Reviews: Recordings

Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi:

““…Judith Shatin’s music has been well received in the pages of this magazine, including by myself. I have commented on her strong ability to create a narrative pulse in her work, calling her a natural story teller. That quality is much in evidence in this large and compelling composition. Chai Variations takes its main theme from Jewish liturgical music (and its name from the Hebrew word for life). The brooding theme is followed by 18 variations, with such titles as “Yearning” and “Pensive,” reflecting differing aspects of the human condition, before settling back to the original theme.” –Peter Burwasser, Fanfare

“…The most substantial work featured on the disc is Chai Variations, a 20-movement, 21-minute tour de force for solo piano by Judith Shatin that was inspired by the Jewish folksong “Eliahu HaNavi.” Chai, the 18th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is often used to represent the number 18 as well as life, hence Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and this set of 18 brief variations with a theme at the beginning and a recapitulation of the theme at the very end. Ernst shows a particular affinity for this music, having previously recorded a whole disc of Shatin’s music with violinist Hasse Borup which included the formidable solo piano piece Widdershins….”–Frank J. Oteri, New Music Box

“….a shapely,convincing set.” –Steve Hickman, CD Reviews

“…Pieces by Brooklyn native Jennifer Higdon, flutist Katherine Hoover, and China’s Jing Jing Luo serve as appetizers to the disc’s centerpiece — University of Virginia professor Judith Shatin’s 20-movement tour-de-force “Chai Variations”….”
The Palm Beach Post

“…incredibly imaginative creations….”
–Terapija ( (translated from the Croatian)

“From Fanny Mendelssohn to Judith Shatin (b. 1949) was a chronological leap forward although her Chai Variations on “Eliahu Ha Navi” or 18 variations on the folk song with reference to Elijah alludes directly in the past to the Sabbath. In the program notes Shatin refers to the 18 variations being set in random order by the performer with the proviso that the “Eliahu” folk melody opens and closes the work. Despite its “jagged” modernism, the work oddly enough seemed as much an homage to Beethoven’s 33 Diabelli Variations where rapid intensity and slow self-contemplation interplay to awesome effect. López gave a fine interpretation using the simple and traditional melody as bookends while respecting the interplay of quirky rhythms and sudden lifts, fortissimo chords, double trills (lovely bell-like resonance), adept pedaling, and crescendo phrase endings.”Coral Gables Gazette

Cherry Blossom and a Wrapped Thing:

“…a new virtual landscape, completely natural and alive with a quiet serenity so powerful one can almost  smell the cherry blossoms…”
– The Clarinet Review 

“The quietude and spaciousness of Judith Shatin’s Cherry Blossom and a Wrapped Thing are wonderful things. Cherry Blossom has rich and sumptuous electronics that envelope the clarinet in a blissful and dreamy sonic fabric.” – Sequenza 21 


“Judith Shatin has a strong musical personality, an assurance made firmer by this CD; it’s a major release.” – New Music Connoisseur

“There is an earthy, even primeval energy in such pieces as Stringing the Bow and The Passion of St. Cecilia that breaks from the shackles of formality. This music has both a savage roar and, as appropriate, a gentle purr…She seems to be at heart a storyteller.” – Fanfare, Read More.

Dreamtigers is like a conversation with someone smarter than you, on a subject about which you know little — but instead of making you feel dumb, it sparks your curiosity and your intellect.” – Splendidezine

“…these are far from simplistic pieces; even the lilting Gazebo Music, which tries its best to be a lighthearted affair, turns into a crashingly contrarian beast. More excellent work from one of America’s most underrated composers.” – The Orlando Weekly

“Two new CD’s of music by Judith Shatin…offer convincing proof that she is a leading figure among composers in this country….Her mastery of colorful and imaginative instrumentation and subtle compositional technique are evident.” – C-ville Review

Hearing the Call and Fantasia sobre el Flamenco:

““….Judith Shatin’s two-minute Hearing the Call – smartly, crisply scored for two trumpets and two snare drums – is the eponymous work for this collection, and is the perfect ceremonial attention-getter. She follows this work up with Fantasìa sobre el Flamenco for two trumpets, two trombones, and tuba (1998), a clash of bright and dark melodies borne by regimented and free-flowing rhythms….

