“Sounding Beckett” is directed by Joy Zinoman, the founding artistic director of the Studio Theater in Washington (she stepped down in 2010), who chose the plays and has staged them with a glamorous starkness and a clear respect for the works’ purity. They alternate with original musical compositions that they inspired, performed live and with a haunting intensity by the Cygnus Ensemble.
– By ANITA GATES, New York Times, Published: September 19, 2012 Link
Charles T. Downey, in the Washington Post, February 5, 2012, writes about the Cygnus performance of Harold Meltzer's Brion, at the Library of Congress on February 3: "The Cygnus Ensemble, which made the first recording of the work (for Naxos), performed this rewarding music expertly, with James Baker’s clear conducting as rhythmic guide."
"The Cygnus Ensemble has long distinguished itself as one of New York's finest new-music ensembles (and has brought about a remarkable amount of excellent music for its unusual configuration).".....
– Carson Cooman, Fanfare Magazine, January, 2011
NY Times Holiday 2010 Gift Guide:
MELTZER: ‘BRION,’ OTHER WORKS Cygnus Ensemble, conducted by James Baker; other performers (Naxos 8.559660; CD); $8.99. The American composer Harold Meltzer’s “Brion,” a runner-up for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in music, is a haunting, quirky and continually inventive chamber work for a small ensemble including guitar and mandolin. It receives an elegant, colorful performance on a splendid recording of four fascinating chamber and vocal works by Mr. Meltzer.
– ANTHONY TOMMASINI, NY Times, November 26, 2010
"Cygnus Ensemble — an excellent sextet featuring flute, oboe, violin, cello and two guitars (one player doubling on mandolin, banjo and theorbo)"
– Steve Smith, the New York Times, April 6, 2010
"--virtuosos in their own right, and together produce chamber music proper...close observance of each other's actions...a very tight performance."
– Fanfare Magazine--May/June 2009
"confident and eloquent" Performance--5 Stars
– BBC Music, March, 2004
"electrifying" (the Cygnus guitarists, with Scott Kuney)
– Allan Kozinn, The New York Times
"This enterprising and supple group--featuring guitars, strings and woodwinds in pairs--presents a light, lively evening of music from contemporary American composers, with offshoots into the European past."
– Paul Griffiths, The New York Times
"The Cygnus Ensemble shows why they are considered among the best of the new music groups. On this CD, they bring a highly unusual instrumentation and masterful ensemble playing to bear on a program of diverse works."
"....my favorite chamber disc this month is the debut CD by the Cygnus Ensemble, a group comprised of flute, oboe, violin, cello and two guitars - a really exciting new variation on the overused Pierrot ensemble. (It's great hearing how composers as diverse as Anthony Braxton and Sebastian Currier handle the assignment.)"
– Frank J. Oteri, Newmusicbox
"The Cygnus Ensemble is structured rather like an Elizabethan consort, with its strings (violin, cello, 2 guitars) and winds (flute, oboe). But though they may derive inspiration from a distant era, Cygnus dedicates itself to contemporary music, bringing along the clarity and directness of the ancient "broken consort." John Halle's 'Spooks' is a charmingly harrowing journey through an unpredictable landscape that draws upon jazz and pop music as well as serialism and minimalism. David Lang's 'Frag' is Reich-like minimalism as it might have been performed by a traveling ensemble during Shakespeare's time. Anthony Braxton is a saxophonist and composer who works both sides of the street-that is, in both improvised and composed forms, inspired by Stockhausen as much as Charlie Parker. His Composition No. 186 is baroque, minimalist and rhythmic in the African and Indian traditions all at once. For the serial fans, there's a spare, poignant suite of songs by Charles Wuorinen. The Cygnus Ensemble balances novel aplomb with a warm, inviting precision, lending cohesion and affability to this set of contemporary works."
