Thomas Oboe Lee, Composer

Photo by Elizabeth Hamlin

Bio
 Awards
  Recordings
 Compositions
 Education
 Publishers
 Reviews
Link to www.thomasoboelee.com

Contact Thomas Oboe Lee
 leeto@mediaone.net
 leetl@bc.edu

Listen to samples of his work:
Forro' (1998) (excerpt)
 Choros, opus 61 (1994-95) (excerpt from 1st movement)
Yo Picasso (1997) (excerpt from 2nd movement)

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BIO

Thomas Oboe Lee was born in China in 1945. He lived in São Paulo, Brazil, for six years before coming to the United States in 1966. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, he studied composition with William Thomas McKinley, George Russell and Gunther Schuller at the New England Conservatory (1972-76); with Betsy Jolas at Tanglewood (1976) and Earl Kim at Harvard University (1977-81). He currently teaches at Boston College.

 Mr. Lee has received many awards for his work, among them the Rome Prize Fellowship, the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, two Guggenheim Fellowships, two National Endowment for the Arts Composers Fellowships, two Massachusetts Artists Fellowships, First Prize at the Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards for his String Quartet No. 3 ... "child of Uranus, father of Zeus," the Georges Enesco International Composition Prize, the Koussevitzky Tanglewood Composition Prize, recording grants from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony and the Charles Ives Center in Danbury, CT, and Charleston, SC.

In 1984, Esquire magazine selected him as one of two composers in its First Annual Register, "The Best Of The New Generation: Men and Women Under 40 Who Are Changing America." He has been commissioned by Amnesty International USA, the Thoreau Society, the Fromm Music Foundation, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, the Civic Symphony Orchestra of Boston, the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, the Lydian, Kronos, Artaria, Manhattan, and Hawthorne String Quartets, the Díaz Trio, the Raphael Trio, Madam Rubio, the Arto Ensemble, Marimolin, Alea III, Collage, Apple Hill Chamber Players, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and the Cambridge Chamber Players. Additional orchestral performances include those by the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Keith Lockhart, the Charleston Symphony with David Stahl, and the American Composers Orchestras with Gunther Schuller. His music is published by Margun Music, Inc. and is recorded on GM, MCA Classics, Northeastern and Nonesuch Records. A compact disk of his music featuring the Hawthorne String Quartet will soon be released on Koch International Classics. Mr. Lee is also active as a jazz flutist. A recording of his band, Departed Feathers, is available on GM Recordings.

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AWARDS

1976     Koussevitzky Tanglewood Composition Prize, Berkshire Music Center/Koussevitzky Foundation Fellowship
1977     Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship
1983     First Prize, Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards
1983     Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship
1983     National Endowment for the Arts Composers Fellowship
1983     Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fellowship
1983     MacDowell Colony Fellowship
1984     First Prize, Double Bass Composition Contest, International Society of Bassists
1985     Charles Ives Fellowship, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
1986     Rome Prize Fellowship, American Academy in Rome
1986     Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship
1987     National Endowment for the Arts Composers Fellowship
1988     Georges Enesco International Composition Prize
1995     Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording Grant
1996     Boston College Research Incentive Grant
1997     American Academy in Rome, Visiting Artist
1998     American Academy in Rome, Visiting Artist

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RECORDINGS

String Quartets                         Hawthorne String Quartet - Koch International Classics [To be released in 1999]
Departed Feathers                     Composers In Red Sneakers - Northeastern [NR 220]
The Mad Frog                          Collage - GM Recordings [GM 2007]
Marimolin                                Marimolin - GM Recordings [GM 2023]
Morango ... Almost A Tango      Kronos String Quartet - Nonesuch (CD) [9  79163-2]
Morango ... Almost A Tango      Lydian String Quartet - MCA Classics  (CD)[AED 10108]
Third String Quartet                  Kronos String Quartet - GM Recordings [GM 2007]
Original Jazz Compositions by Thomas Oboe Lee and Brad Hatfield - GM Recordings [GM 3004]

