College, Matthew McCright brings his inimitable piano playing to this solo affair that spotlights the work of Dorothy Hindman, Alican Camci, Andrea Mazzariello, Takuma Itoh, Kirsten Soriano and Paul Dresher.
“To Spill Oneself Away” opens the listen with twinkling keys, where much attention is paid to mood in the mysterious, intimate climate, and “Olgun Bit Meyvenin Sesiyledüserken” follows with the bare keys emitting much beauty amid the sparse versus firm gestures. In the middle, the calm, reflective “As Far as You Can Stretch a Web, Mvt III: Prelude, Refracted” showcases McCright’s agile fingers in the absorbing album highlight, while “Intermezzo” showcases a very distinct tone thanks to the skilled and cautious progressions. “Your Hands, As They Are” and “Blue Diamonds” exit the listen, where the former turns minimalism into a refined science thanks to its meticulous nature, and “Blue Diamonds” finishes with bouts of busier moments in between the vulnerable rhythm and fleeting meters.
An album that began at the inception of the pandemic, McCright wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to complete the project, but the hurdles he had to jump through only made the body of work that much more emotional, exciting and memorable.
Take Effect – June 2023
Matthew McCright’s eighth solo album conveys the feel of an engrossing recital of contemporary piano music. Its eleven pieces are adventurous and innovative yet also accessible, each one marked by clarity, integrity, and imagination. The composers couldn’t have asked for a better interpreter of their work, the Minneapolis-based McCright an experienced performer, accomplished recording artist, and, as a member of the piano faculty of Carleton College, educator. Hanging by a Thread is his first solo release since 2021’s Endurance and follows three albums on Innova Records and separate sets of piano music by Gene Gutchë and Olivier Messiaen on Centaur Records and Albany Records, respectively. While McCright possesses a prodigious technical command, Hanging by a Thread calls upon his sensitive side in equal measure. Of course such a title automatically suggests a connection to the pandemic, and sure enough the recording sessions for the project, begun in 2019, were disrupted by its onset. He acknowledges that during the production process he was “grasping for a lifeline, nervous that it would never be finished,” but obviously the project eventually reached the finish line.
In some cases the album content mirrors the turbulence of that period, a prime example Dorothy Hindman’s 2021 work, To Spill Oneself Away, which, in the pianist’s words, “uses perpetual motion to achieve a remarkable feeling of being pulled in every direction, all at once.” The piece is animated from the start by twinkling upper-register patterns that cycle obsessively whist minimal notes provide a stabilizing ground at the opposite end of the keyboard. Gradually the poles converge to form a mesmerizing tapestry of intertwining lines, their movements gracefully ebbing and flowing like towering ocean waves. Hindman’s eleven-minute setting flows seamlessly into Alican Çamci’s pensive miniature olgun bit meyvenin sesiyle—düserken (…with the sound of a ripe fruit—falling) before Andrea Mazzariello’s five-part As Far As You Can Stretch a Web takes over, the album’s single multi-movement piece. Here and in the composer’s other album piece Your Hands, As They Are, Mazzariello reflects on childhood memories of his father’s playing and considers his own relationship to the piano, including an eventual loss of playing ability. Consistent with such thematic terrain, the movements advance through multiple moods, from wistful (“Prelude”), dignified (“Grid”), and meditative (“Prelude, refracted”) to rapturous (“Tether (or Once you lose it it’s lost)” and, finally, plaintive (“Preludes, folded”).
At the album’s centre, Takuma Itoh’s peaceful Intermezzo delivers a lovely expression of serenity and calm, things Kirsten Soriano Broberg explores in a slightly different way during Echoes using overtones generated from fading pitches. The recording’s shift into delicate meditative territory continues with Mazzariello’s Your Hands, As They Are until Paul Dresher’s Blue Diamonds caps the release with a sweeping, prismatic panorama that ranges from languorous reflection to intense hyperactivity. Even a single run-through of McCright’s album reveals it to be a smartly sequenced set possessing a clear and satisfying arc. Works by six different composers are performed, yet the album achieves a strong impression of cohesiveness and establishes meaningful connections between its components.
