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Critical Reviews and Comments

CD Reviews
Buy this CDLee Actor: Piano Concerto

“The music has a general rhythmic vitality, a sure sense of orchestrational color and an inventiveness that makes his music neo- more than retro-. It is music that has a tonal centrality that does not introduce much in the way of dissonance, instead using rhythmic continuity-discontinuity and thematic development to express a compositional ethos. ... Here is the sort of music that grows inside of you with repeated listens. That of course may be true of most classical music but in Actor's case it is especially true. On the first hearing of the program, style hit me foremost. Then on subsequent listens the internal workings within style became more and more apparent and memorable. ... It is music that one welcomes more heartily back into one's music hearth the more one returns to it. If you like new music that delves into the past transformatively, this will give you plenty to savor!”
— Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

“Attractive, thoroughly approachable tonal works, finely crafted in traditional forms, with ample drama and direct emotional appeal.”
— Records International

“Following the example of other renowned American authors — like the case of Charles Ives, famous as an insurance executive before being celebrated for his musical works, as we learned in school — Lee Actor, born 1952, divided his career between electrical engineering and that of a musician, before dedicating himself exclusively to this last goal, apparently with remarkable results. Well-demonstrated in the Symphony No. 3, a dense atmosphere of dark premonitions pervades from beginning to the end, supported by the tense and precise notation of rarefied sonorities which foretell powerful climaxes; if the thick counterpoint reminds one of William Schuman, the inexorable and detached pace in which the author sometimes indulges, including the recourse to motivic circularity of a minimalist mode, recalls the symphonic Philip Glass. A strong tension is felt also in the first movement of the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, playing on the alternation between martial pianistic phrases and others marked by greater transparency, as well as between the orchestra’s powerful rhythmic crescendo and phases of harmonic relaxation. The central movement, of a more lyrical character, is dominated by a staccato melody that slowly and insidiously is woven into the orchestral fabric, before dissolving into a profuse lyricism. On the contrary, the relentless concluding Allegro is full of the rhythmic ostinatos that also abound in the Divertimento, and which Actor here uses to resolve the tensions accumulated in the energetic and propulsive activity; affirmative, like the music in this CD, typically American, with complex sonorities. ”
— Kathodik (translated from Italian)

Buy this CDLee Actor: Saxophone Concerto
Named to Audiophile Audition's list of “Best of the Year Discs for 2011

Very pleasant discovery of a composer you should know!
“Lee Actor is a new name for me and, based on this new recording of some very compelling music, a very pleasant discovery! ... I recommend this to almost anyone interested in discovering another American composer who deserves to be known ... Kudos to conductor Kirk Trevor and the well-trained Slovak musicians ... [A] sonically and visually delightful package!”
— Daniel Coombs, Audiophile Audition

Especially Satisfying
“[T]his is an outstanding release. Performances are generally strong. Kirk Trevor continues to amaze with his conducting of first recordings. ... consistently rewarding ... strongly recommended.”
— Ron Bierman, Music & Vision

“Lovers of classical saxophone will surely enjoy this recording. The compositional material is performed to near perfection and Richtmeyer is clearly in command of her instrument.”
— Skip Spratt, Sax Shed

“... good, very enjoyable music ... fine playing”
— Barry Kilpatrick, American Record Guide

“... very attentively recorded ...”
— Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

“... [There is a] consistent level of orchestrational prowess throughout this collection. Instruments, whether solo or in multiples, are always placed in their best light. But the fact that his Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra successfully exploits the technique and timbral possibilities of the instrument without once drawing from the vocabulary of jazz is a testament to his ability to avoid clichι.”
— Ken Smith, Gramophone

“The music [on this CD] is solid fare, decently performed. ... This music has some originality in the details and some heavy ties to early modern tradition in its overall thrust.”
— Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

Buy this CDLee Actor: Violin Concerto
Nominated for 2008 "Best of the Year" classical CD by Classical 94.5/WNED

“The CD devoted to music of American composer Lee Actor is a keeper. ... The Slovak Radio Symphony is first-rate as conducted by Kirk Trevor ... Superb audio is another plus for this splendid release. Highly recommended! Let there be more recordings of music by this distinctive American composer.”
— Robert E. Benson, ClassicalCDReview.com

