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Reviews

 

OPERAS

American Tropical
Firebird Motel
The Gift of the Magi
The Dreamers

FILM SCORES

Ballets Russes

ORCHESTRA

Of A Summer Evening
A Copland Portrait

ORGAN

Pastorale and Toccata
Soliloquy

CHORUS

Advent
Ave Maria
Cantate Domino
Canticle (from Three Sacred Pieces)
Charm Me Asleep
Christmas Intrada
Crossing the Bar
Elegy for Matthew
Eos
Good-bye, My Fancy
The Homecoming
Hymn to the Nativity
In Praise of Music
Invocation and Dance
Irish Blessing
The Milky Way
Nunc Dimittis
O Magnum Mysterium
O Sun
Requiem Triptych
The Snow Lay On The Ground

SONG

Sexton Songs
Three Poems of Christina Rossetti

 

OPERAS

America Tropical

"... an ingenious tale dealing with the tumultuous founding of Los Angeles, using a mural painted by David Alfaro Siquieros in the 1930s as its take-off point... with its emotionally gripping music, timely story and clever, often surprising, staging, it certainly merits a second run."
- Cheryl North, Oakland Tribune

"..ambitious opera premiere connects L. A.'s divided past to a hopeful future...an often compelling folk opera meditation on race, class, and other social divisions...engaging and intriguing..."
- Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle

"Conte (whose beautiful, ghostly desert opera Firebird Motel was commissioned and produced by Thick Description) has fashioned a score featuring serrated melody lines and lush choral harmonies to augment the work's three centuries, succinctly blended in Mayer's libretto. The music moves determinedly forward through alternately agitated, wistful, angelic, and angry passages..."
- Robert Avila, The San Francisco Bay Area Guardian

"Conte's score, with its hints of George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, and the chamber music of Dmitri Shostakovich, is as colorful as anything painted by Siqueiros. The composer's use of glittering flute scales... (enthralls) the listener with its beauty..."
- Chloe Veltman, San Francisco Weekly

Firebird Motel

 

"Conte's sound world is spicy and pungent, ensconced in a restless but firm tonality....'Hear the Wind Tonight' is an oustanding showpiece song - a bona fide hit tune that stayed in my head for days...the final scene is gratifyingly chilling and eerie." - Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News

"'...Firebird Motel' weaves a hypnotic spell...Plaintive solos alternate with vibrant duets and lustrous trios, punctuated by Conte's lovely chorales, in an almost seamless creation...Librettist David Yezzi has written some richly evocative lyrics....Conte's 'Firebird' takes flight on the wings of its music."
- Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle

"Conte's music is mesmerizing ... an arresting balance between the squalid and the sublime'
- Chloe Veltman, San Francisco Weekly

"Moments of extraordinary beauty ... an intimate, even moving one-act accompanied by lush, appealing music..."
- Chad Jones, Oakland Tribune

"Conte's real strength lies in the ruminating orchestration that fills the space between the dialogue. He demonstrates a knack for convincingly avoiding cadences and prolonging musical phrases, which mightily sustains the tension of the melodrama..."
- Ben Finane - Classics Today Online Guide

"{Conte’s} short opera is clearly the work of an experienced writer for the stage. It is terse dramatically, and because of that makes its impact with maximum effect…The opera is constructed along the lines of a number opera…Conte knows how to use this structure to work towards a climax…this is definitely well worth hearing."
- Colin Clark, Fanfare Magazine

"Mr. Conte pays great attention to melodic vocal writing …Mr. Yezzi’s libretto provides sufficient interest and detail… Firebird Motel is a solidly constructed one-act opera that singers should enjoy singing and audiences should enjoy hearing."
- Jay Batzner, Sequenza21

The Gift of the Magi

"David Conte and his librettist, Nicholas Giardini, have turned (The Gift of the Magi) into a lovely little chamber opera that should give organizations an alternative to Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. Conte's music is very tonal and melodic...his word setting is really quite wonderful."
- John Story, Fanfare Magazine

"The music is well orchestrated, vocally sympathetic, and pleasant to listen to...The level of musical dramatization...becomes simultaneously delicate and intense, and free of cliché..."
- Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News

"Menotti's 'Amahl and the Night Visitors' may now have a companion...Conte has lavished music of grand romantic feelings upon the proceedings, providing this simple tale with a lush spectacle of extravagant lyricism...(with) soaring duets and arias of Puccinian exuberance...Aided by the clarity of {Nicolas} Giardini's articulate libretto, Conte exercised particular skill in integrating specific events, acts, and even the characters' gestures into his orchestation...the work is framed by striking a cappella ensemble numbers, sung off-stage and evoking the guiding spirit of the three Magi."
- Ching Chang, San Francisco Classical Voice

"(A) touching one act opera...a most valuable addition to the repertoire."
- New Classics Online (UK)