Ron Schepper – Textura
Pianist Matthew McCright’s new album Hanging By A Thread features performances of seven contemporary works. Most of the pieces were composed since 2010, with one earlier work by Paul Dresher from 1995 wrapping things up.
To Spill Oneself Away (2021), by Dorothy Hindman, opens the album with a high register cascade of repeated whirls that has the quality of slightly-shattering glass. It is a perpetual motion work with these ideas transferred across the keyboard moving from the top through middle to lower registers and back out again in a frenzy of activity. The technical demands are handled excellently here in this compelling opener to the disc. In Alican Camci’s (…with the sound of a ripe fruit—falling…) (2021), dense, jazz-like harmonies diverge into more complex sounds as a small pattern fragment appears insistently as bass notes. It all dies away in the end of this brief miniature.
The sole multi-movement work is As Far As You Can Stretch It (2019) by Andrea Mazzariello. The opening “Prelude” is a more post-minimalist style with a repeated motif and bare harmonic ideas. The pop/jazz feel of these harmonies lends the music in this work a more improvisational quality in a mostly tonal language of repeated ideas. Overall it is a quite engaging work. The composer’s Your Hands, As They Are (2021) is presented as a penultimate track here and gives another entry point to their engaging and accessible language that has in these works a more reflective quality.
The earlier works on the release include two pieces from 2010. The first of these is a calming Intermezzo from Takuma Itoh which has a somewhat diffuse quality filled with ambiguity. Kristen Soriano’s Echoes explores resonance and sound which become the focus for the listener as discerning these more ambient sustains create their own overtones. Both have a sort of arabesque like quality reminiscent of early 20th- Century French music (i.e. Satie, Debussy). The album ends with Paul Dresher’s Blue Diamonds (1995) serves as an appropriate bookend to the opening work on the album. It is full of virtuosic demands from technical requirements in many passages. Rhythmic interplay and shifting metric ideas are also used to great effect.
There is not a lot of information in the release about the composers or even the works themselves. Fortunately, these are fairly accessible pieces whose titles can provide enough guidance for the listener to make their own thoughts up about what is being communicated in these works. McCright’s performances make an excellent case for all of these pieces and they work well together as a group in a well-sequenced release. The sound of the Steinway D piano is also captured well with a bit of ambience from the hall location where it was recorded. Hanging By A Thread should be of interest to those intrigued by new musical voices and works for piano in the present age.
Steven Kennedy – Cinemusical
Minneapolis Star Tribune feature article about “The Way North” from album “What is Left Behind”
Where does a new piece of music come from? In this case, there was a grant, a social connection and the spark of an idea inspired by news along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Reinaldo Moya’s “The Way North” is the main work on a new album by Minneapolis pianist Matthew McCright. A composition professor at Augsburg University, Moya is a graduate of Venezuela’s famous El Sistema music education program (the same program that produced superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel). With 12 movements lasting 40 minutes, “The Way North” is a substantial piece that tells the story of a Central American migrant making the perilous journey to the United States through Mexico, leaving behind everything he knows.
McCright premiered the work a year ago in Minneapolis and made it the centerpiece of his newly released “What Is Left Behind” album. A senior lecturer at Carleton College, McCright maintains a successful solo career, performing throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. “What Is Left Behind” is his sixth solo album. A previous recording featuring piano works by French composer Olivier Messiaen (released in 2015) was hailed by Fanfare magazine for its “superb musicality and feeling.”
McCright and Moya shared their thoughts on “The Way North” in a September interview, weeks before controversy surfaced concerning the caravan of Central American migrants currently trekking across Mexico. The conversation has been lightly edited.
How McCright and Moya met
“I’d been touring with Reinaldo’s wife [violinist Francesca Anderegg] for several years,” McCright recalled via conference call. “So I met Reinaldo socially. He’s very warm and friendly. I’ve worked with composers most of my career — we had a lot to talk about.”
“Matt had been mentioned to me by Justin Merritt, a composition professor at St. Olaf College,” Moya remembered. “Justin said ‘He’s one of us’ — meaning a pianist who’s interested in the music of our time, who’s not going to program your pieces alongside Liszt, Brahms and Chopin.”