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COMPOSITIONS

Orchestral:

Forró (1998) orchestra: 2222-2200-perc-strings
Symphony No. 2 ... A Phantasmagorey Ballet (1998) orchestra: picc2232-4331-timp-2perc-hp-pf-strings
Eurydice ... A tone poem for cello and orchestra (1994-95): picc2222-4231-timp-2perc-hp-strings
Sinfonietta, opus 60 (1994) orchestra: picc2222-2220-timp-strings
Symphony No. 1 ... Fallen Angels (1993, rev. 1995) orchestra: 2222-2211-timp-perc-hp-pf-strings
Les Adieux à Dhu ... an Adagio (1992) orchestra: 2222-4221-timp-hp-pf-strings
Jana ... An American Overture (1991) orchestra: 3223-4231-2perc-pf-strings
Cavatina Cavadini (1991, replaces 1984 version) concert band: picc22Eb3altbs2-4-430323-3perctimp
Concertino (1986) trumpet solo, timpani, string orchestra (65442, minimum)
Harp Concerto (1985) harp solo; chamber orchestra: 1120-2200-2 perc-strings (66442)
Double Concerto (1983/1984) 2 pianos and chamber orchestra: 1111-1110-2 perc-strings

Vocal/Choral/Opera/Music Theater:

Mass for the Holy Year 2000 (in progress) four soloists, mixed choir, organ & chamber orchestra
Love Songs (1998) mezzo-soprano, piano
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1998) mezzo-soprano, organ
Jack and the blues (1997) soprano, piano
Poema de Natal (1992, rev. 1996) mezzo-soprano, Bb clarinet, trombone, piano, percussion
That Mountain (1991; rev. 1992) lyric baritone, flute, Bb clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion
I Never Saw Another Butterfly (1991) mezzo-soprano, Bb clarinet, piano
Hymnbook Resources Commission (1990) vocal quartet:  SATB
Unmasked ... a chamber opera in one act (1989-90): S, MS, CT/A, T, BA, BS, 1111-0000-perc-hpsd-11111
Apples ... Six "Dreams" by Richard Kenney (1987; rev. 1990) mezzo-soprano, piano
The Cockscomb (1981) female voice, violin, Bb trumpet, doublebass, piano, 2 percussion
Phantasia For Elvira Shatayev (1981) soprano and orchestra: picc212-2121-hp-pf-2perc-strings
Photograph 1920 (1978; rev. 1982) soprano, Bb clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello

String Quartet:

Tantric Psalms (1997) for the Hawthorne Quartet
ART: arias & interludes ... Commedia dell'Arte for String Quartet (1996; rev. 1997) for the Artaria Quartet
Seven Jazz Pieces (1990-1991) for the Lydian String Quartet
String Quartet on B-flat (1989/90; rev. 1993) for the Manhattan String Quartet
String Quartet No.5 (1987) for the Kronos Quartet; premiered by the Boston Composers String Quartet
Morango ... Almost A Tango (1983) for the Kronos Quartet
Third String Quartet ... child of Uranus, father of Zeus (1982) for the Kronos Quartet
Departed Feathers (1980) for the Kronos Quartet
Aperture, opus 1 (1974)

For Chamber Ensemble:

Septet, opus 77 ... "Variations on a Shaker tune" (1998) flute, Bb clarinet, F Horn, violin, viola, cello, double bass
Yo Picasso (1997) Bb clarinet, viola, cello, piano
La Chimera Fantastica (1995, rev. 1996) violin, viola, cello
Piano Trio No.1 (1994, rev. 1995) violin, cello, piano
Castor & Pollux (1993, rev. 1996) flute, oboe, Bb clarinet, piano
Four In One + 3 (1992) flute, oboe, cello, trap set
Studio 54 (1992) flute, Bb clarinet, violin, cello, piano
Santa Cecilia ... a Horn Trio (1990, replaces 1986 version) violin, F horn, marimba
numina V ... a Williams fanfare (1988) 2 oboes, english horn in F, 2 bassoons
Piano Quintet ... Apple Strudel (1988) violin, viola, cello, doublebass, piano
Chôrinhos, opus 38 (1987) flute, oboe, Bb clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion
Harp Trio (1986) flute, cello, harp
Piano Sextet (1985) flute, oboe, Bb clarinet, bassoon, horn, piano
Six At The Top Means... (1985) 3 saxophones, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, piano, doublebass, drums, percussion
String Trio (1985) violin, viola, cello
Louie MCMLV (1985) saxophone quartet
Waltzes, opus 26 (1984, rev. 1994) flute, oboe, Bb clarinet, F horn, bassoon
Saxxologie ... A Sextet (1984) 6 saxophones:  2 soprano, 1 alto, 2 tenor, 1 baritone
Hylidae ... The Tree Frogs (1984) violin, doublebass, piano *
Double "L" Triptych, opus 22 (1983) oboe solo, 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, 1 doublebass
The Gainsborough Five (1983) 2 trumpets, F horn, trombone, tuba
Octopus Wrecks (1979/1981) 2 trumpets, F horn, trombone, tuba, 3 doublebasses
Piece For Viola (1976) saxophone quartet
The Mad Frog (1974) oboe, Bb bass clarinet, harp

Solo/Duo:

29 Fireflies, Book III [xii-xviii] (1998) solo piano
Eight Tarot Cards for Madam Rubio (1997) two marimbas
Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards ... Twenty-two salon pieces for two pianos, opus 66 (1996)
Cançôes e Sambinhas (1996) cello, piano
Trinca de Chôros (1996) Bb clarinet solo in three movements
Chôros, opus 61 (1994-95) violin or viola solo
Tunesmith ... An American Beauty Pageant (1993) violin, piano
Dark Angels (1990; rev. 1994) viola, cello
Marimolintoo (1989/90) violin, marimba
numina II ... for Sarah (1989/90) two recorders or flutes
numina I ...  (1988; rev. 1994) solo trumpet
Marimolin (1986) violin, marimba
29 Fireflies, Book II [v-xi] (1982/1986) solo piano
White Pond ... Concord, Mass. (1982) oboe, piano
The MacGuffin (1982) Bb soprano/Eb alto sax, percussion
Currie Cabot (1980) viola, piano
After A Lecture By John Cage (1978) solo piano
Libelle ... "dragonfly" (1977/withdrawn) solo harp
29 Fireflies, Book I [i-iv] (1977) solo piano
Tennessee Sourmash (1976) cello, piano
The Sensuous Gargoyle (1975) violin, piano

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EDUCATION

Harvard University Ph.D. in Composition, 1981
New England Conservatory M.M. in Composition, 1976
New England Conservatory M.M. in Jazz, 1974
University of Pittsburgh B.A. in Music, 1972

Composition with: Gunther Schuller, William Thomas McKinley, Earl Kim, Betsy Jolas
Theory and Analysis with: Ernst Oster, Donald Martino, Fred Lerdahl, Robert Cogan
Jazz Studies with: George Russell, Nathan Davis, Jaki Byard, Carl Atkins
 

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PUBLISHERS

Margun Music, Inc. (BMI)
169 Dudley Road
Newton Centre  MA  02159
617/332.6398

Departed Feathers Music (BMI)
9 Remington Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617/661.6610
 