“The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra plays this rewarding music quite comfortably under Kirk Trevor, all of which adds up to a production that leaves you wanting to hear more from all concerned. Good job!”
— David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

“...assured and idiomatic performances. ... [M]ost listeners will love this release.”
— Ron Bierman, Music & Vision
(Read the entire Music & Vision review)

“...recommended strongly.”
— Paul Cook, American Record Guide

Orchestral Tour de Force
“Actor is [an] American composer to watch.”
— Steven Schwartz, Classical Net

Buy this CDLee Actor: Music for Orchestra

“[I]f there is anything that stands out here for me, it’s the intense seriousness of purpose behind this meticulously crafted music—if this is not the “real thing,” I don’t know what is. ... All in all, the disc offers a portrait of a composer with a consistent voice and a sure-fire dramatic sense.”
— Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare magazine
(Read the entire Fanfare magazine review)

“The recent orchestral music on this new MMC release shows [Actor] working in a lush, backwards-looking, modern-but-tonal language that recalls (as much as anyone else) Bernard Herrmann both in style and in its sense of drama. ... In short: Romantic with a capital “R”. The Slovak Radio Symphony under Kirk Trevor play Actor's music with plenty of enthusiasm; their performances are thrilling ... Sonics are clear and strong.”
— Mark Lehman, American Record Guide

“This is one of the best new symphonic discs to have come our way ... [Actor] mixes and blends the orchestral families quite expertly ..., creating very attractive colors and moods which accentuate the drama of the music and help draw in the listener.”
— Records International

Expert Orchestration
“The four compositions on this recording ... are worth listening to — tonal, beautifully orchestrated and carefully constructed. ... I can't imagine better or more committed versions of this music than those of Kirk Trevor and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. Strongly recommended.”
— Ron Bierman, Music & Vision
(Read the entire Music & Vision review)

“... a disc beautifully performed and recorded in resplendent sound.”
— Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare magazine

General comments

“Actor is an important addition to today's musical scene. His music is imaginative, beautifully scored, he writes tunes, and he obviously has a sense of humor.”
— Robert E. Benson, ClassicalCDReview.com

“Lee Actor is one of the refreshing new classical voices I have worked with recently. As a conductor who records a great deal of new American music, I was delighted to find a composer who could still use a traditional language with a freshness that made the music alive and interesting. ... His music is inviting, full of melodic invention, with a harmonic richness that keeps the ear and mind involved. This is music of the highest quality in craftsmanship, inventiveness and imagination.”
— Kirk Trevor, conductor

“Lee is a wonderful composer, a real first-rate musician with an individual voice and superb craftsmanship. He deserves to be heard as widely as possible.”
— Thomas Shoebotham, Music Director, Palo Alto Philharmonic

“[Actor's] music is ... extremely well crafted.”
— John Story, Fanfare magazine

“Lee's music is effective, well-crafted, memorable, and challenging without being difficult to the point of frustration.”
— Jason Klein, Music Director, Saratoga Symphony

“[H]is music is accessible, tonal, interesting and exciting. ... It offers challenges but with rewards for the performers ... There is a need for composer just like Lee Actor and I am anxious to hear more”
— Daniel Coombs, Audiophile Audition

“For those who prefer tonal modern music, Lee Actor will be a major discovery.”
— Ron Bierman, Music & Vision

Individual works

Fanfare for 8 Horns

“I first became aware of Lee when the horn teacher at the college I was teaching at requested to perform his horn concerto with the band. I was immediately impressed with the beauty and rhythmic vitality of his music. When the opportunity arose to put together a horn choir recital at the 2015 International Horn Symposium in Los Angeles, I immediately thought of him. The gorgeous Brucknerian piece he delivered was a highlight of the program. The piece was almost as spectacular as he was to work with. I would certainly work with him again anytime!”
— Dr. Daniel Baldwin, composer/conductor

Symphony No. 3

“The Actor 3rd Symphony is everything a great symphony should be: well-crafted, enjoyable to play, displaying a tremendous range of moods, and above all supremely dramatic. I look forward to conducting it many more times in the future, and introducing it to the numerous audiences it deserves to be heard by.”
— Thomas Shoebotham, Music Director, Palo Alto Philharmonic

“I have been the conductor of the first recordings of Lee's three symphonies, each of which has gotten stronger and more self-assured. The Scherzo of the Third will undoubtedly bring comparisons to Shostakovich 10 and even Schumann 2, but ... the music is still highly original. And wow does the orchestra like playing his music! His writing is exciting, poetic, and full of intensity, but above all it is so well written, that everybody can play it within a couple of readings. ... It is accessible and has a huge emotional range - rather like Shostakovich, Prokofiev or Tchaikovsky.

