“Editor’s Choice, Gramophone Magazine: “This is a terrific disc……Harriet Mackenzie has the measure of the music, which nods towards Baroque models but is never pastiche, fleet and finger-perfect in the swift scherzo ‘March-Burlesque’ and final ‘Flight’, intense in the opening ‘Scena’ but most moving in the longest movement, ‘Tombeau’, dedicated to the memory of his friend, Jacob Druckman. Wonderful.”
(Maw: Spring Music, Voices of Memory, Sonata
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/William Boughton, Lyrita Label), 2020Guy Rickards, Gramophone Magazine, 2020
Nomination for ‘Recording of The Year’, Music Web International: “There is a completeness, a confidence, an honesty and a consistent lyrical beauty that has moved me again and again. These qualities all emerge in Harriet Mackenzie’s utterly magisterial performance… In summary, this is certainly one of my discs of the year. Performances and recording are first-class throughout.
Harriet Mackenzie’s commitment to these composers and these works is obvious, her performances are riveting. She needs to be making more records for sure.”
Richard Hanlon, Musicweb International
“…it is such a major work, so extraordinary in its variety of expression, imagination and clarity of formal design and direction. It makes demands on all, not least on the powers of concentration required by the performer, but Harriet Mackenzie never falters either technically or musically……quite extraordinary…..all superbly played and recorded”
Gary Higginson, Musicweb International (Maw: Spring Music, Voices of Memory, Sonata BBC National Orchestra of Wales/William Boughton, Lyrita Label), 2020
“…if you aren’t stirred by the panache of his half-hour Sonata for Solo Violin (1997) I’d suggest a visit to the doctor. Harriet Mackenzie is a most fearless and eloquent executant of this wonderfully expressive array of contrasting textures, colours and violin techniques, fully worth placing alongside the 20th century masterworks of Ysaÿe and Bartók.”
Classical Music Magazine (Maw: Spring Music, Voices of Memory, Sonata BBC National Orchestra of Wales/William Boughton, Lyrita Label)
“Mackenzie was a willing collaborator in bringing this violin concert to our attention. She poured a beauty of tone into the labyrinth of sound that the audience is drawn into in what is an ambitious work, full of nuances and colours. It is also a work that makes demands of considerable virtuosity on the part of the soloist and Mackenzie has a formidable technique that was put to best purpose in projecting the music into the hearts and minds of the listeners.”
Edward Clark, Musical Opinion
(premiere of ‘Wall of Water’ violin concerto by Deborah Pritchard, LSO St Luke’s with ESO)
“Thrillingly stratospheric scoring for the violin soloist, performed with panache and precision by the excellent Harriet Mackenzie… performances are captivating”
BBC Music Magazine, Malcolm Hayes
“‘Wall of Water’; was written for Harriet Mackenzie…who plays this alternately elegiac and passionate music with a burning commitment and intensity that composers usually only dream of”
Guy Rickards, Gramophone Magazine
“Apart from what is a deeply satisfying and varied programme of music, it is not possible to conclude without again mentioning the performers. Two of the works here presented would not exist without the collaboration between Mackenzie and the composers. For that and also her flawless musicianship, everywhere in evidence here, we have much to be grateful for.”
Guy Rickards, Gramophone Magazine
“…this is a fine work, and she was honoured by a magnificent performance from Harriet Mackenzie.”Robert Matthew Walker, Classical Source(premiere of ‘Wall of Water’ violin concerto by Deborah Pritchard, LSO St Luke’s with ESO)
Editor’s Choice, Gramophone Magazine:“…superbly responsive playing by Harriet Mackenzie… intricate contrapuntal interweaving with faultless technique and unfailing insight.”
Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone Magazine
(Retorica, English Duos CD)
“Les Martinets noirs (‘Swifts’), a helter-skelter three-in-one design for two violins and strings inspired by these ‘Pucks of the air’ (to quote John McCabe). Under George Vass’s strong direction,the fine violin duo Retorica deliver a measured account…with no want of excitement or virtuosity… Buy this disc to hear another side to now of the most purposeful and original voices in British music.”
Guy Rickards, Gramophone Magazine (Retorica, Dutton CD release, ‘Les Martinets Noirs’ double violin concerto by John McCabe)
“Violinist Harriet Mackenzie is formidable.”
Simon Broughton, Songlines Magazine
(Kosmos concert, Kings Place)
“They were a perfect pair in their performance; sometimes it was like an intimate dialogue between two sisters and at times like two warriors in battle.”
Beijing National Centre for the Performing Arts
“I’ve heard Kosmos several times now and love not just their unique mixing of Middle Eastern, East European and Western classical traditions but also their telepathic rapport, dazzling virtuosity, serious scholarship, intellectual curiosity and impeccable musicianship. I defy you not to be mesmerised.” Richard Morrison, chief music critic The Times(Kosmos Ensemble)
“If a programme of music for two violins does not sound like a very appealing prospect, check out Retorica’s debut disk, just released on NMC. Violinists Harriet Mackenzie and Philippa Mo have made it something of a mission to bring this little-known repertoire to a wider audience. Even the name of their duo – the Italian feminine form of the word rhetoric – is a reflection of this: just as rhetoric could be said to be artful persuasion in speech, they seek to do the same through their playing. They succeed here by the oratorical bucket-load.