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REVIEWS

"The second work, 'Seven Jazz Pieces,'  was wriiten for the [Lydian String] quartet by Thomas Oboe Lee; the Lyds' advocacy of Lee's earlier 'Morango ... almost a tango' made it one of the composer's greatest hits, so Lee came up with 'Seven Jazz Pieces' to return the favor.  Four of the pieces are lively and elegant tributes to jazz styles and their examplars (Horace Silver and bebop, Bill Evans and jazz waltz, Antonio Carlos Jobim and bossa nova, and Jaco Pastorius and punk/funk).  These are framed by a Prelude, Interlude, and Postlude in a somewhat different style; these present basic materials of music in quiet, still chords and remind us that honky-tonks and red-light districts weren't the only source of jazz - human feeling, and especially religious feeling, fed into it, too.  The piece is written in genuine affection and with genuine skill - it does not patronize the music, commercialize it, or, worst of all, concertize it.  The Lyds' performance was another amazing demonstration of chops and comprehensive musical sympathy."     - Richard Dyer, Boston Globe,  June 8, 1998

"[About 'The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa' for mezzo-soprano and organ]: [Mary] Westbrook-Geha did some spectacular singing in strong pieces by [Arlene] Zallman and Thomas Oboe Lee."   - Richard Dyer, Boston Globe,  June 8, 1998
 
"Serving the community for 20 years as one of the few remaining self-governing professional orchestras in the country, the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra has been celebrating its anniversary by soliciting 'Musical Birthday Cards' from favorite composers.  Sunday's greeting came from the wickedly witty pen of Thomas Oboe Lee, in the form of a samba called 'Forró.'  Gunther Schuller led the band prancing through the sophisticated rhythms and piquant sounds (violins wheezing like concertinas, purring muted trumpets) so stylishly you could imagine all with fruit baskets on their heads."   - Susan Larson, Boston Globe,  May 19, 1998

"Composer Thomas Oboe Lee, born in China and working in Boston, won the 1983 Friedheim Award with his 'Quartet No. 3. '  The piece has aged well, its big gestures and subtle inner voices speaking as clearly as they did 15 years ago.  The Kronos Quartet applies its precise and subtle approach to the work, amplifying color and creating scenes of great beauty and angularity.   Lee's 'The Mad Frog!' pulls disparate instruments together in a boisterous race.  The Collage ensemble premiered the piece and plays it here with apt insouciance." - Daniel Webster, Philadephia Inquirer, April 26, 1998
 
"Continuing its fruitful relationship with composer, balletomane, jazz flutist Thomas Oboe Lee, who wrote a stunning 'Orpheus' suite for it two years ago, the Civic [Symphony of Boston] undertook the world premiere performance of his 'Symphony No. 2,'  subtitled 'A  Phantasmagorey Ballet.'  Lee, taking inspiration from cartoonist-poet Edward Gorey, conceived five flights of terpsichorean fancy that must be as fun to play as they are to hear.  The glistening surfaces of Lee's music are instantly attractive, but there's substance under the razzle-dazzle, along with a sophisticated feeling for harmony and timbre."   - Susan Larson, Boston Globe,  March 10, 1998

"For  contrast, the program offered Thomas Oboe Lee's 'ART: arias & interludes' for string quartet, with the Cambridge composer on hand for the performance and preconcert talk.  The 'ART ' part of the title refers to the Artaria Quartet of Boston, which commissioned the five-movement 1996 work.  The rest has to do with commedia dell'arte figures from the stage.  None of them comes off terribly well in Lee's mischievous portrayal: Pulcinella is 'insufferable,' Pierrot 'a teary, sad sack' and Pantaloon an 'old goat.'  Harlequin tries to fly and finds himself stuck on the ceiling (the first violin can't get off a high note).  Colombine dances until she becomes 'lopsided and almost out of control.'  The dumb show is adroitly handled and good fun, with a leaven of seriousness beneath the mockery.  The question is whether the music would work as well without the composer's written guide to the action.  In any case, it helps to have a performance as committed as the Hawthorne [String Quartet]'s."  - Andrew L. Pincus, The Berkshire Eagle, October 28, 1997
 
"Lee, one of those fortunate living composers who gets second and third and fourth performances, not just premieres, was represented by his 'Seven Jazz Pieces,' which also happens to be his seventh string quartet.  If memory serves, when the Lydians played it, it was the tastefulness of the four Hommages (to Horace silver, Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jaco Pastorius) that stuck out.  This time, though, it was Lee's original material that weighed in as real, substantial, idiomatic to the instruments.  Music for instruments that are struck or blown (as most jazz/pop ones are) doesn't translate to strings easily, and of the non-Lee movements, only the Jobim seemed really viable.  This time." - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, July 1, 1997
 
