"I very much believe he is the composer to whom we must give attention."
— Mariss Jansons (2001)
"Michael Hersch is a rare and unique talent ... His music sounds the dark places of the human heart and soul. The inherent drama of his work is remarkable for being completely un-self-conscious, unstudied and powerful in its projection, convinced and convincing. His 'voice,' his 'signature' is already unmistakably there."
— George Rochberg (1996)
"From the first sound, I was taken. Because here was a voice that I responded to viscerally."
— Garrick Ohlsson (2002)
"Hersch's music forms a unique world ... He uses spare materials to grippingly visceral effect, packing the utmost expression into very simple bits of material. It can at times be almost unbearably intense. ... the listener is simultaneously impacted by its huge dimensions and powerful gestures, and drawn in by its acute focus on subtle detail and nuance." — Miranda Cuckson (2010)
"I premiered this shatteringly emotional work at Dartington last year. One of the movements is marked ‘Terrifying, Cataclysmic’. There are very few composers who can succeed in bringing that off with violin alone. Hersch is one of them."
— Peter Sheppard-Skaerved (2011)
A Survivor, Inspired by Love and Loss
The New York Times [June 20, 2014]
His Own Drum
The National Review [May 28, 2012]
An Evolving Composer
The Philadelphia Inquirer [November 4, 2007]
A Composer Ready to Paint the Town Red
The New York Times [January 7, 2001]
'Winter' is a deeply personal debut opera for Peabody's Michael Hersch
JHU Hub Magazine [June 30, 2014]
Interview with composer Michael Hersch
San Francisco Examiner [April 22, 2014]
"The intellectual brilliance involved is startling enough; the addition of expressive intensity can be almost overwhelming ..."
— The Baltimore Sun (2015)
"composer Michael Hersch usually leaves you gasping - cognitively speaking - to keep up ... But in his new song cycle, a breath upwards, Hersch stopped me in my tracks as he explored a narrower-than-usual range of sound, harmony and gesture, requiring a more minute exploration of the tension between music and texts from Dante's Inferno and related ones by Ezra Pound. This piece went inward with fine gradations of awe, disbelief and contemplation of the incomprehensible."
— The Philadelphia Inquirer (2015)
"Michael Hersch is quickly emerging as one of the most important composers of his generation."
— Philadelphia City Paper (2015)
" A pervasive melancholy is present throughout the work, with episodes of shocking violence; the succession of movements coalesces into a large structure, masterfully ebbing and flowing but with an underlying tension that is never absent... A powerful and disturbing listening experience..."
— Records International (2015)
"... music of extraordinary precision and daunting technical difficulty."
— Nashville Scene (2015)
"dramatic, unsettling and emotionally potent ... an expansive insight into Mr. Hersch’s dark-hued aesthetic."
— The New York Times (2014)
"concentrated writing that constantly demands full attention from the listener ... Hersch’s ear for texture is magnificent ..."
— Fanfare (2014)
"Hersch, now in his second decade as one of the most prominent composers in the country, writes masterly modernist music of implacable seriousness."— The New Yorker (2014)
"Mr. Hersch’s music, for all its dark and fragile beauty, offers neither comfort nor catharsis. A traumatized silence clung to the Fishman Space auditorium ... Death casts a long shadow over the recent work of Mr. Hersch, who lost a close friend to cancer while battling the disease himself. But in 'On the Threshold of Winter' Mr. Hersch has given himself the space to burrow past anger and incomprehension in search of an art fired by empathy and compassion."
— The New York Times (2014)
"... a masterpiece."
— Cotidianul.ro (2014)
"... Hersch is so sincere in his darkness, and so sophisticated in his expressivity, that he can make the morbid magical."
— New York Magazine (2014)
"... works that are often startling in their complexity, beauty and demonic fury."
— The New York Times (2013)
"... powerfully evocative, a gripping journey through somber emotional states. Bursting into the foreground with violent screams, the orchestra repeatedly interrupted haunting, lyrical exchanges between the soloist and colorful partners such as harp, bass clarinet and English horn ... touring all sorts of dark places rarely visited by the instrument."
— The Cleveland Plain-Dealer (2012) on Night Pieces for trumpet and orchestra
"Nearly every new work by Michael Hersch is like a journey to the center of the Earth, each achieved by a different route and in varying vehicles. Thursday at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, the composer's medium was string quartet, and the journey itself often left you in a figurative blindfold that's taken off momentarily to glimpse another previously unimaginable terrain. ... haiku-like micro movements that teem with cumulative impact."
— The Philadelphia Inquirer (2012)
"... [a] boldly designed work ... True to his refreshing penchant for the outer boundaries of expression, Hersch frequently sets the upper end of the dynamic gamut in vivid contrast with some equally extreme quiet passages ... by no means easy listening, but I find it profoundly rewarding and no end fascinating."
— Musicweb International (2012) on along the ravines for piano and orchestra
" ... an intensely focused seven-movement score in which bursts of dissonant chordal figuration are offset by tense, foreboding silences ... he writes with an almost painterly variety ..."
— The New York Times (2011) on in the snowy margins for unaccompanied violin
"Michael Hersch writes music that can take the tiniest of gestures and within seconds wreak havoc on one's emotional state. The brief Fourteen Pieces for unaccompanied violin on texts of Primo Levi take on images of dread - "dense violent dreams," one line reads ... The sixth movement beginning "I won't go far," sounds like a tentative but graceful reaching -- a trapeze artists with no net stretching an arm out."