As daunting as programming a 34-minute modern symphony might seem, Lee Actor's Third Symphony would be one of only four I might even consider, and they all happen to be thirds: Copland, Roy Harris, and Samuel Jones. However Lee's is probably the easiest and most enjoyable to listen to. So go for it, first half or second half will work, and it won't take up all of your rehearsal time. Actor's Third and Rachmaninov Third Piano concerto or Dvorak Cello Concerto in the second half. Wow, I am even starting to like the sound of that program myself!!”
— Kirk Trevor, conductor

“The symphony's first movement, “Premonition”, begins in an atmosphere of foreboding, sounding for all the world like an orchestration of a hitherto unknown Shostakovich quartet. It continues very much in this vein, even after a brief climax ushers in a sense of greater rhythmic urgency. A scurrying, aggressive scherzo, first cousin to the one in Shostakovich 10, follows; then a grand and stately slow movement with something Sibelian about it. This develops a climax in a more martial mood, before returning to the reflective character of the opening, now with an oscillating, Glassian accompaniment. A second scherzo is more playful than the first, Prokofiev-like, then the finale, after a strident opening gesture, strives heroically for a positive outcome to the drama, finally achieving a triumphant conclusion.”
— Records International

“There is late romantic seriousness of purpose in the opening movement "Premonition," but it comes at you more and more impressively as you hear the movement a number of times. Perhaps, yes, there is something that reminds you of Schumann, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner in its monumental moroseness. Yet as you listen again the articulation of the orchestral blocks of sound become more and more Lee Actor and less derivative in the way it all hangs together beautifully.

The inner movements break the spell with a great headlong plunge into rhythmically rapid string figuration and grand punctuations from brass and woodwinds ("Scherzo I"). In contrast "Reflections" begins in a lyrically dark-somber mood, then goes on to a rather chromatic music of contemplation with dynamic outbursts that remind you we are in a post- and neo- world. "Scherzo II" brings us back to fleeting motion, the entire orchestra taking part in the moving panorama of tone with deftly orchestrated passages. The "Finale" returns to an ominous darkness that creeps forward with insistency and shows off the coloration-orchestrational acuity of the composer with distinctive writing for winds, brass and strings in various combinations. Somewhere in midpoint there are darkly dramatic outbursts that gradually build momentum into agitated climaxes of tangible power and clout. The cloudiness of the opening movement returns before a great hurrah ends it all.”
— Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

“Lee Actor's Piano Concerto is a major addition to the piano concerto repertoire. It is in three large movements and offers the pianist everything a fine concerto should offer: lyrical themes, stunning virtuosity, a finely molded and impressive cadenza, as well as gripping emotional depth. The piano writing is idiomatic and the orchestration is full of brilliant splashes of instrumental color. Each movement is distinctly individual in character. The first movement is the most expansive and contains virtuosic piano writing, and singable lyricism. The melodic ideas are immediately appealing and memorable. The second movement is more stark, but deeply engages the listener. The piano is undeterred as the orchestra threatens it with dramatic figures which wallow in a melancholic state with dark hues. The piano eventually grows tired of this, and bursts out in a Romantically passionate passage worthy of Rachmaninoff. The finale is among the most successful of its genre and whips up an excitement that cannot fail to sweep along the audience with it. I have performed over 60 piano concertos with orchestras nationally and internationally, and I truly believe that Lee Actor's Piano Concerto is among the most effective I've had the pleasure to perform. I sincerely hope that it becomes a standard repertoire piece for pianists worldwide.”
— Daniel Glover, pianist

“It was my pleasure to conduct the World Premiere of Lee Actor's Piano Concerto. The Concerto has proved to be a beautifully crafted and expressively powerful composition. It succeeds in making an emotional connection to performers and audience in a rare and enveloping manner. The flow of ideas, rhythmic pulses, melodies, and emotional threads pulls the performer and the listener in with a strong visceral connection.