The Dreamers

"The Dreamers...left audiences cheering at each of seven sold-out performances... Sonoma Opera's faith in first-time opera composer Conte was fully justified...he has written much vocal and choral music, and his expertise is relected in The Dreamers ' most powerful, soaring moments, especially in the second half of the two-hour opus."
- Byron Belt, Opera News

"Conte uses the ballast of a staged sing-along of "Old Kentucky Home" to leap to the singular loveliness of each principal player declaring his or her hopes and regrets in small signature vignettes that layer and build upon each other until it is almost unbearably beautiful. The opening night audience responded to this number not only with bravos and bravas, but with the sort of calls ordinarily reserved for the lust of a rock concert."
- Gretchen Giles, The Sonoma County Independent

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FILM SCORES

Ballets Russes

"...beautifully and sensitively underscores the documentary, giving much breathing space to individual instruments within the orchestra, with the emphasis on woodwinds, strings, French Horn, harp and piano. There is an overall sense of genteel nostalgia, with just an occasional more propulsive moment like in Into the Fray and On the Train. The album's final track Where Are They Now? with its soaring ending, leaves one with a positively warm glow."
-  Jeff Hall, SCREEN SOUNDS

"a subtly effective original score by Todd Boekelheide and David Conte enhance a generally pro tech package..."
- Scott Foundas, Variety

"Since most of the footage lacks sound, it's up to composers David Conte and Todd Boekelheide to create a score that interweaves original and adopted music - they do so seamlessly."
- Rita Felciano, The San Francisco Bay Area Guardian

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ORCHESTRA

Of A Summer Evening

"Of A Summer Evening, a diverting two-part tone poem for double orchestra, emerged a tuneful, evocative, deftly scored work. The harmonies are clear, the melodies are downright luscious."
- Allan Ulrich, The San Francisco Examiner

A Copland Portrait

"This short overture-like composition...is filled with syncopation, vibrant  themes, and just enough dissonance...The composer was present to  receive the prolonged applause for this fine addition to orchestral literature..."
- Andrew Flanigan, The Kettering-Oakwood Times, Dayton, OH

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ORGAN

Pastorale and Toccata

"The Pastorale and Toccata is a skillfully crafted piece that shapes modal melodies, post-Hindemithian harmonies and asymmetrical rhythms into a fresh statement idiomatically written for the organ."
- Wilma Salisbury, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"David Conte's Pastorale and Toccata is a gently polytonal, whimsical showpiece somewhat reminiscent of the grand French organ school - but definitely American in style."
- Wayne Lee Gay, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"The Pastorale and Toccata exploits to the full the resources of the organ with the flowing line of color in the first movement giving way to a brilliant paean in the second."
- William Duncan, Bermuda Times

Soliloquy

"David Conte's Soliloquy...sings in warm-hearted lines."
- Donald Rosenberg, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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CHORUS

Advent (for SATB and Organ)

“Using a text by Christina Rossetti, Conte has created a sophisticated and moderately difficult musical setting. The organ part has a soloistic character ...The slow, mysterious opening is a fanfare that seems to announce the entrance of the contrasting and chant-like choir. This is a work that...will reward singers and congregation with an effective musical anthem. Highly recommended to accomplished singers and organist.”    
- James McCray, The Diapason, October, 2014

“An unusual and powerful text by Christina Rossetti receives an evocative, mystical response from David Conte in this excellent mini-tone poem. A fluttering quasi-birdsong motif in the organ chatters throughout the piece, as the choral enunciation of the text grows from recitative to stately, emphatic lines in six-part harmony. Holy Innocents’ Church in Atlanta commissioned this piece to honor David Brensinger’s years of service, and the honoree provides useful registration specifications in the score. A large organ with plenty of solo voices (including a tuba that crowns the closing phrase) will do much to make the piece come alive, yet the music is so compelling that it is easy to imagine it on instruments of limited resources. Similarly, choirs need not be extremely large, but the singers will need plenty of confidence to negotiate the active harmonic landscape. Though of modest duration (the score approximates it at three minutes), the wealth of compositional detail would allow this anthem to serve as the centerpiece of any Advent service or concert program.”
- Jason Overall, The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians.