How ‘The Way North’ got started
McCright: “I got a grant from the State Arts Board. Reinaldo and I had been talking about what we might do for the project. We came up with the idea of immigration — a very rough idea in the beginning, of a migrant journey to the United States.”
Why Moya initially struggled with the project
Moya came to the U.S. with his family in 1999, later studying music at New York City’s Juilliard School. His personal immigration involved no hardship, he said, so he wrestled with telling the stories of others. “Is this my story to tell?” he remembered thinking. “Do I have a right to use the suffering? But I did leave my home,” he continued. “I have that experience of feeling detached, lonely, out of touch with my culture and language.” Crucially, friends rallied around the project, giving Moya the reassurance he needed. ” ‘They said, ‘You have the voice and the ability to tell this story through your music. That is not something most of those who have experienced this journey can do.’ ”
How the story crystallized
The original idea was more geographically limited, Moya said. “Initially we were going to track the migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border up to Minnesota through the I-35 corridor. But the more I read about migrants, the more I started to see that there were so many things happening to these people before they even got to the U.S. And that was a story I wanted to tell.”
On the joys and (occasional) pitfalls of collaboration
Moya isn’t a pianist. He grew up playing violin. So he leaned heavily on McCright for advice about what was technically possible on the piano. Mostly that process went smoothly. But not always. Moya: “There were a few conversations we had. … We didn’t exactly butt heads, but there were times I said, ‘Look, I really want you to do this thing.’ And he said, ‘Well, I don’t have three hands.’ ”
Can you even tell a story with the piano?
“The Way North” has 12 interlocking movements, with titles including “In Transit,” “Nocturne Atop a Train” and “Elegy for the Nameless.” Was it difficult telling a complicated migration story with just two hands and 88 keys?
McCright: “I think it can be. But as a pianist your playing needs to be communicative and have a narrative anyway. If the composer already has a narrative in mind — as Reinaldo does in ‘The Way North’ — it actually makes my job a lot easier.”
Moya: “There’s a church the migrant stops at in the middle of the piece. I can’t communicate on the piano that it has brown brick walls. And it smells like trees inside. But I can get at underlying emotions, so that the audience can begin to empathize with what this character experienced on this journey.”
Does ‘The Way North’ double as political statement?
Moya: “In Latin America there is a tradition of what is called the engaged artist — an artist who is socially and politically connected. I proudly align myself with that tradition. The goal in writing ‘The Way North’ was to try to humanize migrating people, to present a more complex, complete and human portrait of who they are. To me that’s the biggest obstacle to being able to do anything about the situation. We’re very good at not looking at these people as fully human.”
McCright: ” ‘The Way North’ comes at a time when the immigration debate globally has reached a tipping point. My own hope is that the humanity of the piece is what comes across, as opposed to any particular thoughts, views or policies.”
Is it possible for a composer to get too political?
Moya: “I hesitate to speak for all classical composers. But for me, politics is important. I think we need to reflect who we are and the world we live in.”
McCright: “The sad part is that classical musicians — and other musicians, too — often fear that going too far in one direction will alienate audiences and turn them off the genre completely. But there are times when we all have to make a stand, and this might be one of them.”
Terry Blain – Minneapolis Star Tribune
November 6, 2018
“I’m impressed by the variety of works you chose and the sense of color and technical sheen that you bring to everything you touch. Very few so-called “New music” pianists share that sensitivity, and I hope to hear more of your work.” (Album- What is Left Behind)
Jed Distler – Composer/Pianist, host of ASCAP
Award-Winning “Between the Keys”
“McCright is an intensely sensitive pianist with a prodigious technique, and he begins these Messiaen compositions to life. His myriad textures and kaleidoscopic sounds expertly carry the listener through the CD, and the six works from Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus are simply amazing. McCright’s manipulation of color, voicing, and pacing masterfully project the emotions within the slow-moving “Regard du Pére,” in the more angular lines of “Regard de l’étoile” and the “Regard du temps,” as well as in the joyously cacophonous “Noël.” Equally impressive are his performances of the Préludes, published in 1930. Noticeably less mature than the Vingt Regards of 1944, these accessible works evoke a stylistic extension of Debussy. McCright’s emphasis on their melodic contours is beautifully nuanced throughout, particularly in “Chant d’extase dans in passage trust” and “Instants défunts.” The technically active “Le hombre léger,” “Les sons impalpables du rêve” and “Un reflect dans le vent” are also exceptional. This entire CD is a worthwhile musical experience.”