– Tower Records
"Necessity is the mother of [invention], for both composers and performers of this age. If a group of talented musicians who love new music wish to perform together, but their instrumentation does not fit traditional ensemble templates, do they give up? Certainly not, as the musicians of the Cygnus Ensemble prove. Their instrumentation is unusual, but their blend of flute, oboe, violin, cello and two guitars does have precedent in the "broken consort" of Elizabethan times, with its blend of recorders, viols and lutes (and in fact, the ensemble is not so far from that of much chamber music, as soon as one realizes the two guitars can fulfill the textural role usually taken by a piano). Further, these players know that if they announce their availability, composers will come. In fact, composers relish the chance to create new repertoire as much as performers, since their work may come to define a sound other will want to exploit. And Cygnus's sound is infectious - light and clear, capable of both delicacy and drive, timbrally rich, transparent yet able to accomodate whatever degree complexity one might desire."
"excellent concert” -
– Paul Griffiths, January, 1998, The New York Times
“The mindful voice of Ives, of Stravinsky and of Mr. Wuorinen’s music would not seem to be implied much by such a song as “Night and Day,” but Mr. Anderson’s extraordinary arrangements of this and other numbers by Jerome Kern and Richard Rogers set them squarely and astonishingly in the same tradition...”
– Paul Griffiths, The New York Times
CYGNUS ENSEMBLE. This enterprising and supple group -- featuring guitars, strings and woodwinds in pairs -- presents a light, lively evening of music from contemporary American composers, with offshoots into the European past. Among the American works are Elliott Carter's ''Enchanted Preludes,'' Sebastian Currier's ''Broken Consort'' and pieces by David Claman, Chester Biscardi and Robert Pollock. Music by the Renaissance master Josquin and dances by his Scottish contemporaries (as adapted by Peter Maxwell Davies) complete the program.
Paul Griffiths, in the NY Times, talking about the Stephan Wolpe festival: " ...concerts involve leading ensembles (Cygnus, Continuum, Da Capo, Parnassus)...."
“intelligent birds of a feather”
Piera Paine, Summer 1998, The New Music Connoisseur
– Bernard Holland, The New York Times
"The performances were on a very high level, and it is impossible to single out any one player. I thought that all the pieces were presented in ways that showed them at their best. Not only were all technical difficulties overcome, but the character of each piece was conveyed effectively. If Mr. Anderson’s aim was to show how the guitar can play a significant role in chamber music, he certainly succeeded.”
– Leo Kraft, Summer 1998, The New Music Connoisseur
“As is typical in a concert where all the music is unfamiliar, surprises of all kinds occurred. One of the most pleasant was to discover the Cygnus Ensemble is a group of first-rate musicians. Each played with a degree of precision and fervor one rarely hears.”
– Asbury Park Press, 1994
“These players seem to feel as comfortable playing this music, despite its complexity, as may guitarists are playing the music of Sor or Giuliani.”...... “Cygnus continues to give captivating performances of twentieth century music featuring some of today’s outstanding young musicians.”
– Guitar Review, Fall, 1991
“here performed ever so elegantly by the players for whom it was written.”
– Fanfare, May/June 1991
"Anderson and Fader are expert chamber musicians with a perfect sense of timing, virtuosity, and a sensitivity to nuance. O’Connor and Whitfield have supple tones capable of warm lyricism or powerful bite. All the musicians phrase beautifully and have a keen awareness of their musical roles. The ensemble is together in both music and spirit, giving a sense of spontaneity even when the music is complex or quick-changing."
– Guitar Review, Spring 1991
"Their playing shaped sonic wave motion and used microtones in textures of uncommon beauty."
– The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 11, 1990
"Mr. Babbitt’s piece Soli e Duettini is a striking addition to the repertoire...His melodies leap freely around the fretboard, and his rhythms are complex and perilous. Yet Mr. Anderson and Mr. Fader played the work from memory and gave an impressive account of it."
– The New York Times, April 2, 1991
"...an ensemble of superior performers"
– Newark Star-Ledger, March 5, 1991
"....a superb performance."
– The Boston Phoenix, February 22, 1991