Each of the three movements establishes a distinctive tone and pulse. The cumulative effect of the entire work carries effectively through the complexity and length of this major work (34 minutes). The Premiere provided a memorable experience for the orchestra, the audience, for the pianist (the excellent Daniel Glover) and for me. The cheering, standing ovation that greeted both performances was most gratifying.

Having conducted at least 50 world premieres, I can say that that few of these projects have gone through as smooth and professional a process as this one, including the Artistic Committee deliberations that led to the Commission; the grant-writing and funding activities; the composition, editing and delivery of the parts and score; the rehearsals; and ultimately, the performances.

I believe that the Piano Concerto is a work that can find a wide audience. Its communicative power and superb craftsmanship make it a worthy undertaking for a fine pianist and orchestra.”
— Mitchell Sardou Klein, conductor

“[The Piano Concerto], a dramatic virtuoso vehicle in the Romantic mold seems indebted to Shostakovich and Prokofiev, and in Actor's predilection for ostinato-driven propulsive music, Martinu. When his fondness for ostinati goes a little further, Philip Glass seems to be fleetingly invoked. The composer is not averse to the grand romantic gesture; for instance, when the slow movement's uncertain opening finally manages to swell into a real climax, the result is pure Rachmaninov. The sprightly finale's rhythmic buoyancy has a slight flavor of Ravel or Milhaud. and the harmony follows suit with a suggestion of jazz.”
— Records International


“A restless, brooding work, displaying a seductive array of dark colors and harmonic twists, that leaves the listener wanting still more.”
— Thomas Shoebotham, Music Director, Palo Alto Philharmonic

Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra

“Lee Actor's [Guitar] Concerto has so many qualities that I love: it has tremendous vitality, especially in the outer movements when the orchestra and guitar play ping-pong with each other; the orchestration is wonderfully colorful, the 2nd movement is unashamedly romantic, and his musical language manages to be familiar yet unlike anyone else's.”
— Marc Teicholz, guitarist

“Actor's Guitar Concerto was enthusiastically received at its premiere. Both the orchestra and solo guitar have prominent roles in this well-constructed work, which contains moments of excitement as well as of beauty. The nostalgic second movement, ‘Remembrance’, is lovely and exhibits Italian influence.”
— Emily Ray, Music Director, Mission Chamber Orchestra

Divertimento for Small Orchestra

“Very well wrought — elegantly orchestrated and conceived. Immediately attractive, very clear. ... If major orchestras (and many more regional orchestras) would more often perform works from Mr. Actor's considerable catalog, audiences would not tune out nor "harrumph" the way they often do. Instead, they would applaud enthusiastically.”
— Judge for The American Prize, 2016

Divertimento is a delightful piece with a splendid and challenging mixed-metre section as well as luscious melodies. It was a joy to work on and fun to perform. We will certainly be keeping this piece in our repertoire rotation.”
— Stephen P. Brown, Principal Conductor, Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra

“[Divertimento] is a neat piece - animated, humorous, and altogether delightful. It sounded just the way it was meant to - like a contemporary piece in the spirit of the divertimento. The conductor (Robert Moody) and Festival Orchestra obviously enjoyed it immensely, as did the audience.”
— Ellen Bacon, widow of composer Ernst Bacon

“Opening the program was the Divertimento for Small Orchestra by Lee Actor, an American composer who employs traditional language and tonality to craft dynamic and richly scored works that, judging from the enthusiastic response, connect with audiences immediately. ... It built up to a brilliant climax which brought many of the audience to their feet with vigorous applause.”
— Gerald Fisher, Chicago Classical Review

“The Divertimento starts divertingly enough, but along the way develops unexpected emotional depth.”
— Records International

Dance Rhapsody

“[Dance Rhapsody] has easily recognizable and catchy tunes, a wide variety of moods contained within an easily discerned formal structure, beautifully crafted orchestration, a dollop of humor (all too rare these days) and more than a few very exciting moments, including a sock-em ending. ... [A]n ideal work to either open or close a concert.”
— Eric Kujawsky, Music Director, Redwood Symphony