What performances! The brass players of St. Mary’s Brass are culled from St. Mary’s faculty members and Maryland/New Jersey/New York area musicians, who are all profiled individually in notes in the back of the program booklet. Brass enthusiasts everywhere: This is grand stuff, with sound and invention” – Stephen Ellis, FANFARE

Ignoto Numine:

“[Ignoto Numine]…The direction is from simplicity to complexity, clarity to mysticism . Tension builds to a final coda where instruments can no longer contain it, and the players are forced to join in vocally. This is another intriguing piece, in another very personal idiom.”   – Fanfare

“The other recent piece here is Ignoto Numine, a fine 15-minute work by the intriguing Judith Shatin. The profusion of musical ideas is both engaging and splendidly controlled… San Francisco Chronicle

Narcissus and Kairos: Music for Flute

“[Gabriel’s Wing] is an intense, dramatic piece primarily for solo flute” – ARG,  Read More

“…The works by Shatin are more challenging technically, but are worth the extra effort for their unusual and attractive atmospheres. Gabriel’s Wing won the National Flute Association’s Published Music Competition in 1992. …Judith Shatin (b.1949) is an American composer and flautist. familiar with the possibilities of the instrument in both traditional and extended techniques. She is known equally for her dramatic acoustic compositions and for her imaginative use of computer-generated sound.”

“…Judith Shatin’s Gabriel’s Wing, for flute and piano (1989), likewise conveys in its nine minutes a well-crafted sense of ecstatic climax. Fasting Heart, for solo flute (1987), its title taken from a Taoist discipline, follows a similarly programmatic path in attempting to express “listen[ing] with the breath.” And meditatively this charmer does play, embellished along the way by simultaneous vocalizing.”

“Fasting Heart (1987) for solo flute. This piece begins with a haunting use of singing into the flute reminiscent of Crumb’s Voice of the Whale. The contemplative music which follows is interrupted by much more active, even violent, music. Shatin sees a connection between these in creating music. ‘A process in which there is a linking of inward journey and outward manifestation.

Kairos (1991) for flute, computer and effects processing. The relationship of the flute and its player’s singing voice to the electronic medium is unique to this work. Several extended techniques are used by the live performer, but even more exotic transformations are achieved by the manipulation of all the sound material by a computer via MIDI and by a voice processor, Quadraverb. This sets the music off on a Ulysses-like journey containing all the challenges and dream-sequences a true adventure should have.”

– Kate Lukas, Pan (The Journal of the British Flute Society)

Kairos, for flute, computer and effects processing (1991), at 15:50 differs from Musgrave’s Narcissus by eight seconds. I would love to draw further parallels but cannot. Shatin’s electronic effects conspire by and large in the creation of a preternatural space for the flute’s sentimental journey. We again at moments hear Spencer’s voice, albeit much processed. (The notes go into good technical detail.)  ‘Kairos’ is a Greek word signifying the most propitious moment for a new undertaking, as in Ulysses setting out on his journey. [This] suggested [to me] a compositional journey on several levels: an adventure into a new medium, a shaping of the musical sojourn, and a particular relationship between the flute and the electronic aether.

Much of this program makes difficult demands, and I hear no tentativity, reach, or strain; a strong sense, rather, of Patricia Spencer’s skillful empathy. If it’s a rapturous mood you’re after. this well produced Neuma provides it in high-quality abundance.”
– Mike Silverton, American Record Guide

Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin:

“…Judith Shatin’s childlike round “Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin” … sweetly echoes the spinning of the Hanukkah dreidel.” – Michael Barnes, Austin American-Statesman

Ockeghem Variations:

“ “…Judith Shatin… writes in the most advanced style among these five works (using, for example, a prepared piano), but her writing is accessible and sustains interest throughout. Her Ockeghem Variations is not really in variation form at all, but includes five self-contained movements titled “Lustrous,” “Ringing,” “Electric,” “Floating,” and “Resounding.” The work is based on the Kyrie from Ockeghem’s Missa Prolationum, but I suspect that few purchasers of this disc will have that tune firmly implanted in their minds. This is the most distinctive work on the CD, and is an excellent choice to close the recital, as Shatin’s imaginative music will resonate in my mind for some time. I have no doubt that I will be coming back to it and the other works on this CD repeatedly, not only for the quality of the music, but for the outstanding performances that these pieces receive at the hands of the Hexagon Ensemble. Highly recommended for any lovers of adventurous tonal music.” – David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare 

Piping the Earth:

“Two new CD’s of music by Judith Shatin…offer convincing proof that she is a leading figure among composers in this country….Her mastery of colorful and imaginative instrumentation and subtle compositional technique are evident.” – C-ville Review

