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Acclaim
Pushing out good stuff to new fans—and not on Zoom

“So enough already with the pandemically clever Zoom ensemble performances,” writes David Rohde in “Classical Music’s Opportune Moment,” published June 23 in The Wall Street Journal. “It’s time to push out the good stuff to new fans. This includes transitional pop-to-classical material—such as daring videos by the flamboyant piano duo of Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe, covers of pop anthems by the Philadelphia-based Dover Quartet, and bluegrass-inflected new works by Kentucky-born classical violinist Tessa Lark.” Lark’s “Appalachian Fantasy” is heard alongside works by Schubert, Telemann, Kreisler, and Ravel in her solo debut album Fantasy. Her talent for bluegrass-inflected composition can also be heard in Invention, the debut album of her violin-bass duo Tessa Lark & Michael Thurber. And Lark’s Grammy-nominated performance of Sky: Concerto for Violin, a bluegrass-inspired work written for her by Michael Torke, is the title work in another new recording, released last year by the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

David Rohde, The Wall Street Journal

Lark has collected several free-form, quasi-improvisational works—fantasies—that seem to the performer to have a “folk-like freedom.” The recording is superb.

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Andrew Quint, The Absolute Sound

Tessa Lark's debut solo CD is a selection of bravura pieces by the usual suspects, the centerpiece of which is Schubert’s marvelous C-major fantasy. But she throws in a twist: an original piece titled Appalachian Fantasy.

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Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist

Lark and Thurber’s careful attention to the entrances and exiting of their bows on the strings were sonically and visually beautiful. A potpourri of American cultural elements — Appalachian music, bluegrass, jazz, and contemporary and classical stylizations — blended with ease and fluidity.

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Clare Byrne, CT Examiner

Violinist Tessa Lark and contrabassist Michael Thurber make an unusual duo, but if you need to be convinced that it’s an instrumental combination that works, just check out this delightful album.

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Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist

Torke's Sky was a blast for the entire ensemble, Lark's foot-stomping opening like an indendiary wake-up call to conductor Teddy Abrams and the RSNO, whose hot-blooded rhythmic interaction lit up every seething moment.  There were gorgeous sultry moments, too, in a work that gave everyone on stage the opportunity to shine.

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Ken Walton, The Scotsman

This program reveals the versatility of the performers. I deeply loved the Kreisler, the energy and sparkle of the Telemann pieces, the gypsy spirit of the Ravel. This recording contains some of the best playing I have ever heard.

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Ned Kellenberger, American Record Guide

One of the most exceptional things about the music of J.S. Bach is that it can withstand transcription to virtually any instrumental medium, from grandiose Wagner-size orchestra to sopranino recorder and just about anything in between or beside ...The latest example to cross my desk is an album titled Invention featuring violinist Tessa Lark and contrabass player Michael Thurber ... On this disc, seven of Bach’s two-part inventions are interspersed with original “inventions” by Lark and Thurber, drawing on diverse influences from Appalachia to New Orleans, running the gamut of Americana, but also encompassing their skill as classical musicians. The juxtaposition works surprisingly well,

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David Olds, The Whole Note

Lark plays wonderfully, with the sort of apparent effortlessness that comes only after an investment of a great deal of effort. 

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Infodad.com

Young Kentucky-born violinist Tessa Lark treads a well-worn path with the title of her debut recording, Fantasy. However, her choice of repertoire here is far from predictable, with three of Telemann’s Fantasies, and her own Appalachian Fantasy nestling amongst the more familiar Schubert Fantasie and Ravel’s Tzigane.

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Nick Boston, Classical Notes

If ever the arrival of a disc on my desk has made me catch my breath in joyful expectation then it’s this debut from Kentucky violinist Tessa Lark, because she’s been one of my personal ones to watch for a few years now. 

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Charlotte Gardner, The Strad

Tessa Lark, with the assistance of Amy Yang, gives an attractive program of music for violin with and without piano. That many of these items are still comparative rarities in concert programs makes our enjoyment all the keener. Most, if not all, the selections we have here could be described as “fantasy,” a term that describes what a composer does when he relaxes from strictly formal considerations and allows his thoughts to change and flow from moment to moment. There are many ways to do this, the common thread being that they must appeal vividly to the imagination even as they delight the listener. All the pieces in this recital do that (and how!)...

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Audio Video Club of Atlanta

The American violinist Tessa Lark makes a stunning solo CD debut with Fantasy, a selection of fantasies and rhapsodies from four centuries (First hand Records FHR86 firsthandrecords.com).

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The Whole Note

At the Seattle Chamber Music Society's July 15 concert, Fanny Mendelssohn’s intense String Quartet in E-flat was brought to life by violinists Tessa Lark and Erin Keefe, violist Cynthia Phelps, and cellist Yegor Dyachkov. It was a sensitive and well-balanced ensemble where the excellent Lark (silver medalist at the 2014 Indianapolis Violin Competition [Jan/Feb 2015]) was clearly the first among equals.

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Melinda Bargreen, American Record Guide

Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto is one work I have long hoped to hear on an RPO program; it has been accepted as a masterpiece since the day of its premiere in 1936, but the orchestra hasn’t programmed it since 1981. I’d never heard it live at all, and what a powerful piece of music it is ... I’d never heard violinist Tessa Lark either, but she, Ward Stare, and this concerto all seem made for each other.

