Praise for Elmer Gantry

“vibrantly lyrical… tunefully entertaining and thoughtful piece of theater” —The New York Times
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“a landmark American opera that should be celebrated.”
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“Aldridge's score brims with idiomatic treatments of American vernacular music; moreover, his music doesn't sell the drama short… vocal writing that's open-hearted but never cloying”
—The Star-Ledger

“beautiful, heartfelt arias… as well as wonderfully melodic duets and trios, Mozartian recitatives, witty Rossini-inspired quartets and octets… accessible, melodic, and entertaining”

“a solid sense of character and music to a sweeping American tapestry that should remain in the American repertory for a long time… sonically striking and dramatically potent… plenty of spectacle and big, operatic emotions”
—Milwaukee Magazine

“Elmer Gantry is a full-bodied contemporary operatic achievement with an exciting, richly dramatic, uplifting score…. brilliantly conceived, sophisticated music straddling satire and sentiment…. [With] its immediacy and the rich inventiveness of its melodic pull… the score never loses its arching dramatic unity…. [I]ts own unique, engrossing aural experience [is] magnificently scored.”

“spacious, expansive phrasing… the music abounds with beautiful, unpredictable melodies that express mood and character… [with] substantial set pieces with sound structures that support dramatic development….”

“This opera has moments that are positively show-stopping… deftly through-composed… thoughtfully orchestrated… The music is accessible, yet distinctly modern, and recognizably operatic…. climactic, chilling and classically operatic funeral pyre…. Elmer Gantry' is… a revelation.”
—Opera Rat

“vivid and colorful writing”
—Shepherd Express

“Richly detailed costumes… a soul-piercing crisis-of-faith aria”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“It was clear by the end of the first act that Aldridge and Garfein had created a landmark American opera…. Aldridge's score for “Elmer Gantry” is a masterpiece.

Praise for the Naxos Aldridge/Copland Clarinet Concerto CD

“A brilliant new American clarinet concerto mingles with a classic.” —Lawrence A Johnson, Gramophone
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“Robert Aldridge's Clarinet Concerto is a charming new work which should appeal to just about any listener.”
— Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International, September 2010
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“...many will find Aldridge's wonderfully engaging concerto to be a welcome addition to the clarinet repertoire...”
— MaestroSteve, August 2010
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“...the real attraction here is the Aldridge clarinet concerto of 2004, which manages the trick of clearly referring to Copland without aping him... Aldridge's slow movement is one that clarinetists are going to salivate over.”
— James Manheim,, October 2010
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“The work echoes Copland's magnificent Clarinet Concerto in many ways...”
— Dawn Cooke, McAlister Matheson Music
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Lawrence A Johnson, Gramophone:

This present disc in the invaluable Naxos American Classics series offers two clarinet concertos, one the most famous in the national repertoire, the other a newish but excellent work by a lesser-known living composer.

Aldridge's Clarinet Concerto, written in 2004, was inspired by and dedicated to his friend David Singer, longtime principal clarinettist of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Cast in the traditional three movements, the opening movement (“Fast and light”) immediately grabs attention with an Adamsian motoric bustle, and the soloist soon steals in with a contrasted long-limbed melody. Aldridge works his material with ingenuity and skill, though some may feel the big string tune in the centre is a bit too close to Hollywood movie music. Aldridge certainly gives Singer ample showy opportunities and the clarinettist shows impressive technique and brilliance in the virtuoso closing section.

The second movement (“With serene and steady motion”) is dominated by the opening, a long instrospective theme with sharp jazz accents, which segues into a jaunty klezmer-like passage, and a return to an inward and wistful final section. Singer's playing is exceptional here, sensitive and expressive with a wide range of hues and dynamics.

The finale opens with a whirlwind flourish and scurrying string figures, and Singer is off once again, clearly having a great time with Aldridge's bravura solo writing. The concerto was clearly crafted with Singer's eclectic style and versatility in mind; the jazz influence is very much to the fore here, and Singer is clearly at home in this genre-crossing idiom, with the music ratcheted up to increasing excitement and mounting virtuosity, culminating in a blazing coda. Robert Aldridge's Clarinet Concerto is a fine addition to a genre still lacking in worthy works by contemporary composers, and one can see this concerto entering the standard repertoire.

Copland's Clarinet Concerto, of course, is the most performed American work of its kind, despite its predominantly mellow expression and brevity. Singer's tone turns a bit sharp in the pastoral opening's high notes, though he brings a wonderful extempore quality to the cadenza, as if he's improvising it on the spot. In fact throughout Copland's Concerto, the soloist approaches this music with a relaxed, loose, free style that feels just right, bringing great sass and swing to the second movement.

Aldridge's brief Samba is a fun encore. At just 50 minutes, however, the disc is decidedly parsimonious and there are other American works crying out for renewed attention that could have filled out the programme, notably Walter Piston's Clarinet Concerto.

Still, Singer's Copland performance is one of the finest accounts around, and with Aldridge's Concerto worthy of discovery, this disc can be safely recommended.