|Aufbau, February 19, 1999
Excerpted Review of 2/14/99 Merkin Hall Concert
...Met Associate Concertmaster Laura Hamilton performed in the New York premiere of Three Poems for Two Violins and Piano, and the performance with violinist Karen Marx and pianist John Churchwell was an unalloyed brilliant success, shimmering from white-note modality to Reichian obsessive repetition to an infectious hoe-down. The other two New York premieres, A Mountain Path (1993) for piano trio and the Sextet for Strings (1995), were also impressive in the devotion displayed by Mr. Churchwell, cellist David Heiss (who began and ended the trio with evocative finger-drumming on the wood of his instrument) and five other string players from the Met Orchestra. If these most recent works betrayed an infatuation with impressionism, New Age arpeggiation and harmonics, and the soaring counterpoint of Schoenberg's Verklärkte Nacht, the expressivity was none the worse for it. The concert opened with a theatrical interpretation by Met chorister Patricia Steiner, accompanied by Chorus Master Raymond Hughes, of some of Manno's first compositions: four E. E. Cummings settings of 1966-69. But the most impressive pieces were those in which Met concertmaster Raymond Gniewek participated: the world premiere of a 1988 expressionist setting of Rainer Maria Rilke's “Stiller Freund der vielen Fernen,” sung commandingly by soprano Emily Pulley, and the long, pastoral 1973 setting of Dylan Thomas' “Fern Hill,” sung by Met chorister Robert Maher with an ensemble of 9 conducted by the composer.
It was this composition which the Fromm Foundation in 1976 cited as “one of the pieces of the last 40 years deserving of wider recognition.” Now, so many years later, with the help of colleagues, Manno seems to have begun receiving just that.
Leonard Lehrman, Aufbau Magazine