jon magnussen / composer



The Mercury News

“The best part of the night at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts was the orchestra's playing of “Scenes” by Jon Magnussen, a world premiere.  The piece is an accumulation of musical moments, fast-moving melodic fragments and instrumental colors.  Relentlessly, they slide into and pile on each other, creating a delicious agitation as the orchestra moves up, up, up through registers -- goose-bump stuff, set off in Magnussen's brain by his reading of W.S. Merwin's The Folding Cliffs.”

—Richard Scheinin, The Mercury News, April 28, 2003

The New York Times

“...beautifully textured new music by Jon Magnussen.   It sounds like a modern-day mass and matches the grandeur and simplicity and sweep and vital detail of the dance.”

—Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times, May 2, 2003

The New York Times

  “The engrossing excerpts from "Psalm," a recent ballet score by Jon Magnussen... showed that Psalm settings for chorus and orchestra bursting with demonic rhythms and angular melodies can achieve a different kind of reverence.”

—Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, Nov. 5, 2002

The Contemporary Classical Music Weekly

“Four excerpts from Psalm , a recent setting of Psalm 61 and Psalm 113, by Jon Magnussen... showed what innovative and compelling things can happen when Euro-American music form meets Third World rhythm...”

—Jerry Bowles , Sequenza21/The Contemporary Classical Music Weekly,, accessed Nov. 16, 2002

Salt Lake Tribune

“Jon Magnussen's commissioned score was hauntingly beautiful... Underlying all is a sense of deep spirituality, creating a towering testament to the indomitability of the human spirit.”

—Karen Anne Webb, Salt Lake Tribune, February 16, 2002

The Star Ledger

“Here was the jewel of the evening, a neatly constructed modern work that cast the keyboard in broken chords and cascades of notes against the barittone's pleas for mercy in a vocal part that exploits the higher range.”

—Willa J. Conrad, The Star Ledger, February 14, 2003

Los Angeles Times

“...the indispensable performances here arguably took place in the pit, where vocalists Eloise Laws and, especially, Kingsley Leggs delivered the full-throated wailing of Jon Magnussen's bold new score with feral intensity... Both [choreographer Donald] McKayle and Magnussen managed to suggest an entire culture and world view with a few essential images: a masklike projection, a recording of waves, the lovers bumping behinds affectionately and even delicately as if inventing a folk dance, a flute scampering above the action like a bird high over the water... this thoughtful and often deeply imaginative collaboration between such major artists and the Washington dancers served everyone splendidly...” 

—Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2000

The Orange County Register

“[Death and Eros] featured a spine-shaking commissioned score by Jon Magnussen, who conducted a four-person instrumental ensemble in the pit... plus vocalists Eloise Laws and Kingsley Leggs.”

—Laura Bleiberg, The Orange County Register, February 14, 2000

Los Angeles Times

“...[ The Winged is] a score that represented Magnussen's response to the dancing—the emotions, styles and instrumental colors it evoked for him... The result proved a refreshing reversal of watching choreographers visualize music (inescapable nowadays).   Instead, it allowed the audience to hear Magnussen put a personal spin on preexisting action in the manner of the best film composers.   And, at long last, the beauties and contrasts of a large-scale work celebrating wings of all sorts (on birds, insects, mythological creatures) emerged with ideal vividness in this edited, rescored version.”

—Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times , May 18, 1998

Dance Magazine

  “...Although the dance was originally choreographed in silence, this revival features an energetic, intelligent new score by Juilliard composer Jon Magnussen which supports the rhythms and creates an orchestral counterpart to the movement, enhancing the theme without mimicry.”

—Gus Solomons, Jr., Dance Magazine , June 1996

San Francisco Chronicle 

“The new score of “The Winged” is an eclectic, witty affair, percussive and evocative, stubbornly tonal.   Blending nature sounds with the piano's percussive upper reaches, plush colors with flexible dance rhythms, Magnussen succeeds in not so much mirroring the movement as in adding an element of seamless legato that is in the spirit of the choreography.”

  —Octavio Roca, San Francisco Chronicle, August 8, 1998


(18 July 2008)

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