South Florida Classical Review
Distinguished Achievement Award
"Sleeper is a highly talented composer who has written a large body of works in wide ranging genres... the premiere of his Violin Concerto (Hypnagogia) in a stunning performance by Huifang Chen with conductor Andres Jaime, delivered a worthy addition to the repertoire, a showpiece of romantic hues and barn-burning bravura. As both conductor and composer, Sleeper remains one of the brightest lights of the Frost faculty." - Lawrence Budmen
... Sleeper contributed his Symphony No. 5–Chamber Symphony, the 13-member chamber orchestra composed of both students and faculty. Cast in three movement, the nearly 30- minute score is one of Sleeper's finest works.
Opening with a dark and pensive Andante espressivo , the music becomes ever more agitated. The Furioso section unleashes timpani at full throttle. A three-part second movement forms the heart of the work. The initial short, neo-Classical melody is tossed between strings, winds and piano. In the central section, an emotional, melodically inspired theme rises through the ensemble.
The Allegro agitato finale finds metallic percussion taking a major role through the charged rhythms and tart harmonics A rapid, hard-hitting conclusion references Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printempts, a work Green conducted with the Frost Symphony Orchestra.
Sleeper's wonderful thematic invention and challenging instrumental writing shines through every page of this fine work. Green led a rhythmically urgent performance with particularly strong contributions from flutist Trudy Kane, saxophonist Dale Underwood, cellist Joy Adams, pianist Lauralie Pow and percussionist Maria Chlebus."
The University of Miami's Frost Symphony Orchestra usually impresses with the polish and verve of its performances under conductor Thomas Sleeper, and the performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 5 made for an exciting and moving evening of music.
There was nothing drilled or rote about the performance. This was authentic Mahler, with the orchestra expressing the Fifth Symphony's vast range of emotions. In the wistful melodies of the middle movements, these students in their late teens and early 20s did a creditable job of portraying world-weary Viennese nostalgia. And throughout there was an epic feel for the long line, a musical journey that begins with a funeral march and passes through strife, sadness, angst and romantic love before the hard-won light of its optimistic, major-key ending.
The opening funeral march was weighted and grim, with drum rolls, thunderclap chords and dark melodies in strings and winds, played with sure intonation and a sense of forward motion. The second movement came off with stormy, menacing vigor, but with a transparency that allowed all the sections' contributions to be heard. In the third movement, the horns took center stage and gave an assured, graceful performance, with full tones and a trace of central European village band to their style.
The famous Adagietto was a highlight of the evening. Composed for strings and harp only, the movement was written as a love letter to Mahler's wife Alma. Sleeper took the movement at a faster speed that many conductors, giving it an extra jolt of urgency and passion. The orchestra played with a gorgeous string tone, full-bodied and rich, even in pianissimo passages, with crescendos that reached ardent climaxes.
The final movement was a hard-driving, stirring performance, with sonorous, noble playing in the brass."
Wagner called Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 "the apotheosis of the dance" and Thomas Sleeper led the score with unflagging momentum. Sleeper has always been an excellent Beethoven conductor but this performance was one of his finest achievements. Throughout the symphony's four movements, there was wonderful clarity of instrumental detail even at the most vigorous pace. The transition from the slow introduction to the buoyant Vivace of the first movement was smoothly coordinated. Sleeper shaped the melody of the famous Allegretto in one long arc without succumbing to the temptation to make the movement sound funereal. He drew a full, rich sound from the ensemble's lower strings, particularly the violas. The violin lines were always audible over the full instrumental forces.
The third movement Presto took off at a breakneck clip but corporate precision remained cohesive. In the trio section, the tricky horn parts were vociferous and spot on. The final movement was Allegro con brio indeed, with Sleeper pushing the rhythm forward to the final pages. A brief wrong entrance did not diminish an outstanding performance that was true to Beethoven's masterful synthesis of inspired melody, dance like impetuosity and symphonic form."