About Beyond a wild dream
“Beyond a Wild Dream, a new five-minute musical roller-coaster by Maquoketa, Iowa, native and Los Angeles resident John Frantzen, opened the concert. Commissioned by the Quad City Symphony, his piece was organized around triadic fragments that expanded into longer sequences. Through dazzling orchestration, these phrases soared through and over the orchestra’s stratified brass fanfares, creating musical fireworks that showered the audience.
Frantzen’s use of contrasting textures was accentuated with cross-rhythms, giving an organized yet chaotic feel to his carefully worked-out musical phrases. Swirling, sweeping scales led to rough-driving off-string chugging in the string section. With a repeating steady beat in one part of the orchestra, another part slowly accelerated or decelerated, creating a rhythmic illusion that the group was playing two pieces in two different tempos simultaneously.
In the hands of a fresh orchestra, playing aggressively with virtuosic flair, Frantzen’s score was an exciting opener for the season. It was a delightful splash of musical water that grabbed and held the audience’s attention.”
Frederick Morden – River Cities Reader
ABOUT BREATHE, BREATHE!
“Breathe by John Frantzen began the concert and this performance was the world premiere. "Breathe" is based on a poem written by composer’s brother about the trials, hardships and relationships as experienced in military life. In the program notes John Frantzen states that the music “strives to frame these words of support, honor and camaraderie in a journey of love, loss and enlightenment.” The piece began with a short section of the text spoken by a narrator followed by high-pitched bird calls and some bowing of the strings that suggested a lonely breeze in a far away place. The sound of a distant snare drum effectively evoked the military setting. The soprano voice of Justine Aronson was heard and the generally unsettled character of the passages in the strings hinted at the stress and confusion that is present in wartime. This was also portrayed by two actors on the stage whose movements intentionally suggested the strong bonds shared by soldiers in the field. At length the music gave way to a slow, dirge-like unison that was very beautiful. More dramatic action followed, ending in a sudden silence and the spoken word ‘breathe’. The viola and cello again took up the sorrowful theme and this was especially moving, even as the snare drum recalled the military context of what was fundamentally a story about relationships. Frantzen was able to draw a surprising amount of emotion out of the small musical forces in this piece. Breathe is a powerful work that captures both the anxiety and deep emotional attachments that are the essential elements of a soldiers life lived in harm’s way.”
Paul Muller – Sequenza 21
“but expressed in language completely its own— was the “Dualisms for Violin and Cello” by Frantzen. In three movements, violin and cello wind around each other in wrenching canonical figures. The central movement— a ghostly, pizzicato scherzo— was especially impressive – its music tough, challenging in a way that the work of Wallingford Riegger and the early Morton Feldman could be. But it was also deeply satisfying with the composer’s sureness of touch evident throughout.”
Ted Ayala - Crescent Valley Weekly
ABOUT SKRONK FOR STRING QUARTET
"Immediately before intermission, the concert changed gears and addressed the modern: Skronk. A word thrown around in various musical genres and circles, it is a thick onomatopoeia. The introduction defines it in many ones, and generally as “not a thing you are, but a thing you do.” The piece features strong pizzicati and a syncopated rock rhythm and melody, some fiddling tossed between the different instruments, and overall frankly smoother string playing than I would have expected from a word that can mean the Skronk of an electric guitar. This one was a fast crowd pleaser and kept everyone on their toes. Ending as though someone suddenly turned up the volume and then plucking away into nothingness like the fade-outs of rock songs of the ‘90s, John Frantzen captured the many facets Skronk may and can represent."
Elizabeth Hambleton - New Classic LA
“Composer John Frantzen was in the house to introduce his Euphoria, a bright, and rhythmically joyous composition, reminiscent of the “color” studies of American composer, Michael Torke. Charged with busy wind and brass pointillist punch, the piece enjoyed a jolly fractiousness in its quasi-minimalist chatterings.”
Daniel Kepl - CASA Magazine (Santa Barbara)
“The composer succeeds, using basic materials, in creating a variety of emotional states, from devotion to exuberant joy. In response to the claim that this is a work with “leaps and emotion intensity,” one can only confirm that claim. It is a further plus that Frantzen calculated the proportions well and that he begins each new part only when it should begin. To conductors who are looking for a good, playable, contemporary piece, “Poem for Wind Ensemble” is warmly recommended.
Eduard Oertle - Clarino Blasermusik International Magazine, Germany