"Marimba players Nancy Zeltsman and Janis Potter were as much a choreographic phenomenon as a musical one.  Defined by the physical demands of the music the duo swayed and dipped, dancing back and forth to the Brazilian-influenced 'Eight Tarot Cards for Madam Rubio' by Thomas Oboe Lee.  Each card was represented on the printed program by name, then by its dance mood, and finally by a descriptive sentence.  The Boston-based composer was present.  At first he looked at his lap as if unable to watch his piece while it was outside his control.  But by the end he, too, was captured by the spirit of the music as if he had no closer relation to it than as a happy audience member.  The performance by marimba duo "Madam Rubio" was spirited and evocative. .... Outside the Brazilian dance mode was the more pictorial La Torre  (The Tower), a repetitive set of ostinati.  They finally merge into polytonal layers like a tower which then 'topples and crashes onto the populace gathered below.'  My favorite was La Papessa  (The Priestess), a moody mazurka about a magic potion for which Zeltsman used a very large mallet head to induce the lowest tones of her bass marimba.  And the inevitable Il Morte  (Death) walked slowly to a drum-beat.  It had the widest dynamic range of any work on the program.   But the other represented tarot-cards danced along in the cheeriest fashion.  Even the off-beat La Ruota della Fortuna  (Wheel of Fortune) with its off-center 5/8 meter was a joy.   The final Il Sole  (The Sun) was subtitled 'Salsa cubana!  Sunshine, margaritas ... '  If there was anything missing from this one it was a shout in the empty spaces after some of the cadences." - Paul Somers, Classical New Jersey,  May 28, 1997
 
"Thomas Oboe Lee presented his 'Symphony No. 1. Subtitled "Fallen Angels," ' it featured startling, bristly supernatural effects, abrasive but tonal, which called for full-orchestra statements often too much for the church's space.  The second and third sections called attention to contrasting colors in strings and winds in which ingenious orchestration covered over the lack of real movement or melodic interest.  Surprisingly, though Lee was a student of Gunther Schuller, is a jazz flutist and dedicated his symphony to Miles Davis, nevertheless the scoring shows little recognizable integration of jazz techniques into the mixture."          - Jack Dressler, Post and Courier,  May 31, 1966

"Two of the three movements of Lee's 'Symphony [No. 1]' are about dancing - the danse macabre of the 'Prince of Darkness' and a Mephisto Waltz for the Prince and Lilith.  The third and final movement, 'Lilith's Lament,' is almost about stasis, although it is built on a slow and rhythmical ground bass.  Triangle solos at the end of the first and third movements are among the things that tie the work together.  The symphony is dark-colored and its gestures are strong, although perhaps too stark; sometimes the ideas seem to want more notes, further develpoment.  The audience seemed to enjoy the extroverted and theatrical nature of the first two movements, and the melancholy timelessness of the third, and the composer seemed pleased with the performers and the piece." - Richard Dyer, Boston Globe,  April 22, 1996
 
"Lee's 'Eurydice' is also based on the Orpheus story.  The piece is shamelessly romantic, brimming with brilliant effects.  Lee has a subtle ear for harmony, and his rich loamy beds of sonority are deeply satisfying.  He gives important roles to percussion, colorful voicing to winds and brass while the strings sustain lush chords. [Andrés] Díaz's cello-as-Orpheus grieves for his beloved in spacious, rhapsodic tunes.  He is a big, emotionally open player with a warm vocal sound who knows exactly what to do with this kind of material.  The piece includes a wild ride to Hades and a gorgeous, schmaltzy love scene.  Hankies were sought and used.  The finale, 'Apotheosis,' sounded a bit too earth-bound."   - Susan Larson, Boston Globe,  May 2, 1995