“The evening’s high point came midway through the second half, with the premiere of Judith Shatin’s exuberant and captivating Piping the Earth. Vividly orchestrated and bursting with imaginative detail, the piece grabs a listener’s attention right from the opening moment…the score is exactly proportioned but still left a listener eager for more. – San Francisco Chronicle

“The musical firestorm of Piping the Earth, a new one-movement work by Judith Shatin, dazzles with its array of active sound surfaces an shapes.” – San Francisco Examiner

“It hardly prepared one for the musical firestorm of Piping the Earth, a new, one-movement work by Judith Shatin. Apparently conceived as an investigation of the way sound changes in space, the finished work does propose an active and ever-changing soundscape over a constant (if hardly static) harmonic base. It also enthralls. There’s no sense of detached solipsistic, intellectual enterprise in this work, which dazzles with its array of active sound surfaces and shapes…The performance was breathtaking.” – San Francisco Herald

“[Stringing the Bow] is a marvelously inventive piece, informed with a fine sense of musical logic and a precise knowledge of the special qualities of string instruments and what makes them sound good in ensemble.  The music showed a composer fully in control of her material at all points and attuned to what makes an audience come back for more.” – The Washington Post

“”The opening work affirms her unique attraction for the flute and winds in general—Shatin is an accomplished flutist—for the timbres drawn from them have a visceral effect on the listener.” – New Music Connoisseur, Read More


““…is beautifully performed and recorded on the Composer’s Recordings label by flutist Renee Siebert….it is a multifaceted essay on the human spirit, its wind like freedom of movement and volatile changes of mood, summarized in the titles of the three movements: SoaringSerence, and Impassioned. ” – Washington Post


““From a very simple initial concept, Judith Shatin carves a brief but very effective little piece, Spin. Scored for a sextet comprising flute, clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola, and cello, Shatin explores multiple types of spin as applied to music, from chords that unfold and collapse back onto themselves through to dance rhythms that spin between groups of instruments. Each of the work’s two sections ends with a section that “spins like a top.” The players here seem to enjoy the lighthearted gaiety of it all….
All performances are lovingly sculpted and delivered with the utmost dedication. The recording is well balanced, with a nice sense of focus and depth.” –Fanfare

Time to Burn:

“The works of the composer Judith Shatin always radiate such confidence, as it does in her new CD” – Ha’retz, Read More

“Shatin’s music is powerful and most distinctive. As performed here and recorded in Innova’s clear sound, it is also most inviting. I think anyone who is interested in the creation of new music should sample her offerings.” – Fanfare, Read More

“This disc introduces the listener to the sheer depth and variety of Judith Shatin’s music. The above interview speaks much about interdisciplinary modes of inspiration and the use of either obscure instruments (shofar) or technology (electronics, CADI).” – Fanfare, Read More

The title track “Time to Burn” is an engaging work for oboe and two percussionists. Extended techniques make the oboe sound almost like an electronic instrument in places. The interplay between the three instruments, and the imaginative way in which they’re used gives the music a sense of energy and even urgency. –WTJU Classical Comments (Ralph Graves). Read More

“Her horizons and spectrums are very rich and impressive, and after you finish listening to the last, a very interesting and dramatic theme of “Elijah chariot” (with shorter “dumb” vocal arias!), the whole impression irresistibly compels you to press the replay key.” –   Teripija, Read More

To Keep the Dark Away:

“…it is the intricately beautiful new music of Judith Shatin and Gayle Martin’s playing of it that which makes this album so very special”-  Rafael Music Notes, Read More 

“”One is struck by the intensely personal writing of solace and reflection that can be heard in the opening title movement and more intensely in the central “An Actual Suffering Strengthens.”-  Cinemusical,  Read More

“The slowly oscillating, hypnotic left-hand of the first of Shatin’s To Keep the Dark Away (2011) against a highly disjunct right-hand melody could hardly be more contrastive. The five movements, all inspired by Emily Dickinson, are like different elements of a multifaceted jewel.” – Colin Clarke, Read More

“There is a refreshing trend in new music to create work that is theatrical, even visceral, without resorting to clichés or purely programmatic devices. American composer Judith Shatin falls into this category for me” – Peter Burwasser, Read More

“A wide-ranging composer,she’s ready to dip into Appalachian or traditional Jewish musical practices (or even Johann Strauss), ready to work with electronics as well as acoustic instruments. And even within these two pieces, her style ranges widely.” – Peter  Rabinowitz , Read More