“Lee Actor's Dance Rhapsody fulfills every conductor's need for an audience-pleasing, rip-snorting finale to a concert, like Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances without the technical difficulties or the cost. The work is finely balanced between the pathos of the waltz and the bravura of the final Fandango. In between a wry set of Tangos gives the piece moments for the audience to smile at the humor Actor brings to such a stylized dance. The piece is playable by all good semi-pro and professional orchestras. It can look more difficult than it is, until you realize what a good string player Actor must be; the string passages are so well written, that what sounds incredibly brilliant can be played with just a little sectional rehearsal. It is a piece that will be immediately loved by the orchestra because Actor's writing shows off the orchestra to their best without being technically impossible. The work is of a length that it can have a short work before it or can stand on its own in the second half, giving you more rehearsal time for the piece. The end will be sure to bring audiences to their feet; if it doesn't, they are dead!”
— Kirk Trevor, conductor

“This work is enjoyable and easy to listen to.”
— Daniel Coombs, Audiophile Audition

“The Dance Rhapsody is a colourful and vivacious essay, very skilfully orchestrated and mixing play with the clinch and the drama of the dance.”
— Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

“All I can say is WOW.”
— Rebecca Wesley, past President, Palo Alto Philharmonic

“Big success … the audience reaction was very strong. … [It’s] rare to have a substantive, intelligent new piece present such a clear profile on first hearing. … Nice work!”
— Michael Luxner, Music Director, Millikin-Decatur Symphony

Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra

“I have never heard a better work for the saxophone.”
— Keith Kreitman, music critic

“This work is gratifying to perform: nicely structured and orchestrated, with a beautiful 2nd movement, and very accessible for the audience!”
— Emily Ray, Music Director, Mission Chamber Orchestra

“Lee Actor's virtuosic saxophone concerto takes us on an exciting musical quest that is mysterious, heartfelt, uplifting and invigorating. It is a wonderful and valuable addition to the saxophone repertoire!”
— Debra Richtmeyer, Professor of Saxophone, University of Illinois

“I think it should be in the library of every classical sax player.”
— Jason Klein, Music Director, Saratoga Symphony

“[A] truly enjoyable piece for both soloist and audience.”
— Ashu, saxophonist

“Most classical saxophonists do know the Glazunov concerto ... but place this wonderful work by Lee Actor in that same category. ...a gem ... a very original and entertaining sound ... This really is a wonderful piece that I suggest serious saxophonists should add to their repertoire.”
— Daniel Coombs, Audiophile Audition

“Actor has captured the alto's most valuable characteristics and his concerto ranks with the best pieces I've ever heard for the instrument.”
— Ron Bierman, Music & Vision

“[A] terrific piece”
— Barry Kilpatrick, American Record Guide

“Lee Actor's Saxophone Concerto ... [is] essentially a neo-romantic/proto-impressionist work of some lyrical and lively qualities. ... [T]here is an engaging charm and memorable melodic thrust to the piece. ... The Saxophone Concerto stands erect in a field where there are not many challengers.”
— Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

“Something I think conductors have needed for a long time is a sax concerto that is not necessarily Ibert, Glauzunov or Debussy Rhapsody. This is a concerto that I believe saxophonists will be learning because of its versatility. Conductors should note that the piece is a finely intertwined work for chamber-sized orchestra that gives the orchestra a beautiful role as accompanist. The concerto has a slow movement to die for, (I have said that before about Actor's Violin Concerto, but it is true that he writes these incredible slow movements that you keep listening to over and over), a brilliant third movement and a finely crafted opening movement. Lee's skills as a musical craftsman are so strong – I never get the feeling in any of his works that this movement has gone on too long or this was not developed enough – his works always seem to be the right length, the right balance and designed to please both audience and performers alike. This work is one that saxophonists should be licking their chops to get into, and conductors don't have to worry any more about trying to program around rather awkward sax concertos that we have in the repertoire. This concerto can follow a Mozart overture and precede a Tchaikovsky symphony with no problem. Go listen, then go program...”
— Kirk Trevor, conductor