Ave Maria

"In David Conte's setting of Ave Maria ...high art is achieved by deceptively simple means...maintains the high standards his previous choral works have demonstrated."
- Richard Bloesch, The Choral Journal


Cantate Domino


"I hope that I may never be accused of insularity, but our own English choral repertoire is so very good that it is seldom that one feels able to suggest any new work from the other side of the Atlantic as being worthy of consideration by our own church and cathedral choirs. David Conte's anthem Cantate Domino is a notable exception however. His skill as a choral writer is established in the very first bar and there are many deft and felicitous touches throughout the work...Its texture and splendid use of antiphony would suggest it as particularly suitable for use in the major parish churches and cathedrals on a festive occasion."
- Musical Opinion (London)

"Cantate Domino for double chorus is modeled upon the polychoral style of San Marco in Venice at the end of the 16th century...Conte's antiphonal setting of this popular text lasts about four and one-half minutes, utilizes two equally disposed choruses, and would make an ideal selection for combined choirs at a state or regional festival. Cantate Domino is an extremely well-written work suitable for both liturgical and concert use."
- Stephanie Henry, The Choral Journal


Canticle (from Three Sacred Pieces)

"David Conte's Canticle is an exciting work, filled with both dramatic and sensitive sections...The writing is forceful and commanding, using a tonal, yet adventuresome harmonic vocabulary, and it conveys an effective sense of rhythmic vitality and climax...This five-minute piece is a superbly crafted and highly effective work that should be sought out by conductors..."
- Jerry Blackstone, The Choral Journal


Charm Me Asleep

"Other discoveries include David Conte's feverish 'Charm Me Asleep', a splendid setting of Elizabethan poet Robert Herrick's restless verse."
- Primarily A Cappella


Christmas Intrada

"This is a big Christmas extravaganza...a stunning closing for a Christmas concert. It would sound great with just the spectacular organ accompaniment."
-Rollin Smith, The American Organist


Crossing the Bar

"David Conte provided a lovely piece for a Cornell Glee Club commission, 'Crossing the Bar'. An insightful setting of Tennyson’s poem, it has a shapely profile that turns on a harmonic sequence recurring near the end, like a rhyme."
-Robert Commanday
, San Francisco Classical Voice


Elegy for Matthew


"...Deep regret over the martyred dead in Lincoln’s time echoed in a soldier’s letter to his family and in a eulogy for a murdered youth. David Conte, according to Lisa Graham’s excellent notes, was so profoundly moved by the murder of Matthew Shepard that he asked his friend John Stirling Walker for an elegy. The poem, apparently written in half an hour, is abstract of imagery, invoking martyrs and angels rather than an individual victim. Conte’sElegy for Matthew, from 1999, is in a generous musical language that could have come from the ’40s or ’50s, and thus was a very good fit for this program. The players and singers effectively shaped the emotional phrases into a real monument to Shepard. Solo clarinet and horns conveyed an almost Brahmsian pathos. Deep reflection gave way to a Dies irae anger only briefly, in the lines “To hell-bent fury on a prairie cold / To hatred’s dark malignant blows,” the only words to paint an image of the horrifying episode, before subsiding into Faure Requiem-like consolation."
- Lee Eiseman,
The Boston Musical Intelligencer

"...a direct and touching ten minute choral work...its appeal was immediate; its burning emotion all the more powerful for its restraint, articulated by its haunting orchestral colour...for me this was a classic in the making."
- Lewis Forman, Seen and Heard/Music on the Web (UK)


Eos


"Conte...clearly knows what he's about in writing music for amateur chorus...'Eos' shows off the voices to best advantage...its speaks in a musical idiom that is immediately accessble...and it knows how to wring the emotions in an old-fashioned, inspirational way."
- Ellen Pfeifer, Boston Globe

"Eos is a score of unfailing interest. Both music and text successfully meld in a manner that many a composer would prove wise to study."
- Jason Serinus, Bay Area Reporter


Good-bye, My Fancy


"The program included a beautifully harmonized setting of Walt Whitman's Good-bye My Fancy! by David Conte."
- Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

Good-bye My Fancy! is an opulently voiced, very communicative work... Conte is a fresh and positive voice in contemporary American music."
- Bill Zakariasen, The New York Daily News


The Homecoming

Conte’s work, a Chanticleer commission, sets an impassioned and thought-provoking poem by John Stirling Walker, in which a soul expresses anger and frustration that the justice King called for has yet to come to pass. Both poem and music have so much going for them that the work demands repeated hearings.
- Jason Serinus, San Francisco Classical Voice


Hymn to the Nativity

"Hymn to the Nativity ...is truly celestial in its thematic material and in its voicing for singers and instrumentalists. For these ears, nothing more beautiful has been written for the Christmas season in recent years."
- Bill Zakariasen, The New York Daily News


In Praise of Music


"David Conte's In Praise of Music for women's voices, also had its first local hearing. The hushed fragmentary exaltation of the ending and the rapturous sweep of the work's main portions were caught by the singers..."
- John Henken, Los Angeles Times

David Conte's important and impressive In Praise of Music belongs in the repertoires of every choral society..."
- Norman Lombino, Peninsula Times Tribune (Palo Alto)


Invocation and Dance


"... a sparkling hymn to life." -
- Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

