The dominant characteristic of Louis Karchin's music is energy. Even in the very infrequent moments of repose there is the obvious desire to be moving, building in the background, waiting for the moment to burst forth and sweep all before. Karchin also possesses a striking melodic style that intrigues the ear even as the music is threatening to rush the listener off his or her metaphorical feet with its vivid and seductive use of instrumental color.
A 21st century musician, taking us into the millennium with a new vision of music. The Washington Square Contemporary Music Society is among the world's most outstanding new-music ensembles.
Karchin's pieces combine the rhythmic drive associated with downtown music with the harmonic and structural rigor of uptown serialism. These pieces are serious as well as fun to listen to. —Steve Hicken, American Record Guide
One of the signal new music events of this year... Over a 17 minute span, the Eastman-trained composer avoids most of the pitfalls of contemporary writing for the voice, as he envelops his setting of three poems within a chamber-orchestra fabric of coruscating beauty.
Brazen and beautiful...
Karchin is nothing if not fearless.
A kind of fearless eloquence in its gestures... Karchin is unafraid of cliches, such as diddledy-diddledy triplet ascents, when they can still serve a purpose, and his harmony moves powerfully. Fred Sherry, for whom the sonata was composed, and Alan Feinberg gave a cogent performance.
Especially impressive in its rhythmic panache, intensity, variety of attack and pacing.
On Monday evening's Earplay concert the final piece emerged as the main attraction. The featured work of note was Louis Karchin's Orpheus, a setting of poet Stanley Kunitz' “In the Dark House”... The music seemed in constant flux, creating strong, richly textured sonorities for strings and woodwinds, lustrous chords for piano, harp, and vibraphone, and artfully-deployed sounds from the percussion, which added fullness and interjected brilliant splashes of color; this Orpheus floated on an incandescent fabric of sound. Conductor Mary Chun led the way with energy and verve, helping to mold an outstanding performance of this original and compelling work.
The suspenseful "Veterans' Cemetery" had an underlying tone of reproach, and a hymn-like chorale haunted the title song. Even in its quietest moments the work had a bare-nerve intensity. Mr. Opalach provided a gripping account.
Fiftieth Birthday Concert
On Tuesday night at Merkin Hall came a chance to hear what Karchin has been achieving lately...which turned out to be quite a lot. Although the composer, in his note, insisted on the difference between vocal and instrumental pieces, the same personality was there in both. Mr. Karchin likes to explore wide harmonic worlds, but with precision and determination.
A success worthy of this accomplished composer...
Waves rippling and shimmering in a sea of sound…rich with intriguing timbres….a riotous explosion of color in the exuberant finale.
At once austere and sumptuous...
“Laura Frautschi, Gray Gorczyca and Robert Schultz had a nice romp with the unique kinds of trills and tremolos this combination invites, not scanting the piece´s firm this-follows-that narrative strengths.”
“Best of Boston 2000”
“Louis Karchin´s economic, nicely paced Rustic Dances showed a folksy, barn dancing-fiddling heart beating beneath its thoroughly contemporary exterior.”
“We must give Lou the highest of compliments; he entirely disappeared. The text was so expertly set that one was totally absorbed in the in the dramatic presentation and poem, and the music was so integrated with this that it became only heard by the subconscious….”
Karchin´s settings of the poetry of Keats are his most recent displays of a striking conception of text setting… The poetry interacts with musical material in an unprecedented fusion. —Citation to the composer from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1985.
“Beautiful indeed, with particularly fine integration of the flowing vocal line with the instruments.”
“Using piano registers both above and below the sax, and sometimes doubling pitches in the same register, Karchin carefully makes a music that fuses the two instruments in a new sound color, no mean feat.”
“Already reveals a deft sense of timing and economy of gesture…Clear textures that project a strong harmonic profile."