" .. for sheer musical excellence, his duets with his wife surpass anything I had previously heard in this ancient instrument category." "(Taylor's) 'Sonata in A Major' closed the program, and was so beautiful that this writer bought a compact disc to take the music home." Bisbee Arizona Herald/Review
"...Mr. Metz dispatched its blend of scurrying runs and forearm clusters with a panache and an accuracy..." (New York Times)
"The artist's elegant support of the ensemble, and his fluently executed cadenza in the first Movement (5th Brandenburg Concerto) were a pure joy to behold." (Arizona Republic)
"John Metz...proved himself last night to be a young artist of major caliber at the harpsichord, unflappable, with an impressive technique subordinated to a sensitivity to the styles appropriate to the music he played." (The Evening Press -- Binghamton, N.Y.)
"...had the stylistic and technical command for a special program like this." (Danbury, CT. News-Times.)
"Metz is devoted to the music and his performances sound fluent and eloquent." "If you like French Baroque music ... you should get this disc." (American Record Guide, 1992)
"John Metz's readings are convincing, with a good feeling for how the ornaments fit into the rhythm of the phrase, and a supple rendering of the unequal rhythms needed to animate this music." (Fanfare Magazine, Nov/Dec 1992)
"His execution of ornaments is crisp, clean, and always musical. His additional agréments and notes inégales on repeats are tasteful and expressive. His agogic delays feel natural and follow the line of the melodies. The harpsichord tone stays compelling by the variation of the registration." Barbara Harbach in Women of Note Quarterly Feb. 1994
"The sound of the instrument used in this recording, a harpsichord built by Allan Winkler of Boston, is of unparalleled beauty. And Metz lays to rest, once and for all, the myth that dynamics cannot be attained with a harpsichord just because it has no pedals. The performer finds subtle ways of shading and coloring his sounds." Dimitri Drobatschewsky The Arizona Republic Jan 28, 1994"Comments on the Goldberg Variations"
"Your baroque collection simply isn't going to be complete without it...simply stunning." Betty Webb, The Tribune, Tempe, AZ
"I think the Goldberg Variations has the best recorded sound of any harpsichord recording I've heard." Robert McBride, Program Director, WMHT-FM Schenectady, NY
“But Bach is best on the harpsichord. For comparison, I returned to John Metz's recording on an Allan Winkler harpsichord, a performance that provides a musical experience that is both richly entertaining and deeply spiritual by revealing rather than synthesizing the music's compositional integrity. Thanks to the harpsichord, of course, Metz's performance also enjoys qualities of color and nuance that not even the most sensitive pianist can achieve.” Laurence Vittes, Southern California Early Music Society (SCEMS) News: March 2001
“Everyone must know by now that this year marks the 250th anniversary of the death of J.S.Bach. Record companies everywhere seem to have pulled out all the stops to mark the year and more Bach CDs appear constantly. So, forgive the slightly jaundiced view if the thought of another Goldberg Variations doesn't exactly set the pulse racing. In fact, this particular recording for review was made in 1998 and has just come my way so that little moan isn't valid.
This version of the Goldberg is another of the series of discs issued by the Soundset Label of Arizona. Possibly because the U.S. is such a big country the label largely appears to draw on regional talents - in this case John Metz, who is Professor of Harpsichord at Arizona State University as well as having an active career as harpsichord soloist and continuo player throughout the United States.
The Goldberg Variations for those who do not know it, is a stated theme, the Aria, (a Sarabande) that is then followed by 30 variations that do everything the mind of man could devise on a keyboard.. There are canons to the left of' 'em, canons to the right of 'em, canons inverted and converted, all based upon the bottom line of the Aria.
Dr. Metz is a player of some stature and his performance was one to enjoy. The opening Aria - such a deceptively simple little melody but so utterly absorbing - was taken slowly, almost fastidiously. With repeats throughout the soloist plays in a measured, controlled way but relaxed a little in Variation 7 al Tempo di Giga. The Fugetta (Var 10) was a model of clarity while the penultimate track, Quodlibet (Var 30) has the mind working out the combinations of the two melodies. The sound from the keyboard (a modern instrument) is well captured in an excellent recording - 20 bit for the technically minded.
An excellent performance but this is a very crowded section of the market-place. The best advice if you want a recording of the Goldberg Variations played with a harpsichord is to listen to this and as many as you can.”Harry Downey From Classical Music on the Web
The Sierra Vista Herald (Sierra Vista Arizona)
Friday, March 2, 2007
Commentary by Richard Zoller
At the risk of being overly enthusiastic, I must say that the piano and cello concert we heard Sunday at the Bisbee Woman’s Club was one of the most stirring musical events I have ever attended.