Opening Remarks

“[A] work I can recommend without hesitation to any colleague...”
— Jason Klein, Music Director, Saratoga Symphony

“I envision this work serving very well as a short, exciting and 'audience friendly' opener to symphony programs.”
— Daniel Coombs, Audiophile Audition

“[D]esigned as a concert opener and quite effective in making listeners sit up and take notice”
— Infodad.com

“[Opening Remarks is] full of energy, thematically taut, with propulsive drive until a quieter lyrical section, and with a winsome harmonic language.”
— Barry Kilpatrick, American Record Guide

“Lee Actor's Opening Remarks is an absolutely delightful and perfect concert opener. It is an immediately engaging piece, full of energy and a touch of virtuosity that is fun both for the audience to hear and the orchestra to play.”
— Nan Washburn, Music Director, Michigan Philharmonic

“My youth orchestra adopted Opening Remarks by Lee Actor with such enthusiasm and open eyes from the very beginning. The energy and vitality, the drive and momentum, the sense of purpose in the music all contributed to a willingness to produce a concert performance of this work that rocked the house!”
— George Ogata, Conductor, Massachusetts Youth Symphony Project

Meditation for Violin and Orchestra

Meditation is a deeply felt and perfectly executed lyric for violin and orchestra. I highly recommend it to violinists and conductors alike.”
— Andrew Levin, conductor

Celebration Overture

“[A] genuinely celebratory sounding work with much for the orchestra to do, especially the brass section. The composer does some very interesting things with tonal centers, orchestrations and shifts in mood but the piece succeeds mainly for its intent; as arousing concert overture of a very upbeat nature.”
— Daniel Coombs, Audiophile Audition

“[A] work of orchestral color and drama whose overall brightness makes for pleasant listening and whose sheer bravado makes it worth repeated hearings.”
— Infodad.com

Concerto for Horn and Orchestra

“ ... an accessible and pleasing work for horn and orchestra.”

“Outstanding construction, excellent pacing and proportion. Fine interplay between soloist and orchestra. A true concerto! (Wish I'd written it!)”

“Great scoring and orchestral writing. The sounds are quite introspective and/or evocative — especially 1st and 2nd mvts.”
— comments from judges of the 2007 IHS Composition Contest

“ ... a master work of melody, harmony, and rhythm. It is expertly orchestrated to enhance the glorious and challenging horn solo. The horn writing is technically brilliant with an intuitive and masterful understanding of the instrument. The orchestral accompaniment is crafted beautifully, grabbing and holding the attention of audience and performers alike. This is a fantastic composition that should please a broad range of music lovers ... I believe this marvelous new work will become part of the standard Horn Solo repertoire. It is a real privilege and honor to have presented the premiere performance of the Concerto for Horn and Orchestra.”
— Michael Paul Gibson, Music Director, Silicon Valley Symphony

“ ... a fantastic new work which certainly will sit at the helm of modern brass concertos. It is full of emotion, color, and contrast. Lee's writing uses the horn to full effect and exploits all of the heroic, lyrical, and subtle capabilities of the instrument. Although it certainly offers great challenges to the performer, the writing is very idiomatic and lies well within the limits of an accomplished player. The music is full of wonderful themes, great excitement, and beautiful colors (drawing from both new and old harmonic languages). Most importantly, the concerto for horn is greatly accessible, allowing the audience to be swept along as the music flows. On a personal note, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the concerto and very much look forward to the next performance opportunity!”
— Bernhard Scully, Principal Horn, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

“This striking work ... has distinctive themes that are both assertive and lyrical, a physical length (14:00) and combination of forms that are listener-friendly, and a sense of musical unity that is very appealing. ... This is a terrific piece for an audience and I expect it will get a lot of play.”
— Jeffrey Snedeker, The Horn Call (journal of the International Horn Society)

“It's a terrific piece ... lots of of rhythmic energy ... the slow movement is just gorgeous ... the writing is really something special.”
— Steven Amundson, Conductor, St. Olaf Orchestra

“[A] very solid addition to the French hornist’s contemporary concerto repertory!”
— Daniel Coombs, Audiophile Audition

“[I]ts French horn suits Actor's heroically romantic streak”
— Ron Bierman, Music & Vision

