Phoenix Ensemble

Mark Lieb, Artistic Director
Our Recordings
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Zeitmasze
Arnold Schoenberg:  Wind Quintet, Op 26

Released September 1st, 2012 on Albany Records label
The Phoenix Enemble releases the first American recording of Stockhausen's Zeitmasze, an important early work written in 1957, and a fresh reading of Schoenberg's Wind Quintet, Op 26.   This is Schoenberg's first ensemble work written in the strict 12-tone method, and stands as a monumentally influential piece in the history of 20th and 21st century art music.  


                The music may be tough sledding for some, but with first-rate sonics and first-class
                performances such as these, even such challenging music becomes no more arduous
                than a vigorous walk through an unfamiliar park.  

                Art Lange, Fanfare Magazine

               The Phoenix Ensemble is a cracker-jack band of New York-based wind, brass, string, 
               and percussion players.  They play with passion, commitment, and superb technique.  
               I already cherish this release as a splendid display of but one face of the wonderfully 
               multifaceted world of 20th-century music.

               Peter Burwasser, Fanfare Magazine 

Wind Music of Stockhausen and Schoenberg
Clarinet Quintets of Morton Feldman and Milton Babbitt
Morton Feldman: Clarinet and String Quartet
Milton Babbitt: Clarinet Quintet  (World Premiere Recording)

Released July 9, 2009 on Innova Records label
Our 2009 recording of Morton Feldman's Clarinet and String Quartet and the world premiere recording of Milton Babbitt's Clarinet Quintet received  wide critical acclaim.  Milton Babbitt was one of the 20th century's most preeminent composers. He was a principal developer of postwar musical thought and expression, theory, and pedagogy in the United States, and his influence on American musical composition has been enormously significant. With his approval, we are happy to present this first look at his important masterwork. 


It would be hard to conjure up two more dissimilar bodies of late 20th century American music than those of Morton Feldman and Milton Babbitt - the one contemplative and elusive, the other frenetic and hyper-cerebral. Yet by juxtaposing their works for the same performing forces (clarinet and string quartet), this intriguing disc from New York's Phoenix Ensemble uncovers some telling connections, even if the contrasts are more overt. Feldman's 1983 work (titled "Clarinet and String Quartet") unfolds in a series of gentle sighing figures, almost like the breathing of a large, furry beast; Babbitt's Quintet, written in 1995-96, leavens its intricacy with plentiful nods to jazz. What binds the two pieces, perhaps surprisingly, is the gestural richness they share beneath their very different surfaces, and the way each of them forges a rhetorical style free from the prescriptions of tonality. The performances, led by clarinetist Mark Lieb, are at once tender and incisive.  

Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

The Pheonix Ensemble does a brilliant job in capturing the specific character of such radically different pieces of music. The Babbitt, by the way, receives its premiere recording—one wonders why such an exhilarating piece was neglected for so long. Highly recommended. 

Art Lange, Fanfare Magazine

Feldman's "Clarinet and String Quartet" is filled with lush chordal voicing and beautiful, almost pastoral clarinet sections. The work makes for both a relaxing and uplifting listening experience. Babbitt's almost unknown "Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet" is much denser, brimming with angular clarinet lines and deliciously dissonant string parts, which interact with a ballet ensemble's grace. The ensemble's dynamics and careful attention to timbre balance make even the subtlest interactions clearly perceptible. New music this accessible is a treat.

Glen Hall,

The performances here are impeccable. Clarinetist Mark Lieb and members of the New York-based Phoenix Ensemble play with absolute commitment; their care in putting each of these pieces over with the intent to sell listeners on each composer's work is evident in the energy and nuance of their performances.

Stephen Eddins,

The Phoenix Ensemble's commitment to these works is implicit; their intonation, precision and palpable enthusiasm is conveyed in each measure. Despite the seeming stylistic disparity of the two works, the album flows effortlessly.

Troy Collins, 

Fanfare Magazine Spotlight Interview:

Mark Lieb and the Phoenix Ensemble were spotlighted in the May/June 2010 issue of Fanfare Magazine. Mr. Lieb was interviewed about our Phoenix Ensemble Feldman/Babbitt CD and the work of Ansonia Music Outreach. Please click the link below to read the complete interview:

Music of Jonathan Dawe
Jonathan Dawe:  Empiracle Rule
Released July 18, 2006 on the Furious Artisans label
Our first commercial recording was a collaborative effort with Furious Artisans and made possible by funding from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.  The Phoenix Ehsemble is featured here on one track of this album, Fractal Farm, a piece that we commissioned from Jonathan Dawe in 2004.
Chamber Works of Henri Marteau & Alexander Zemlinsky
We have signed with PARMA Recordings Navona label to release our new album featuring the music of Henri Marteau and Alexander Zemlinsky.  Marteau's music is wonderfully charming and is widely unknown.  We are happy to introduce his work to the public, including a world premiere recording of his Serenade Op 20 for winds, as well as his Clarinet Quintet Op 13, and a wonderful early work by the late romantic composer, Alexander Zemlinsky, his Trio Op 3. 


                        Chamber music for the clarinet in exquisite and colorful performances.                           Phoenix Ensemble shows as much fantasy as virtuosity.

                        Pizzicato Magazine

​                        The performances here are simply wonderful.

Johannes Brahms / Elliott Carter: Clarinet Quintets
We are happy to announce that in November of 2018 PARMA / Navona records released our new Phoenix Ensemble album featuring the clarinet quintets of Johannes Brahms and Elliott Carter  

"The Phoenix Ensemble’s latest album JOHANNES BRAHMS / ELLIOTT CARTER: CLARINET QUINTETS is, of course, masterful. The Phoenix Ensemble now looks back on almost three decades of being a fixture in the national chamber music scene, focusing on performances and recordings of 20th- and 21st-century music. Indeed, it may be this particular specialization in complex musical structures that allows the musicians to explore Brahms' late quintet with the previously unheard thoroughness and careful reconnaissance displayed on this album." PARMA


                        Smart without being egghead, this is how chamber music fans rock out….                         
                        Midwest Record

                        The community of spirit between the two quintets is remarkable…


                        The Phoenix Ensemble rises to the task of finding the way to sing the lines                                    within the exacting demands of Carter’s rhythms. The more contrapuntal playing                          is virtuosic and seemingly effortless. 

                         The Wholenote 

                         Anna Urrey and Mark Lieb are solid in the Carter duo, and their effort here                                  should inspire flutists and clarinetists looking for a challenge  

                         American Record Guide