"Conte's appeal is direct and invigorating, and the reassurance of the writing is pleasurable...the jazzy, joyous Dance is undeniably thrilling, and the performers repaid Conte's effort with the kind of unabashed enthusiasm composers dream of."
- Philip Campbell, Bay Area Reporter


Irish Blessing

"Conte's choral writing is masterful, and harmony delicious, and the scale of the piece quite manageable...people might love it so much they'll want to include it every week after the final blessing...
- Alan Lewis, Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians


The Milky Way

"The Milky Way (from The Dreamers), by David Conte, English text, ECS, 5966, SA & piano. This is a beautiful piece that will build on a younger choir's headtone while singing music by one of America's most prominent choral and opera composers. Taken from Conte's "The Dreamers" set to a libretto by Philip Littell, this charming piece is filled with effective harmonies on skillful text versification. It is an excellent choice for building a younger choir's partsinging technique. This choral interlude had its world premiere on July 27th, 1996, at the Sabastiani Theater by the Sonoma City Opera. The piece is ideal for the middle school chorus. Difficulty rating 3."
- Marie Stultz, Choral Room, 2005


Nunc Dimittis


"This gentle and prayerful work uses the text from the Canticle of Simeon. Its shape rises to a wonderfully majestic climax and ends softly."
- James Callahan, Pastoral Music


O Magnum Mysterium

"Filled with hauntingly beautiful harmonies, this fabulous setting of the Matins for Christmas Eve is a significant contribution to both the church and concert repertoire. Conte has always been able to capture the text in surprising and unusual ways ...Filled with shifting harmonies of great beauty, the work begins quietly on homophonic chords of dark but glimmering beauty and as the work expands, the voice parts break out into beautiful counterpoint on large phrase shapes. The closing "alleluias" are a real challenge but very powerful... This is another beautiful composition from this leading American composer. "
- Marie Stultz, Choral Newsletter


This is one of those works that captures the awesomeness of the words...There is a brilliant cascade of "Alleluias" at the end."
- Rollin Smith, The American Organist


O Sun


"...commissioned by Saint Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in New York City in memory of those who perished on September 11th...it is a complicated and thoughtful work, and a poignant reconciliatory response to the inexplicable events of that day...this piece is well worth the challenges presented. It is exquisitely written."
- R. Daniel Hughes, Jr., Choral Journal

"David Conte’s moving O, Sun is an elegy for those who perished in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Its harmonies mirrored the simple yet powerful text by John Stirling Walker in ways that can’t be described in mere words. Music concerned with events of our own time either work or they don’t. In Cappella’s performance, O, Sun did succeed, and its final cadence summoned a warmth where, in the poet’s words, 'grief becomes our grace.'"
- Jerry Kuderna, San Francisco Classical Voice

Requiem Triptych

"Requiem Triptych was the longest work on San Francisco's Chanticleer program and the most impressive... The In Paradisum section pits high against low effectively in the chorus and has some surpassingly beautiful writing for the piano."
- William Glackin, Sacramento Bee

"Outstanding in the set was a Requiem by David Conte..."
- Eastern Daily Press, King's Lynn, England


The Snow Lay On The Ground

"Many of us know the lovely Sowerby setting, and now it is great to have another one.  David Conte keeps the 6/8 rhythm but has created a new melody that has a lilt and grace that makes it most attractive. There are also arrangements for SSAA and TTBB."
- Philip Brunelle, The American Organist

"In this elegant choral setting...the melodic harmonic materials feature modal inflections against a rich accompaniment for harp and keyboard."
- Pastorale Musician, October 2008

"This is such a lovely Christmas piece that the composer has made it available for both SSAA and TTBB voicings.  With the ravising accompaniment of organ and harp, any combination of voices would sound fine.  Conte has composed a new melody for the 19th-century text, and it holds up very well next to the traditional version...investigate this winner."
- The American Organist, March 2008


Ubi Caritas

"Conte's setting inhabits a harmonic world that is lush without being in the least 'Duruflé-esque'...The well-wrought lines allow the music to slip between remote key-areas with seeming ease...a nicely subtle rounding of the form."
- Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians

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SONG

Sexton Songs

"A masterful set of songs with an equally masterful actress-interpreter brought San Francisco composer David Conte to the foreground with an eloquent world premiere...Conte is part of an elite gang of distinguished California vocal composers...The five "Sexton Songs" draw on the incisive, straight-to-the-gut poetry of Anne Sexton...Conte transferred this into marvelous dramatic vehicle...his musical line allowed for high intelligibility.  It's an adaptable cycle that most mezzos could also render."
-Paul Hertelendy, artssf.com

Three Poems of Christina Rossetti

"David Conte has captured the mystical essence of each of these poems in his music while providing an eminently singable vocal line...taken together...they would be a beautiful group for various venues."
-Judith Carman, NATS Journal of Singing

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