Album Cover

Click on the album cover to listen now

I had never heard music written by the American composer Jeffrey Kaufman until I listened to “Vocal Music of Jeffrey Kaufman,” a Pheonix CD that is available for listening here on Classical Archives.

On first listening, I wondered why I had never heard this composer’s music before. The first thing about it is that it is invariably beautiful. After “beautiful,” other adjectives come to mind, like “skillful,” “moving,” “deceptively deep” and “exceptional.” That is why I plan to write several more blog posts about Kaufman’s wonderful music. Once you start to listen, I think you will want to hear more of it too.

About Jeffrey Kaufman

Jeffrey Kaufman studied at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music, where his teachers included Nicolas Flagello, Ludmila Uleha and David Diamond. He has received awards and grants from The New York State Council on the Arts, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation, and more.

In 1978, he founded the record label Phoenix USA, dedicated to presenting the music of contemporary American composers. He is clearly a man of many talents.

About the “Vocal Music of Jeffrey Kaufman” CD

The CD opens with excerpts from a Kaufman work called Nexus, an eight-movement work for soloists and small chamber ensemble that combines singing, instrumental passages, and spoken narrations. The words were written by Richie Havens – that’s right, the Richie Havens who opened Woodstock, the Richie Havens who has been called the voice of his generation. Havens not only composed the very moving words for Nexus (“All day long the streets are crowded, car upon car, pilgrims into mirrors, and red rear light thought patterns going to Brooklyn, Crossing the bridge every day and never seeing the crying child”), he also recites them in two sections of the work.

Did you know that there is a gorgeous mini cantata composed to words written by Richie Havens? I didn’t.

Other works on this CD include Four Songs of Nature, which are settings of four poems by Emily Dickinson for soprano and chamber ensemble. The soprano for this recording, Kristin Plumley, sings them purely and beautifully. In my opinion, these settings of Dickinson texts could serve as a fitting follow-up to the better known Dickinson songs by Aaron Copland.

The last selection on his CD is Hineni, a liturgical work for Cantor, chorus, organ, and vibraphone that was commissioned in 2016 by the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York and Cantor Azi Schwartz, who performs the work beautifully on this recording.

I love everything about this recording, and I plan to return to it often. I will explore more recordings of Jeffrey Kaufman’s music in future posts on the Classical Archives blog. I invite you to join me and listen along.