Steven Hall – Clavier companion
“This flute-piano debut recording features Minnesota-based recitalists Linda Chatterton and Matthew McCright in a Paris-themed program. The disc is a timely tribute to the City of Light in these terrorist-plagued times. Flutist Linda Chatterton has ably transcribed and performed Saint-Saëns’ four-movement Sonata in D Minor for Violin and Piano (1885). I am captivated by her variations of colour and mood and her brilliant technique. Pianist Matthew McCright is right with her in ensemble and in creating appealing textures, as in the contrast-filled opening movement. I like the duo’s melodic interplay in the second movement and their light, spiky texture in the waltz-like third. In the hair-raising finale, dynamics are balanced beautifully.
Yuko Uebayashi was born in Japan; her Paris residency is apparent in Sonate (2003), stylistically reminiscent of early-20th-century French music. She has integrated influences from Japan convincingly, for example, in the slow third movement’s pentatonic passages and melodic fourths and fifths. The piece displays exquisite tone colours and textures, idiomatic and expressive instrumental writing, and a sure sense of style. The Chatterton-McCright Duo’s reading of Prokofiev’s Sonata in D Major (1943; later transcribed for violin and piano) is notable for lightness and clarity suggesting the work’s playful, perhaps toy-like aspects. I appreciate their avoidance of over-interpretation and of the vulgar, aggressive sound some duos bring to the finale. Overall a fine, thoughtful program and a duo I hope to hear from again!”
Roger Knox – the Whole Note (Toronto, Canada)
September 28, 2016
“Veniamo quindi agli esecutori, Linda Chatterton (flauto) e Matthew McCright (pianoforte), duo ben rodato, contraddistinto da un ottimo affiatamento, che dà vita ad un’interpretazione di altissimo livello, esaltando la bellezza e la corposità dei brani proposti. Alla Chatterton va poi l’ulteriore merito di aver operato una splendida trascrizione della sonata di Saint-Saëns, che non ha nulla da invidiare all’originale per violino e pianoforte. In conclusione un ottimo esordio, che speriamo sia accompagnato, quanto prima, da un secondo cd, in modo da consentire ai due bravissimi musicisti di offrire al pubblico altri gioielli tratti dal repertorio per flauto e pianoforte.”
(TRANSLATION: We come then to the performers, Linda Chatterton (flute) and Matthew McCright (piano), the duo well established, characterized by an excellent team spirit which gives life to an interpretation of the highest level, enhancing the beauty and fullness of the proposed tracks. Chatterton then goes to the further merit of having made a beautiful transcription of the Sonata by Saint-Saëns, which has nothing to envy to the original for violin and piano. In conclusion an excellent debut, which we hope will be accompanied, as soon as possible, by a second CD, so that the two talented musicians to offer the public other jewelry taken from the repertoire for flute and piano.)
Critica Classica (Italy)
August 11, 2016
“McCright is Excellent…” (French Connections CD/Chatterton-McCright Duo)
Barry Bassis – Epoch times
June 12, 2016
“At the risk of sounding like an Internet meme, one does not simply perform Olivier Messiaen. A performer must take certain risks, and prepare for the very real possibility that the performance may not show the mysteries of the piece. Minnesota-based pianist Matthew McCright, a member of the piano faculty at Carleton College and pianist for the new music group Ensemble 61, has proven to be an intrepid explorer of new music, and knows where to go to find the inner machinery of Messiaen’s works. In his fifth CD release, Contemplations: The Music of Olivier Messiaen (available from Albany Records), McCright tackles six of the Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (Twenty contemplations of the infant Jesus), as well as the eight Préludes from Messiaen’s early output.
