On a June 2020 post on my former blog All About the Arts I wrote “Jonathan Leshnoff’s music is unabashedly accessible. From the onset of the composition the composer establishes a bucolic, dreamy tonal landscape that at once engages the listener with the ebb and flow of its melancholy utterances.”

As I read many of the critical quotes posted on the composer’s website, I encountered the word lyrical again and again. Accessible and lyrical are not two adjectives one often finds these days describing contemporary music.

Listening to Jonathan Leshnoff’s hauntingly beautiful Elegy, described in the recording’s liner notes as evocative of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and of the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, and then going on to listen to the superbly inventive Violin Concerto with movements that range from a Broad opening Allegro,  to an elegiac Very Slow second movement, to a lively Scherzo, to a closing Fast movement, one is again reminded that Jonathan Leshnoff occupies a special niche among solidly established contemporary American composers: he inhabits a world of tonality and yet manages to say something unheard before with each note of music he pens.

The sterling violinist Noah Bendix Balgley delivers an elegantly energetic reading of Leshnoff’s concerto, supported by Alexander Mickelthwate at the helm of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.

The orchestra and maestro Mickelthwate again excels in the emotionally charged Of Thee I Sing, accompanied by the highly accomplished vocal ensemble Canterbury Voices, in a commissioned work that conductor Alexander Mickelthwate asked Leshnoff to compose for chorus and orchestra. Leshnoff sets the text of Samuel Francis Smith’s 1831 poem America to now anguished, now healing music that depicts the impact on the country following the tragic Oklahoma City bombing.

Many composers have rightfully refused to burden their art with any moral function. Inversely shunning art for art’s sake, Jonathan Leshnoff keeps company with some composers of the past by providing music that illuminates the human condition with art that compassionately heals the spirit. This listener cannot think of a higher calling.

Rafael de Acha – ALL ABOUT THE ARTS (c)2023

Rafael de Acha has enjoyed a distinguished career in the arts as a performer, stage director, producer, and educator. He was born and grew up in Cuba. At the age of 17 he moved to the United States to study Drama at the University of Minnesota, and later Languages at L.A. City College, Music at the Juilliard School of Music, at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, and at the New England Conservatory of Music, from which he received the master’s degree. He has taught courses on the History of Music at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and at Florida International University and contributed writings and reviews to Seen and Heard International ( and to this blog. He co-founded the award-winning New Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida, where he produced and staged twenty seasons of classical and contemporary theater, including fifty world premieres of plays that went on to have international and national productions on and off Broadway, including Ana in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz (Pulitzer Prize for Drama 2002 and Tony Nomination 2003.) In 2006 he was presented with a citation from The Dade County Cultural Affairs Council for
“Trailblazing contributions to the arts in South Florida.”

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