Symphony No. 2

“[T]he slow movement and finale are terrific, moody and ebullient by turns, and once again there's no questioning Actor's ability as an orchestral writer.”
— David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

“Mr. Actor's new symphony is a powerful, exciting work, one that deserves to be an important part of the modern orchestral repertory.”
— Thomas Shoebotham, Music Director, Palo Alto Philharmonic

“ ... energetic, intense, and highly polished. ... Holst-like grandeur, Shostakovich-like excitement, and thoroughly Actor-like character, structure, and accessibility.”
— Jason Klein, Music Director, Saratoga Symphony

“The concluding third movement, with its driving and joyful ostinatos, is the highlight [of Actor's Symphony No. 2].”
— Ron Bierman, Music & Vision

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

“[Actor's] violin concerto could easily become a favorite on today's concert scene. ... [T]he conclusion of Meditation, with its high harmonics, is exquisite, and the final movement is a dazzling showpiece.”
— Robert E. Benson, ClassicalCDReview.com

“Lee Actor has crafted ... a wonderfully tuneful, beautifully scored violin concerto that very easily could find its way into the modern repertoire. ... [T]he whole piece is written so well that the result is just what you'd think most people would want: a work that's traditional in feel but fresh in expression.”
— David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Peninsula Composer's Gem Deserves Masterpiece Status
“For many years I've harbored a secret wish to be present at the introduction of a great musical work. Peninsula composer Lee Actor has granted my wish with a first performance of his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra ... This is a major work deserving of national attention. ... This concerto verges on masterpiece”
— Keith Kreitman, San Mateo County Times
(Read the entire San Mateo County Times review)

“Lee Actor's ebullient and gorgeously romantic Violin Concerto is surely going to become an American classic. It is a global work, appreciated by all listeners, the luscious harmonies, the technically brilliant writing for the violin, the wonderful interplay between soloist and orchestra. I don't want to say who it sounds like, because it sounds like Actor ... [I]f you are looking for something new to excite your audience with, this is the real thing.”
— Kirk Trevor, conductor

“The [Violin Concerto] is a giant step forward for Actor. If it gets the concert performances it deserves, it will surely be a crowd pleaser. ... Pip Clarke's passionate style is an ideal match for this hyper-romantic concerto...”
— Ron Bierman, Music & Vision

“... [Actor’s] Violin Concerto could become a classic ... Actor’s concerto does have all the melodic sway of Barber’s classic piece.”
— Paul Cook, American Record Guide

“... significantly engaging ... completely entertaining ... Overall, it's a delightful piece and one I would gladly hear again.”
— John Orr, Palo Alto Daily News

“Lee Actor's [Violin] Concerto [is an] excellent piece, so well written, creative, natural and fresh.”
— Patricio Aizaga, Music Director, Orquesta Filarmσnica del Ecuador

“Rooted in 19th century tradition, filled with 20th century sounds, it is truly one of the first great works of the 21st century.”
— Michael Griffith, Director of Orchestral Activities, University of Wyoming

“To have a piece of music written for you, especially one so exceptional, is indeed a great honor. I have truly loved working with this concerto, and have found it both challenging and fulfilling. The music is exciting, passionate and highly romantic, the latter being especially true of the slow movement – which is my favorite, filled with beautiful melodies and writing throughout. ... [Lee is] a composer who really knows his music and all that he is trying to communicate with it. I do hope that the concerto will gain performances all over the globe and I am sure it will become a favorite with audiences. Bravo Lee!”
— Pip Clarke, violinist

“I am firmly convinced this will become one of the great works of the 21st century!”
— Brendan Townsend, Music Director, Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra

“This work is a musical tour de force that includes lush contemporary romantic melodies and stunning technique.”
— Lonnie Klein, Music Director, Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra

Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra

“The piece is fun, jazzy and written perfectly for the instrument! I had a blast performing it!”
— Stuart Chafetz, Principal Timpanist, Honolulu Symphony

“The Actor Timpani Concerto gives an opportunity for Music Directors to finally present their timpanist ... in an audience friendly twelve minute concerto that really pulls off the impossible – namely to make the Timpani as exciting as some of its mallet brothers in the percussion section. The work, while providing the usually visual treat of crossing hands (and flying sticks!) also has much melodic interest for the soloist, as well as a jazz oriented rhythmically driving main theme. Real fun for those concerts where you would like to feature your own players.”
— Kirk Trevor, conductor