The six Regards chosen by McCright work well as a sub-unit of the full collection (which would take nearly two hours). McCright opens the CD with the ten-minute “Regard du Père” (“Contemplation of the Father”). This piece, the first of the Vingt Regards, requires a deft, sustainable touch, and McCright proves equal to the task, never letting the sound overwhelm the listener. This is Messiaen at his most introspective, and McCright lets the music breathe and meditate. McCright does get a chance to show off impressive technique with the sixth track, “Noël” (“Christmas Day”), which depicts the joy of the Nativity and the sounding of bells throughout all Christendom. The pianist has done his homework throughout the Vingt Regards, bringing Messiaen’s many leitmotivs to the listener’s attention without being pedantic.
In the Préludes of 1929, Messiaen is paying tribute to Debussy, but goes beyond Debussy’s vocabulary to lay the foundation for the language and mysticism we find in the later Vingt Regards. The backwards chronological focus of the CD provides a nice contrast to the “this happened then this happened then this happened” path that many performers have taken in the past with recordings of these works. McCright approaches the Préludes in a manner that is both appropriately athletic and musical; this is most obvious in the final section of the third movement, “Le nombre léger” (“A light number”). McCright proves that for Messiaen, “light” need not mean “insubstantial.”
McCright gets Messiaen, and that is no small feat.”
Wes Flinn – Sequenza 21
July 8, 2015
“The piano music can be a mixed bag. Some is soft, Impressionistic, and borderline mystical, as are most of his orchestral scores, and pianist McCright has wisely chosen to open this disc with excerpts from Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus, one of the composer’s most mystical and deeply felt works. Moreover, the pianist sinks himself into the keyboard in such a way that he becomes the music, producing exactly the right softness, bordering on blurred notes, that the score calls for. As the CD progressed and the music became a bit louder and less intimate, I was pleased to hear that McCright did not lose sight or touch of the music, but rather presented it all with great feeling and textual fidelity. These are marvelous performances, although not, in my mind, unique in the sense that they eclipse any of the other fine recordings already available.
Lynn René Bayley – Fanfare Magazine
“Blender (Innova 897; USA) Blender throws together a potent mixture of energetic works by Minnesota-based composer Justin Merritt, performed by athletic pianist Matthew McCright. What emerges is a picture of a composer deeply engaged with the possibilities of the piano, in both traditional and boundary-breaking ways, and a musician deftly handling the diverse demands of that composer’s pieces.
DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY NYC
“The magnetic center of the music and its performance on the album rests with pianist Matthew McCright. He gives dramatic, poetic life to the fair number of piano solo pieces included… The performances, especially those by McCright, are warm, impassioned but also precise and detailed.”
Greg Applegate Edwards – Classical-Modern Music
May 3, 2013
“Lunchtime recital at St. Martin in the Fields, London on Monday 18 March 2013, playing to a considerable audience. Accompanied by pianist Matthew McCright, Chatterton performed an enterprising programme which mixed new and old material… It opened with the Habanera, which Chatterton and McCright gave a nice rhythmic feel to, before wandering off in some dazzling flute playing… Throughout the concert Chatterton displayed lovely tone and a fine sense of line, with technical prowess which was always understated, resulting in some involving and intelligent performances. She was admirably supported by McCright in all the various different styles of music.”
Robert Hugill – Planet Hugill (UK)
March 19, 2013
“Pianist Matthew McCright handled the extended inside-the-instrument challenges effectively…(Crumb: Voice of the Whale).”
Wes FlInn – Sequenza 21
September 22, 2012
“The prospect of two musicians of the calibre of Chatterton (Flute) and McCright (Piano) presenting a programme of rarely heard pieces, as well as a world premiere of a work by Ailís Ní Ríain, would excite any music lover… This recital was one of the best I have attended in a long while. Not only were the performers of the highest calibre of musicianship, but also they brought with them a programme that was new and exciting. Linda Chatterton and Matthew McCright should be touring Britain next year, and I would urge anyone with a love for music to catch them.”
