Selected Reviews

“a composer of eclectic origins and genuine originality”
(Records International, June 2008)

THREE ARCS (Chamber Concerto No. 5)

LIGHT DANCES (Chamber Concerto No. 2)

“Stephen Jaffe’s Light Dances takes its theme from a phrase by artist and essayist Brian Peterson: “My whole creative life is a dance around the light.” Jaffe… took full advantage of the bass clarinet, which added a big voice to the finale.  Light Dances is a busy piece, with plenty of things going on, but it’s all done with a light touch, with effects like a passage in which bare-stick percussion snakes through music for winds and string quartet.” (Purdom, Broad Street Review)

“The music was full of glissandos, finger-snapping, and other imaginative use of his wind-and-percussion dominated ensemble – recalling, in its own 21st century way, the inquisitive inventiveness of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.” (Daniel Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer)

“As the name suggests, this is a jaunty, even whimsical work, a three-movement neo-classical chamber concerto. The percussion added a driving beat to the outer sections, and the pop veneer was enhanced by rhythmic foot shuffling and snapping fingers.”( P. Burwasser, Broad Street Review)

SONATA (in four parts) for Cello and Piano

“Moored, though not slavishly, to traditional tonality, the piece also touches on fleeting jazz idioms, impressionist language and seemingly random gestures of chance music. Yet the result is by no means an eclectic, gimmicky amalgam, but rather a comprehensible whole..” (Washington Post)

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

“Jaffe’s Violin Concerto is a sensational piece that deserves the widest possible dissemination among music lovers.” (David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.comFull review

“…Highly imaginative…calling for some very exotic percussion, including steel drums, the exquisite violin part floats over an intricately colored, late romantic sounding, orchestral landscape.” (-Bob McQuiston,

“His music has a way of reconciling opposites: dense and light, serious and witty, complex and transparent, terse and expansive, playful and challenging to perform. Remarkable is the way the violin seems to always recover its equilibrium after sudden onslaughts from the brass and percussion, especially in the opening movement, singing, leaping, or soaring with a spontaneous lyrical impulse.” (Phil Muse, Atlanta Audio Society

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra

“A virtuoso piece with genuine intellectual aspirations, combining rapt lyricism with a sense of sonic adventure”. (-Washington Post )

“The most impressive work on this disc is the large-scale, 32-minute Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. In four movements, brilliantly performed by David Hardy, principal cello of the National Symphony, with the Odense Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann, this concerto exploits all the technical and expressive resources of the cello. The orchestration is particularly imaginative, featuring soloist set against shifting groups of instruments including mandolin and steel drums. Jaffe’s brilliant orchestration and accessible tonal language make this work a notable addition to the repertoire. The performances are excellent and recording quality of this CD is first rate. I recommend this disc to anyone interested in 21st century American Music.” (American String Teacher 5/09)

“Stephen Jaffe’s Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra, premiered in 2004 by the National Symphony Orchestra, packs all sorts of ideas and instrumental effects into 30 minutes. The style is complex, unpredictable and riveting.” (Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun)

“David Hardy’s performance was both electrifying and though provoking, and left many listeners wanting to hear the piece again…Jaffe’s Cello Concerto showcases the versatility and lyricism of the cello…As challenging as it was to learn, Hardy believed that it was well worth it. “Everything [Stephen] wrote had a purpose; it wasn’t there just to show off.” -Hyun Sun Kim,

Double Sonata for two pianos

“…truly original writing that never overstepped conventional bounds, yet never sounded conventional either. …had that special undefinable quality that makes a listener eager to hear a piece again. It gives both a feeling of being fully intelligible on the first hearing and an impression that subtleties and added delights might lie in wait to reveal themselves on further acquaintance… There is atmosphere (especially in the haunting slow movement) and genuine wit… (Will Crutchfield, New York Times)

“…its slow movement is a tribute to the composers Morton Feldman and Vincent Persichetti, and yoked together something of Feldman’s ruminative style and Persichetti’s trenchant harmonizations. The outer movements were brisk, rich in detail, and cast in a prickly, compelling chromaticism.” (-Allen Kozzin, New York Times)

“…a large ambitious work in four movements, full of bristling energy: jaunty, faintly jazzy rhythms, myriad virtuosic challenges for the players, and a bracing, hyperactive kaleidoscopic jangle.” -Tim Page, Newsday

“…a work really imagined for what two pianos and two pianists can do…the whole piece is chock full of ideas and uncommonly assured in activating those ideas… the performance was a knockout.” -Richard Dyer, Boston Globe

OFFERING for flute, viola, and harp

“…delightful fantasy…the novelty of the music inspired the players… it has a natural and dramatic progression, sustaining meditative passages without lapsing into the realms of the dull and static.” (Phillip Kennicott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“Stretching across a 16-minute span, the single-movement work covers a lot of territory, ranging from a slow, quiet introduction with haunting rhythmic figures in the viola to a series of emotionally wrenching climaxes of great power that involve all three players. All this is woven around a prominent harp part demanding exceptional dexterity that seems to be the musical and spiritual core of the piece… warmly received.” -John W. Lambert, The Spectator (Raleigh, NC)

First Quartet for String Quartet

“This work of irreproachable workmanship utilizes a grand profusion of thematic ideas. The indications ‘Bold’, ‘Sportive’, ‘Breathing’, or ‘Rapid’ give care to affirm the unusual clarity of a work to get to know.” -Franck Mallett, Le Monde de la Musique

Homage to the Breath:  Instrumental and Vocal Meditations for mezzo-soprano and ten players

“…the undisputed masterpiece on this disc…startlingly original and well worth the time; it has all the markings of a repertory standard.” –Ritter, Audiophile Audition.

Fort Juniper Songs, for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and piano

“The most powerful and strongest feeling is derived from listening to a cycle of seven works set to words from Robert Francis Fort Juniper Songs by Stephen Jaffe…his songs combine intellectualism with emotionalism, irony with dramaticism, and very careful treatment of poetry with modern musical language… Fort Juniper Songs is quite an autonomic composition, with very original concepts, free from eclectic elements quite often seen in American music.”    -Marta Szoka, Ruch Muzyczny (Poland)

“Jaffe masterfully captures the essence of each poem, presenting the text without musical gimmicks, yet creating a convincing sonic atmosphere for this memorable poetry. The composer’s writing style is extremely versatile, angular yet having a discernable form that makes these complex songs highly effective. The piano is used to create moods… The vocal writing encompasses a wide variety of pitches and dynamics…A tour de force for both singers and pianist…”      -Sharon Mabry, Journal of Singing


“Jaffe’s language is comprehensive and allows him to use basic tonal or modal references, magically integrating them with a highly developed chromatic technique. The instrumental writing is brilliant and sonorous; the orchestrational textures are exquisite…My response to Jaffe’s music exceeds admiration. I simply love it.”

-Yehudi Wyner, December 2003; surprise introduction to The Music of Stephen Jaffe, Vol. III (BCD 9255, 2009).

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