Reviews of John Plant's music

Plant's score - premiered in Halifax in 2012 - is most impressive. Scored with skill and economy for six musicians, the Canadian-American composer writes in a direct and attractive idiom. There are lyrical passages for Robert and Zophia -= with an occasional hint of Polish folksong in theclarinet - set off by spare, edgy music reprenesting Rober's confusion, and jarring, strident chords for his fatal encounter with the police... Music director Alexandra Enyard and the musicians were excellent advocates for Plant's compelling score. Enyard led the six-player "orchestra" (clarinet, piano and string quartet) in a taut, flowing performance that brought out the lyricism as well as the dramatic bite of Plant's music.
-Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review, September 2019, review of Thompson Street Opera's production of I will fly like a bird.

Canadian composer John Plant, with librettist J.A. Wainwright, has created a tone poem of intense feelings of anticipatory joy and poignant sadness around the horror that we see on our television and computer screens every day: Immigrants and the welcoming of refugees gone terribly awry. Skillfully lead by conductor Alexandra Enyart, the orchestra of four strings, piano, and clarinet created not only the textual moments, but the swirls of deep feeling that would carry the stories arc to the next moment where the poetry caught up with the journeys.

- Aaron Hunt, Chicago Theatre Review, September 2019, review of Thompson Street Opera's production of I will fly like a bird.

Halifax’s 2012 Scotia Festival of Music production of I Will Fly Like A Bird, a tribute to Robert Dziekanski composed by John Plant to words by J.A. Wainwright, has haunted me for almost a decade. Dziekanski was the 40-year-old Polish man who died in 2007 after being tasered by the RCMP at Vancouver Airport while his mother awaited him on the other side of customs. Musicians separated singers Clayton Kennedy and Marcia Swanston on stage by mere feet, much as Dziekanski and his mother were on that black day. The sometimes jarring music soared and swelled between them, moving us through five distinct scenes from Gliwice in Poland to Kamloops, BC. This was a brilliant, bold portrayal of a contemporary tragedy.

- Opera Canada: Best Opera of the Decade: Opera Canada's Definitive List

The music is beautiful, and the performance is stunning. It's a treasure. -Ursula K. LeGuin, on Earthsea Sonata. January 17, 2018

The next two songs on the album, each by John Plant, are the stand-out works of the group. Sunday 4 A.M... opens with a short passage in harmonics followed by an extended vocal solo. This vocal solo sets the mood for the remainder of the work, which unfolds brilliantly through a constantly-changing development of musical material. Plant's approach to the string quartet as an ensemble is delicate and sensitive, and the performers expressed that sensitivity well.

-Justin Rito, I Care if You Listen, October/November 2013, review of Centrediscs CD 'I am in need of music' CMCCD 191412

....This reveals a major talent that deserves to crop up in international recitals (Plant) is that rarest of modern composers, someone who writes sympathetically for the voice. His word setting is similarly impeccable ...This must not just stay in the Canadian music scene.

  • Barnaby Rayfield, Fanfare, January/February 2011, review of 'Vocal Works in Eight Languages MSR 1327

This exquisite opera deserves repeated outings. -Daphna Levitt, on the Halifax production of I will fly like a bird. Opera Canada, fall 2015.

Andrea Ludwig began with John Plant's Invocation to Aphrodite... With the piano quintet of Talisker Players, Andrea sang with a clear, metallic, mezzo sound, and she hung some beautiful high notes on Plant's eerie and feminine sound palette...This was a lovely setting in the original classical Greek. -Jenna Douglas and and Greg Finney,, fall 2015

With a regard for language that is purely metaphysical and a skill in handling words musically which is uniquely his own, John Plant has selected music he has written in memoriam. It is an inspiring sampling of music... The music shares a predilection for crystalline textures and harmonies that space out briefly before trailing wistfully away. Yet each eventually attaches itself to the poetry and takes on an asymmetrical emotional life and a faint cultural accent, perhaps mythical.
-Laurence Vittes, Gramophone, July 2010, review of CD 'Vocal Works in Eight Languages.'

The composer has the task of shaping a coherent musical structure to that narrative. It seems that only the really great vocal composers bring it off: Brahms, Mahler, Wagner, Strauss, Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, Vaughan Williams, Debussy, Fauré, Britten, Barber, and so on. Plant succeeds in every item here....If I had to compare him to another composer, I'd say Barber... There's that same integrity of vocal line and an essentially Romantic outlook without eschewing the grit of dissonance and the ambiguous key center. . Plant takes advantage of textual repetitions to suggest ballad structure within something essentially organic form. Most of the performers, including the composer himself at the piano, do really well. The songs sweep along…..
-Steve Schwartz,, 2012, review of CD 'Vocal Works in Eight Languages.'

“Extraordinary...Plant’s setting of this poem (Canciones del alma) succeeds in transcending limits of musical style to give articulation to experiences which are almost beyond the realm of language, verbal or musical...John Plant, a composer who has a significant message for our time. 9/10 -Wolfgang Bottenberg, Montreal Mirror, 20 January 2000, review of CD 'Canciones del alma'

Canciones del Alma” est un essai en musique minitieusement conçu.. austère et exigeant, d’une rare authenticité.”
-P.M. Bellemare, La Scena Musicale, December 1999, review of CD 'Canciones del alma'

"Partition interessante que cette structure musical qui trace à un second niveau le jeu de la langue de Ms. Stein. Cet étudiant de George Todd, de Charles Palmer et de Bruce Mather a de la technique, une approche fraiche, sait être versatile, sait mettre en valeur les danseurs ... autant que le texte .... John Plant a de l'admiration pour George Crumb et Luciano Berio: le sourire musical qui passe dans la partition et la technique vocale le révèlent ... l'oeuvre n'arrête pas de plaire.
-Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer, Le Droit, 6 October 1978, review of What Happenedrite your text here...