Denis Joe – Manchester Salon (UK)
“McCright, who teaches at Carleton College in Gene Gutchë’s adopted city of Minneapolis, is not just an authority on contemporary music but a formidable player—and this music is very demanding, with its restless evasions of the musically predictable. I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to hear this out-of-the-way music in such captivating performances. And in such a powerfully immediate recording too. Kudos all around!”
Lee Passarella – Audiophile Audition
February 8, 2012
“I have always admired the music of the German-American composer Gene Gutchë who died at ninety-three in 2000. The Fifth Symphony for String Orchestra (Cincinatti SO / Rudolf) is typical of his vigorous use of counterpoint, and the works on this Centaur CD (CRC3150), magnificently interpreted by Matthew McCright, place his piano in a similar category… Mighty Impressive! ”
Bill Newman – Music and Vision
January 3, 2012
“Gutchë’s music was called “refreshing” (New York Times, 1964), “unusually attractive” (St. Paul Pioneer Press), and “highly individual” (Music Courier); vivid music, often imbued with lyricism, romance, and a healthy dose of humor.
This piano selection, well played and recorded by Minnesotan pianist and musicologist Dr Matthew McCright, is a good find, and a worthy first piano recording to bring in the New Year. ”
Peter Grahame Woolf – Musical Pointers
January 2, 2012
“Devotees of new music, of whatever provenance, should keep a close eye on this accomplished, ambitous band. (With Ensemble 61) ”
Larry Fuchsburg – Minneapolis Star Tribune
“How good of Matthew McCright to champion the music of German-born composer Gene Gutchë who learned his craft in Iowa and Minnesota then stayed on in the United States…McCright masterfully controls the increasingly dramatic landscape with dark pedals and a right hand that tries to escape the sombre canvas…Here is a veritable Nachtmusik, beautifully coloured by McCright, complete with tolling bells, glinting stars, mocking dissonance and an overall aura that would not be out of place as the soundtrack for a ’60s detective show. ”
James Wegg Reviews – JWR Web Reviews
November 8, 2011
“McCright’s Second Childhood is meant, overall, to evoke some of the memories of hearing, and playing, piano music while growing up, and I can’t say whether it succeeds at that or not but it is transporting, with music that is sophisticated, sincere and a delight to hear. The pieces, all requested by the pianist speciﬁcally for this recording, have a clear, simple appeal and a musical, intellectual and emotional maturity that they wear lightly. The most prominent style of music is the Rag, with excellent examples from Gregory Hutter – “Evening Air” – John Halle – “Lullaby” – Daniel Nass – “Rag” is the last of three “Dance Preludes” – and Halle’s concluding “Second Childhood.” The Rag is one of the great American musical styles, woven like a secret code through so much of the popular and art music that has come since its formulation in the late 19th century. It reaches deep into the imagination, in a place where we hold our innocent ideals about life, what we see in it and wish from it, and especially how we see our lives as Americans. It’s not dead, but has been keeping a low profile in contemporary times, mainly through the wonderful Rags of William Bolcom. The ones McCright plays are fine, balancing a specific devotion to the form and style with a great deal of quiet, wistful grace, especially in Hutter’s piece, and some well-managed compositional deconstruction with Halle. McCright plays them with an ideal feel for the rhythms and voicings. Nass’ other preludes are witty examples of the “Waltz” and the “Tango.” There are other dances in Laura Caviani’s “Jazz Etudes,” “Blues,” “Tango la Falda” and “Matt’s Boogie,” and these pieces, like Bruce Stark’s &ldbquo;Five Preludes for Piano,” nail the exact balance between style and composition; they capture the qualities of the popular musics while being finely made, free of the sense of slumming that too many composers cannot escape when they try their hand at popular forms. Some of Stark’s material is as good a composed depiction of what Keith Jarrett does as I’ve heard. The most compositionally abstract piece is Kirsten Broberg’s “Constellations,” which takes the idea of a Debussy Prelude and strips it down to it’s almost mechanical essence, the fingers latching onto the most fundamental component and running through it almost to fatigue, but not quite. It’s what a child might do with a single passage within a larger piece, one that they find particular fascination in. A ﬁne recording, perhaps the result is less a depiction of childhood than how we, as adults, look back at what we remember and cherish but can never recreate.”
