Fine works in excellent performances, warmly recorded and all at Naxos’s bargain price. One could hardly want a better introduction to LeFanu’s music. She is a most distinguished composer who has things to say and who knows how to say them in the best possible musical terms.
Hubert Culot, MusicWeb, 10/1/2004
It's the lyrical side of LeFanu which appeals most on first hearing. The performances are authoritative, secure and expressive.
Stephen Johnson, BBC Music Magazine, 1/1/2005
The disc opens auspiciously with the compact, single-movement Second String Quartet, completed in 1996 and dedicated to the memory of LeFanu's parents. Anyone who knows and loves the quartets by, say, Bartók, Britten, Tippett and Maconchy should investigate without further ado.
Fiona Cross gives a brilliant, urgently communicative performance [of the Concertino], as does countertenor Nicholas Clapton in Canción de la Luna, a scena-like setting of the speech for the Moon from Act 3 of Lorc'as Blood Wedding that has its roots in LeFanu's 1992 opera of the same name.
Both sound and balance are excellent throughout. Well worth exploring.
Andrew Achenbach, The Gramophone, 4/1/2005
Invigorating music at the cutting-edge of modernity to challenge the listener and performer, immaculately recorded and at super-budget price.
David Denton, Yorkshire Post, 12/1/2004
I hope these two recent CDs featuring works by Nicola Lefanu will be the first of many releases devoted to her music. She has written some 60 works and her output continues to fruit and expand (a Piano Trio and Amores for solo horn and strings are both substantial works dating from 2003); the quality of her ideas and her continual resourcefulness in varying and developing them would lend distinction to a whole series devoted to her music.
Taking pride of place on the Naxos disc is her String Quartet No.2 (1996), a cogently argued one-movement structure demanding a comprehensive technique from its performers. Driving Bart6kian rhythms sound like a fond tribute to the unquenchable vitality in the quartets of Elizabeth Maconchy, the composer's mother, to whose memory, together with that of her father, the piece is dedicated. Lefanu's quartet also contains moments of tender nostalgia, however, and ends in elegiac calm. The Goldberg soloists reveal the emotional subtext of this essentially intimate work, never treating it as a mere showcase for technical virtuosity.
The Concertino for clarinet and string orchestra is a re-composition of LeFanu's clarinet quintet, Invisible Places, written in 1986. Made up of 16 short movements, it is inspired, like the original version, by Italo Calvino's book Invisible Cities. The composer creates an exotic series of varied tableaux from her main material. The source of inspiration is not hard to decipher: frequently recurring tutti pizzicato strumming figures conjure up images of water lapping the sides of gondolas. In this performance, Fiona Cross gives a vibrant reading, alert to the many subtleties of the score, whilst Malcolm Layfield shapes the multi- sectional form into a convincing whole.
Cancion de Ia luna for countertenor and string quartet (1993) derives from LeFanu's opera Blood Wedding. Nicholas Clapton negotiates the wide-ranging solo part with an ease born of familiarity, having sung the part of the Moon in the original opera. Catena, for 11 solo strings, was written in 1999 in the high Pyrenees and it was the sight of the mountains, changing with every shift of the light, which inspired the piece. At some 20 minutes, it is the most expansive item on the Naxos disc and demonstrates LeFanu's skill in building and sustaining large structures. Sheerly beautiful and passionate, its riches are characteristically understated and implicit, the brilliance of the writing always at the service of the musical argument, rather than drawing attention to itself.
Paul Conway, Tempo, 4/1/2006