The all-English programme consists of: Jim Aithison’s Syruw: Five Kazakh Tableaux, John McCabe’s Spielend, Moeran’s Sonata for two violins, William Croft’s Sonata IV Op. 3 No. 4, David Matthews’ Eight Duos, and Alan Rawsthorne’s Theme and Variations. It is a well thought-out programme; many of the pieces have a distinct feeling of place, especially by their link to the English pastoral tradition (or in some cases their reaction against it). The Croft, placed mid-programme, in itself a lovely piece, also acts as a clever amuse oreilles before we return to the twentieth-century for the last two works. It also ends with the same lilting rhythms with which the Matthews begins, providing a nice sense of connectivity.
There is a strong pictorial element in many of these works, none more than the first on the disk, Jim Aitchison’s Syruw. The composer has long forged connections with the art world, and this piece was designed to be performed with an exhibition that explored Kazakh life and textiles. It consists of a series of delightful and expertly-realised vignettes, from the stillness of the opening, whose little disturbances presage the gentle breeze of the second movement through to ‘an exaggerated tale’, which seems capture a storyteller in the very act. The Matthews has a similarly visual feel. There is a sense of connectedness between some of the movements, especially in the emphasis on the pastoral and, in the sixth movement entitled ‘Contra-Pastoral’, its urban equivalent. The whole can also, however, be understood as a series of hors d’oeuvres-like ‘moments’, each element entire unto itself, but much more satisfying when consumed together.
The other three twentieth-century works on the disk use more abstract structures. In the case of the Rawsthorne this is a closely argued theme and variations, though the emphasis on short movements provides a not dissimilar feeling to the Aitchison and Matthews. There is no doubting the fact, however, that this was intended as a much more serious work, the theme of the opening being skilfully and inventively manipulated throughout, with the final movement recapitulating some of the early variations in order to bring the piece to a satisfyingly cogent close. Spielend, the German word for ‘playing’, by John McCabe is based upon the idea of the musicians ‘playing their themes against each other and playing with the musical material.’ The thirteen-minute, single-movement work, begins with exhilaratingly spirited hocketing interspersed with flourishes. It is followed by a long central section that explores two reminiscences of the Violin Sonata of Poulenc before returning to the vigour of the opening. Moeran’s Sonata for Two Violins is the most traditional of the twentieth-century works on the disk. The influence of English folksong is everywhere imprinted on the music, though his frequent diversions into more adventurous harmonic territory avoids the ‘cow-pat’ element of which many of his contemporaries were guilty. This is especially evident in the final movement in which, after 12 straightforward passacaglia statements, the music is allowed to roam more freely.
What is especially striking about the pieces on this disk is that, perhaps because the limited resources force the composers to make every note count, each has a structural tautness that facilitates rapid engagement with the listener. This is not to say the composers give away everything too quickly; far from it, this is music that challenges and rewards repeated hearings. The other extraordinary quality of these works is the way in which each composer has made limited resources sound rich and even symphonic. In this they are aided by the brilliant performances of Mackenzie and Mo. It is clear that they not only understand the subtleties of the music they are playing but they want to ‘wow’ you into loving it as much as they do. In this they totally succeed. The recording too strikes an excellent balance: it is both intimate but with sufficient acoustic spaciousness for they music to feel full.”
Christian Morris, Composition Today (Retorica English Duos CD)
“Park Lane Group Artists electrified the Purcell Room while snow brought London to a halt in January….
There’s always something special about the Park Lane Group series which comes around every January at the Purcell Room. Customarily excellent players present contemporary music from the weird to the wonderful with imagination and creative energy – a gust of fresh air guaranteed to drive away the post-Christmas blues.
On 6th January violinist Harriet Mackenzie lived up to expectations and more with her sturdy vibrant tone and gift for communicating the most diverse of pieces. She opened with Adam Gorb’s virtuosic solo work and played its heart rendering melodies and angular, percussive rhythms with searing intensity.
Anthony Payne’s Of Knots And Skeins (2001) alternates contrapuntal complexity with flowing lyricism: pianist Christopher Glynn joined Harriet for a performance full of panache….They were in fine fettle for the premiere of Robert Fokkens’ Irreconcilable Truths, with its contemplative wandering delicacy and sudden outbursts. The fluid feel of Louis Andriessen’s aptly named Disco (1982) for amplified violin and piano was captivating, played with laid back precision.”
Catherine Nelson, The Strad (Purcell Room, Park Lane Young Artists concert)
“The outstanding violinist Harriet Mackenzie and fine pianist Christopher Glynn showed what real performance is all about, not just accuracy and technical command, but imaginative daring in such pieces as Adam Gorb’s finely crafted Klezmer and Robert Fokkens’ beautiful Irreconcilable Truths receiving its premiere.”
Anthony Payne, Country Life(Purcell Room, Park Lane Young Artists concert)
“A knock-out from start to finish”