George Grella – The Big City CD Review
September 27, 2010
“Pianist Matthew McCright’s recital disc on the Innova imprint has been given a cute but apt ‘in house’ descriptor: “Kinderszenen aus Northfield.” Indeed, the Carleton College professor and new music advocate has assembled a disc of new works which simultaneously channel and elevate the “music for childhood/music about childhood” genre… McCright’s detailed and engaging renditions amply demonstrate that pieces for intermediate performers, as well as those for advanced pianists who are channeling memories of childhood, can still make for interesting listening and prove themselves of considerable substance.”
Christian Carey – Sequenza 21 and Chamber Musician Today
September 22, 2010
“The Maverick Pianist, Matthew McCright…”
The New Yorker Magazine concert listings
September 21, 2010
“On his new solo album Second Childhood, Minnesota pianist Matthew McCright (who’s at Merkin Hall on 9/25) plays with nuance, fluidity and counterintuitivity on a diverse and eye-opening collection of new works by midwestern composers. He gives these pieces plenty of breathing room: it’s an album of melody and subtleties rather than overt technical prowess (although McCright has plenty of that). His presence is unobtrusive except when it needs to be more aggressive, and then it is, sometimes when least expected yet very welcome. Bruce Stark’s Five Preludes for Piano opens it: moody echoes of Satie with occasional jarring upper register atonal accents; an austere (one is tempted to say stark) moonlit miniature; a rippling, circular work that straddles calm and apprehension; a not quite heroic theme and a rapidfire passacaglia of sorts. Evening Air, by Gregory Hutter is an insistent nocturne: McCright’s extra-precise articulation and deft sense of dynamics downplay its occasional ragtime flavor. The real gem here is Constellations, by Kirsten Broberg. This delightfully evocative partita artfully introduces icy, nebulously related clusters and after some otherworldly upper-register explorations watches the universe expand and cool down even further. John Halle is represented by two pieces, a ragtime-flavored lullaby and a straight-up rag that cleverly interpolates other, darker styles. Daniel Nass’s Dance Preludes expand, often eerily, on tango, ragtime and a heavily camouflaged waltz. The most playful material here is by Laura Caviani: her jazz etudes include an inventive series of variations on a saloon blues theme; an understatedly intense, chromatically charged tango and a boogie-woogie number, the only one of this vast range of styles that seems to be unfamiliar terrain for McCright. In its own subtle and emotionally attuned way, it’s a real tour de force. It’s out now on Innova.”
Alan Young – Lucid Culture
September 15, 2010
“Watch out Osma, here comes Matthew McCright. A top candidate for “Minnesota n of the Year”, McCright has it all: lives in Minneapolis, teaches at Carleton, and travels the world performing classical and contemporary piano works. On Saturday, September 25th, McCright will take the stage to introduce the east coast (yes, it is the east coast premier) to new piano works from the The Great State.”
Rapahel Golberstein – Minnesota Culture Club
September 15, 2010
“Another solo piece, Paul Dresher’s Blue Diamonds, was played by Matthew McCright on piano. Unfazed by the unceasing flow of notes, McCright performed admirably, with impressive stamina for such a lengthy piece.”
Beeri Moalem – San Francisco Classical Voice
August 14, 2009
“This ensemble, organized by Russell and McCright, delivered that effect with all the compulsion it deserved. McCright also performed the Dresher “Blue Diamonds” piano solo, an extended single-movement work lasting almost one-third of an hour…the Debussy-like touch that McCright brought to this performance…This is a work that deserves more than one listening, and nothing would please me more than opportunities to hear other pianists add this work to their repertoires.”
Stepher Smoliar – San Francisco Classical Examiner
August 15, 2009
“I especially enjoyed the broad range of colors and general sensibility you bring to the music. The CD has a sense of humor, of dance and imagery that gives it life.”
Bruce Stark (Tokyo, Japan)
May 12, 2009
“The performers featured were Jennifer Wilhelms and Matthew McCright, a classical duo who have numerous years under their belts performing together. The evening’s performance from the duo was a surprising range of music going well beyond my expectations in terms of both variety and performance.”