“... upbeat and entertaining.”
— Ron Bierman, Music & Vision

“... an excellent concerto ... a contemporary work that is traditional in concept and exciting for the timpanist.”
— George Frock, Percussive Notes

Prelude to a Tragedy

“Lee Actor's Prelude to a Tragedy is one of the best written new works I've had the privilege to conduct or record. It is clear, precise and very tightly written. It has a style that is completely original, yet harkens back to another time ...
'Prelude to a Tragedy' ... is an invitation to experience an incredible orchestral tour de force as written by an immensely talented composer.”
— Robert Ian Winstin, conductor

“Most striking might be the Prelude to a Tragedy, beautifully crafted and woven together in a Scriabinesque-type tone poem.”
— Kirk Trevor, conductor

“The Prelude is as well crafted, artistically composed piece as I've heard.”
— Dr. Jesse Ayers, composer

“The music grips the listener at once and holds him in its spell.”
— Mark Lehman, American Record Guide

“... [a] concentrated and powerful work ...”
— Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare magazine

“This piece is one of the best new works I have had the privilege to conduct. It is one of the best new works I have ever heard. The Prelude immediately captures our attention, sweeping us forward on an unforgettable and incredible journey. The composition is clear, expertly constructed, exciting, and unbelievably powerful! The full orchestra is challenged with new, but somehow familiar music that only gets better and better after each playing and each hearing. The haunting and tragic melody stays with us long after the music ends.”
— Michael Paul Gibson, Music Director, Silicon Valley Symphony

Symphony No. 1

“Lee Actor ... is a composer of remarkable skill whose 3-movement symphony has strength, character, and generous helpings of brilliance and humor.”
— Jason Klein, Music Director, Saratoga Symphony

“The Symphony is exceptional in its cohesiveness. In the course of thirty minutes, we always know where we are with this work. I have rarely been one to program new American Symphonies, but in the past five years I have found two that make my list: Samuel Jones' third and Lee Actor's first.”
— Kirk Trevor, conductor

“[The first movement] is tense and dramatic in its martial belligerence and larger-than-life sweep, while the central 'Lament' spins off long, entwining melodic lines over an insistent pulse to reach a climactic proclamation of tragic defiance ...  [The final movement] is brisk, assertive, and ultimately triumphant, its sumptuous orchestral panoply calling up Holst's Planets. This is a composer who thinks in big, bold gestures and heroic emotions.”
— Mark Lehman, American Record Guide

“... a formally tight work, both in terms of its overall architecture ... and in terms of the intricate interconnections among the fundamental thematic and motivic materials. Still, ... the work’s power lies even more in its atmosphere than in its structural ingenuity.”
— Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare magazine

“[T]he 34-minute, three-movement symphony stands quite comfortable as pure music in the best examples of its genre.”
— Records International

“... a worthy piece of music ... broadly faithful to [the symphonic] tradition ... well scored and instrumented.”
— Keith Kreitman, San Mateo County Times

Redwood Fanfare

“... uses the full orchestra to brilliant effect.”
— Eric Kujawsky, Music Director, Redwood Symphony

“The Redwood Fanfare, not surprisingly, is a bit showier – but even here, Actor plays with traditional gestures in a challenging way.”
— Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare magazine

“... very impressive and memorable.”
— Keith Kreitman, San Mateo County Times

Variations and Fugue for Orchestra

“There’s a wide variety of mood here; but it’s held together not only by its formal processes but also by a gravity of intention that gives the work a strong, and slightly disturbing, expressive pull.”
— Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare magazine

Peninsula Symphony Wows With Local Work
“The concert opened with ... Variations and Fugue for Orchestra (2001), an early indicator of [Actor's] emerging style. He is neither a modernist nor a traditionalist, but falls somewhere in between.
I find it impossible to do justice describing his musical sounds in words, but I am able to write this: He is a marvel at orchestration, a master of selecting and blending the tonal colorations of the various instruments in the orchestra and packaging these into very full musical phrases.”
— Keith Kreitman, San Mateo County TImes

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