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David Raymond, City Newspaper (Rochester, NY)

Michael Torke’s “Sky Concerto” is a result of a joint commission by 11 regional orchestras and had its first hearing in Albany, NY. Locally, it brought the composer and his collaborative violin soloist Tessa Lark to Southern Arizona. Both were warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by their audiences.

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Donald J. Behnke, Green Valley News (Arizona)

What do Bach, bebop and bluegrass have in common? The answer, according to Tessa Lark and Michael Thurber, is more than one might think. With exhilarating teamwork, humour and educational instincts, the two musicians charmed an eager crowd in their first appearance at the Mostly Mozart Festival.

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Bruce Hodges, The Strad

On the evidence of this musically engaging programme, violinist Tessa Lark has a canny ability to adjust her approach according to the stylistic dictates of whatever she’s playing. 

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Rob Cowan, Gramophone

The concerto wears its bluegrass and Irish reel motifs on its sleeve and sounds like it descended from the mountains only to run into Aaron Copland outside the concert hall. Torke titled the work “Sky” based on its wide-open sound, another characteristic shared with some of Copland’s best-known work like “Appalachian Spring.”

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Nathan Cone, Texas Public Radio

Tessa Lark took the stage at the Delaware Symphony orchestra for a mesmerizing performance of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto ... Urged on by a cheering audience, she gave an exciting encore from her album (released on concert day) that began with a simple Appalachian melody and took off into a fiddler’s stratosphere.

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Gail Obenreder, BroadStreetReview.com

"About my favorite composer in the world" is how ASO leader David Alan Miller described Michael Torke this past January. The occasion was the premiere of "Sky," a bluegrass infused concerto written for the marvelous young American violinist Tessa Lark. That piece leads off a new all-Torke disc featuring four recent concertos.

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Joseph Dalton, Albany Times-Union

Flights of fancy are surrounded by certain degrees of semi-permeable musical membranes. Such freedom of form is a pleasant way to be introduced to the liberties held within the reaches of Tessa Lark. In her first-ever release, “Fantasy” draws upon certain elements of independence, though the disciplines of structure and mechanics are firmly intact. What gives Mlle Lark’s preclusive appeal is her spectrum of classical commands along with classical repertoire variability.

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Christie Grimstad, ConcertoNet.com

“Love Letter” seemed to focus on bluegrass flavor, with touches of things classical. It embraced lyricism, dance-like energy and meditative moments, qualities which Lark emphasized in a compelling performance....Lark was one with the piece, as was the packed house with it and her.

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John Shulson, Virginia Gazette
Tessa Lark (center) with fellow musicians at the May 2019 Musica Viva festival in Sydney, Australia

Musica Viva Festival Concert 5, titled Scenes, brought together chamber music pieces from the Baroque and Romantic periods, through to the 20th Century where the performer was also the composer (Edgar Meyer performing his own Concert Duo for Violin and Double Bass). It was an interesting program that exposed me to a variety of chamber music formats and styles.

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Wendy Zhang, CutCommon

Precision, grace, and white-hot technique

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Angus McPherson, Limelight (Australia)

Lark’s surname proved appropriate in the Preludio from Bach’s Partita No 3, ascending and dipping with remarkable athleticism, the bowing bariolage smooth and rapid and with seemingly effortless accuracy.

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Steve Moffatt, Daily Telegraph (Sydney)

The Ashmont Hill Chamber Music series scored something of a coup by bringing rising violin phenom Tessa Lark in for a rare Boston appearance Sunday at AHCM’s usual venue at Peabody Hall of All Saints Church, Dorchester.

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Vance R. Koven, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

The Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra was on fire Saturday night at the Garde Arts Center, and violin soloist Tessa Lark appeared to be the spark. A crowd of 700 at the Garde gave the most extended standing ovation of the season to Lark, who came onto the stage with a shimmering dress and broad smile before absolutely tearing up the joint with a concerto titled "Sky" by contemporary composer Michael Torke, who wrote the piece co-commissioned by the ECSO after being inspired by Lark's energetic playing.

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Lee Howard, The Day (New London, CT)

Sky is a bluegrass inspired violin concerto written for Tessa Lark. It's the latest in a long string of ASO commissions of Michael Torke, who Music Director David Alan Miller called "about my favorite composer in the world." Miller's allegiance is not misplaced. Torke writes music that is energetic, tuneful and brilliantly orchestrated. The new concerto is among Torke's best, right there alongside his 2015 piano concerto Three Manhattan Bridges. The opening sounds of Sky come from the violin and the tambourine. There's an immediate feel of country music, but also the noble spirit of Copland. In a piece tailored to her strengths, Lark played with apparent ease and unaffected beauty.

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Joseph Dalton, Times Union (Albany, NY)

The violinist, who has appeared with dozens of American orchestras and is a Naumburg winner, among other prestigious awards, made an impressive recital debut at Matinee Musicale ... She made her Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra debut at age 16. Now 29, she plays with an easy virtuosity. But she also charmed the audience at Anderson Center on Thursday with her down-to-earth personality and sense of humor as she spoke about each piece that she was performing with her pianist, Andrew Armstrong.

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Janelle Gelfand, Janelle's Notes
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