— The Newark Star-Ledger (2011)
"Hersch is a startling talent. He writes music that contains great complexity, but is remarkably lucid ... The dense harmonic blocks and mazes of percussive assaults seem to speak from a world of trouble, fear and doubt. But shards of light penetrate the music in ways that prove just as powerful. The superb orchestration ensures that each tormented peak and each moment of reflection registers clearly."
— The Baltimore Sun (2011) - on the Symphony No. 2
"Network for New Music unveiled Michael Hersch's A Forest of Attics, a work of searing honesty even by his expressionistic standards. ... A Forest of Attics'threw a Molotov cocktail into the concert: Everything before it paled in comparison. ...the music felt like war, with gestures erupting like sirens, high wind writing that sounded like screaming and rapid-fire percussion - all deployed with the control of a master but little sense of resolution. Hersch has written some towering works in recent years; this is yet another."
— The Philadelphia Inquirer (2010)
"In 2005, Hersch ﬁnished The Vanishing Pavilions, a profound, visionary, almost apocalyptic work for piano that takes approximately two and a half hours to play. Hersch has now written a similar work called Last Autumn. The music is recognizably Herschian: concentrated, mysterious, riveting ... Hersch writes as though his life depended on it, as though everything were at stake."
— The New Criterion (2010)
"Michael Hersch's Sonata No. 1 for unaccompanied cello is one of his earliest published works, written when he was 23, in 1994. The riveting piece, given a gripping performance by Daniel Gaisford, is included on the first of three discs featuring Mr. Hersch’s solo and chamber music for string instruments ... The intensity and communicative power of this sonata, at times an anguished lament, is typical of much of Mr. Hersch’s work. The sonata’s profoundly solitary, rhapsodic first movement veers between yearning lyricism and agitated outbursts. The reflective second movement ... ebbs and flows into the harmonically rich final movement, with its virtuoso challenges and almost brutal intensity."
— The New York Times (2010)
"... supremely gifted"
— Philadelphia Daily News (2010)
"There is an urgency and terseness to Michael Hersch's writing that retains interest from first to last. This is disquieting music, to be sure. It holds its spell not because it offers windows of hope but because it forces us to examine ourselves as we are now."
— Fanfare Magazine (2008)
"These performances confirm Michael Hersch as one of the most seriously engaging musical voices in the U.S. today. The Second Symphony marries a volcanic New World energy to a deeply skeptical, often angst-ridden spiritual climate."
— The Financial Times (2007)
"... a unique voice in American music: he doesn’t follow any formula, just his own potent instincts."
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2006)
" ... he totally eschews cliché. Each idea unfolds in the length of time it needs to make its point. Let your attention wander for a second, and you've missed something. Concentrate, think, be patient, and the rewards for listening are everywhere."
— The Philadelphia Inquirer (2005)
"... a natural musical genius who continues to surpass himself ... dark, brooding and charged with an unrelenting and unforgettable intensity."
— The Washington Post (2005)
"Finally in this debut disc, the world outside of a few cities is able to be immersed in the unsettling yet pristine realm of composer Michael Hersch ... vast expanses of muted splendor and large-scale developments ... Hersch's ability to sustain intensity over quiet and deliberate themes is remarkable."
— The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2004)
"His Recordatio in memory of Luciano Berio, displays the combination of ascetic rigor and freedom of expression characteristic of all his music. The actual melodic material is almost negligible: short clusters made of very few notes, like rapid ornamental gruppettos, superimposed over bands of sound, single notes or intervals sustained with the pedal. ... an occasional whirlpool of ascending atonal arpeggios; distinct treatment of the keyboard's registers, each with its own separate phrasing and articulation — yet these limited materials suffice to build a whole world."
— andante.com (2003) - on the premiere, Romaeuropa Festival
"... astounding facility at the keyboard."
— International Piano (2003)
"The Piano Concerto … is a tremendous achievement. It not only recasts the very nature of concertos but creates a realm of illusive meaning and segmented thought that mirrors the way we think and mourn." — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2003)
"The cello by itself has hardly ever resounded so brilliantly as in Hersch's Sonata No. 2 for Solo Cello... arresting ideas and sonic miracles piled in one upon another for nearly 50 minutes in this, the closing work of the concert. Once again, one was impressed by a huge musical intellect who isn't, at least for now, aiming for the hit parade."
— Fort Worth Star-Telegram (2003)
"... a stunning virtuosity that dropped one’s jaw." — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2003)
"Hersch demonstrates an impressive control of dissonance and a keen textural awareness of sound. His writing swings between the hazy and the precise, between a dark, tone-clustered opacity that hits in the gut, and a crystalline transparency that draws the ear toward the smallest details: a pair of falling intervals on the piano, a muted jab in the basses. The piece ends with a series of blurry chords held in the lower strings. These final notes are present but mysteriously distant, like the memory of sound corrupted by the distance of time."
— The Washington Post (2002) on the Symphony No. 2
" ... a prodigy of immense proportions."— Marin Alsop in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (2002)
“No doubt the composer, at the age of 30, ranks as the new hope of American musical culture.”
— Berliner Morgenpost (2002)
"... extraordinarily communicative music ... Mr. Hersch's music speaks for itself eloquently."
— The New York Times (2001)
"... a haiku-like series of economic gestures with devastating emotional impact."— The Philadelphia Inquirer (2001)
"If the symmetries and proportions of Mr. Hersch's music evoke the grounded fixity of architecture, its dynamism and spontaneous evolution are those of the natural world. Its somber eloquence sings of truths that are personal yet not confessional ... within the sober palette, the expressive power and range are vast."— The New York Times (2001)
"... a Promethean creator who has been charged with relaying his particular message. He combines a mixture of urgency and facility that is dazzling."— The Washington Post (1999)