The concert was one of a series called “Love of Music.” The Love of Music series is managed by Kathryn Hagstrum and the concerts are all performed in the venerable Woman’s Clubhouse which has an adequate stage and a good grand piano. The audience space accommodates about 70 people. The pianist was John Metz, and the cellist was his wife, Barbara. We first heard them in the old Buena Theater at least 20 years ago. At that time they specialized in ancient instruments, specifically harpsichord and viola da gamba.
John Metz needs no accolades from me. His doctorate is from Juilliard, and he was pianist in residence for 10 years at Concordia College (Minn.) before he moved to Arizona and created the Early Music Program at Arizona State University. In 1999 he became musical director of the Connecticut Early Music Festival, having performed in the festival every year since its beginning in 1982. He and Barbara are now retired in Merrimac, Conn.
Barbara is a cellist par excellence. Her tone quality alone is enough to set her apart from other cellists. That tone is characterized by its power and its virility, not to mention the musicianship that shines through her performance. She studied cello with the best-known teachers of the instrument in Germany and the United States, and has been principal cellist in the Mesa Symphony, the famous ensemble Musica Dolce and others of like prestige. She also has pursued a solo career all over the United States and in Asia.
The program began with a Shostakovich sonata for cello and piano that was composed in 1939, when the Russian revolution had established the Communist rule that was just assuming authority and would dictate what music could be composed and played as long as the communists were in power. With this atmosphere of uncertainty, it is not surprising that the sonata should sound a little tentative in some areas, though the confusion of the revolution is clearly expressed. In much of the sonata there is an unexpressed yearning, barely felt in the music, for freedom and peace.
The opening work of the second part of the program was the Brahms Sonata in E Minor for Cello and Piano, Opus 58. This was glorious music, harking back to the earlier part of the Baroque era. The second movement, Allegretto quasi Menuetto, makes you feel like dancing, until the music changes from three beats to four beats in a bar and the wonderful swaying feeling of the waltz and the minuet are lost. The third and final movement is a sprightly Allegro, much more rhythmic and playful than one ordinarily expects of Brahms.
To me, the most interesting music on the program was by Ginastera and Messiaen. Ginastera was an Argentine composer who experimented extensively with advanced techniques, but whose music is beautiful, exciting and eminently listenable in spite of the experimentation. The piece that they played was Pampeana No. 2 Rhapsodia para Violincello y Piano, a title long enough to be a lyric. There was breadth in the music, and something vaguely familiar, possibly because the pampas, the vast grasslandsof Argentina, are reminiscent of the great open spaces in our American West.
The most striking and dramatic piece of the afternoon was by a French composer, Olivier Messiaen. John Metz told us of the background of the number.
Messiaen was in a German prison camp in Poland in 1939. By chance among the prisoners were three other musicians: a cellist, a clarinetist and a violinist. The people in charge of the camp recognized that they had a famous composer and other fine musicians among their inmates, and searched for instruments for them to play. They found a portable piano for Messiaen, a cello with three strings, and a fairly decent violin and clarinet. Even staff paper for writing music was located. The resulting musical achievements included “Quartet for the End of Time,” which had a movement titled “Louange a l’Eternit/ de J/su” for cello and piano only. This is the part that the Metz duo played for us.
It is strange music. There is no time signature, only the expression marking “Infinitely slow, ecstatic.” The notes are all 16th notes. The performers must have studied this strange composition exhaustively in order to arrive at a musical result; at any rate, they succeeded. The rendition was indeed ecstatic, thanks to the tonal intensity of Barbara Metz and her cello. She manages an expressive vitality even in this slow, measured tempo. The audience was transfixed. At the end of the number, the final note was drawn out endlessly, decreasing in volume until one had to watch the barely moving bow to be sure that there really was a sound. When Barbara lowered her bow, the audience sat perfectly still for an appreciable time, one of the most moving tributes I have ever seen. The applause after that tribute was deafening.
This was one of the finest musical productions I have ever attended. I hope that the couple will return next season. If they do so, nobody should miss their concert. It was truly a sort of revelation to me, and I think that everybody deserves an experience like this. The next concert in the series will feature pianist Dena Kay Jones, on March 31 and April 1.
Saturday concerts are at 8 p.m. and Sunday concerts at 3 p.m.