Trent Townsend-Island Sand Paper (Fort Myers)
January 16, 2009
“Its opening weekend saw the YLMF get off to a cracking start. There was nothing here to daunt anyone apprehensive about “modern day music” – the festival’s subtitle – but plenty to set pulses racing.
To judge by Matthew McCright’s piano recital on Saturday and Eleanor Meynell’s lunchtime song-recital yesterday, there are further treats in store this week.
Barely 36 hours off the plane from Minneapolis, McCright was still right on the ball. He warmed up with the shifting patterns of John Adams’s China Gates and the ruminative First Piano Prelude by Garrett Sholdice, newly revised. There was more gripping minimalism from Philip Glass and a dreamily romantic Simone’s Lullaby by Terry Riley. Ailís Ní Ríain contributed Into The Sea Of Waking Dreams – five thoughtful miniatures with brief angry bursts.
But it was six of Steve Crowther’s hugely invigorating Morris Dances that most caught the imagination. Based on the fast, swinging cross-currents of its Enigma theme, and ed by personal friends, it flitted, flirted and flowed, with a brief elegiac interlude.
The stupendous sweep of Frederic Rzewski’s Four North American Ballads filled McCright’s second half. His use of politically-inspired blues provide an entertaining thread. But the blackly remorseless Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues make Bartok’s Allegro Barbaro sound like child’s play. McCright’s energy was always coloured by insight.”
Martin Dreyer- York Late Music Festival/York Press (UK) (YLMF)
National Centre For Early Music
June 5, 2007
“The two main evening concerts, given by Minneapolis-based visiting pianist Matthew McCright, stood out for the focus and clarity of their delivery. His programmes included Frederic Rzewski’s De Profundis, a haunting setting of Oscar Wilde for vocalising, whistling, singing and speaking pianist, and the first performance of Sholdice’s Etude, which, at over 95 minutes, must have gone straight into the record books as the longest piano piece by an Irish composer.
The most notable of the festival’s premieres were both by women, Judith Ring’s electroacoustic Pre_per_form For Beau Stocker sounding like an electronic extravaganza for über percussionist, and Linda Buckley’s Zone (solo piano, McCright), which toyed successfully with a kind of Ligeti-like mechanism.”
Michael Dervan- Irish Times (Dublin)
“Matthew McCright provided a carefully chosen progamme on Saturday which gave us a glimpse of what can be achieved when post-modernism avoids the meaningless temptation to write in one single voice from the past (as if revealing a lost Tchaikovsky score for example)…….However Rzewski’s De Profundis really did work while doing this, carried along by the powerful and faithful interpretation of McCright; this was the best piece of the festival. Invention by Carolyn Yarnell and Zone by Linda Buckley were well crafted, satisfying pieces, fitting into the programme without being post-modern in the same way.”
John McLachlan- New Work Notes, Journal of Music in Ireland,
“The most poetic moment came with the performance of Lucier’s Nothing is Real, in which pianist Matthew McCright recorded the melody lines of “Strawberry Fields Forever” onto a miniature tape machine located inside a teapot. After he was finished playing, McCright opened and closed the teapot as the melody played back. Sounding more like a simulacrum than a faithful reproduction, it seemed to memorialize a by-gone era. The simplicity of construction in Nothing is Real and Lucier’s other pieces reveal and revel in an astonishing level of acoustic enchantment, exploring the sonic possibilities of electronic music performances and the spaces in which they are performed.
Justin Schell, March 2006 Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Art-NEWMUSICBOX Magazine
“The piano soloist was Matthew McCright, a very talented young man who is beginning to make a name for himself. His style is authoritative with a good range of motion …the very rich sound was attained under the talented fingers of the soloist.”
Jerry Stephens, November 2004, Youngstown Vindicator, Youngstown, OH
“The ensemble and musical intelligence were on the highest artistic level.”
Sandra Rivers of the CCM (Cincinnati) performance by the
New Century Piano Duo
“I was deeply impressed by the virtuosity and musicality of his playing.”