"As for 'That Mountain,' the resultant cantata  for baritone and six instrumentalists, your reviewer's impression was of... a decently rounded, respectful picture of the subject [Henry David Thoreau] emerging at the end of its seven movements.  That's because Lee is more a compositional leaver-out than a putter-in and probably  couldn't come up with a clotted texture if he tried.  Most of That Mountain  had a Satie-like studied 'simplicity.'  Lee was much too wise to try to over-egg the pudding, the priority instead being to let the words (a plea for John Brown, various thoughts on water, fighting ants, earthly chaos and a graveyard on a hill) speak clearly.  And speak they did, both clearly and beautifully.   The performance, conducted by Lee himself, was trim and secure."  - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, July 14, 1992
 
"If Thomas Oboe Lee's song cycle 'I Never Saw Another Butterfly' employs some dangerously potent texts - by children who perished in the death camps - the treatment is restrained and economical, the effect honest and moving."     - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, Jan. 28, 1992

"Thomas Oboe Lee's elusive, sleekly somber 'Morango ... Almost a Tango' (1983) seemed much more substantial than other performers [compared to the Boston Composers String Quartet] have ever made it. (The jury is still out on this unpredictable composer.)"  - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, Oct.29, 1991

"Next came the premiere performance of Thomas Oboe Lee's 'Seven Jazz Pieces,' a collection of compact and affectionate homages (to Horace Silver, Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim) that showed an admirable sure-footedness in maintaining the string quartet's sound-personality, yet at the same time seeing to it that the spirit of the originals came to life in their borrowed habitat.  Admirable, too, was the composer's way of framing these portrait-evocations - a pair of Arvo Pärt-like meditations, one at the beginning and one at the end, that weren't the least bit jazz-like but created an aura (first of expectancy, then of fulfillment) that seemed just right."  - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, June 18, 1991
 
"Their [Marimolin's] signature piece, Thomas Oboe Lee's 'Marimolin' proved to be the most astutely arranged work, making inventive use of the upper-register accompanying patterns in the marimba against a violin line that ran underneath it.  Except for an overly-long slow movement, dominated by a repeated broken-chord progression in the marimba, it was an engrossing, tastefully composed piece of considerable skill and invention."  - Carl Cunningham, Houston Post, January 18, 1990
 
"There is no question that Lee is a phenomenally gifted, searching composer who is making an impact upon our musical generation.  The distinction of his work is to be found in the startling clarity and force of his conceptions.  Born in China in 1945, reared in Brazil, and active as a jazz flutist, Lee has a doubtless strong ethnic orientation toward music.  But the excitement of his music is found in the extent to which various dimensions are fused into one seamless whole.  In 'Chôrinhos' (1987), African-derived rhythms leap through several stages of development in the outer movements, while the chamber ensemble sings an Ellington-esque lament tinged with a glimmer of transcendence in the inner statements."     - William T. Dargan, Durham Morning Herald, December 5, 1989

ãThatâs ['Marimolin'] also my kind of piece:  strong melodies, very original, it sweeps and soars.  I would listen to and enjoy this many times.ä    - Gary Burton, ãBlindfold Testä, Downbeat,  August 1989

"Lee's 'Chôrinhos Op. 38' reflected that composer's years in Brazil, fusing dance rhythms and dance band sounds in sophisticated, terse musical shapes.  The second movement, a long, slow song for cello and violin eventually joined by the whole ensemble, is music so logically conceived that its melody seems familiar and, paradoxically, wholly new.  Each movement stressed a different group from the septet, a concerto for seven that moved melodically through three movements before celebrating angular rhythmic ideas in the fourth."    - Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1988
 
"Of special merit was the premiere performance of a work commissioned by the [Fairfield Chamber] Orchestra  - the 'Concertino' [for Trumpet, String Orchestra and timpani] by Thomas Oboe Lee.  ... [Lee's] experience as an instrumentalist - a wind player, at that - must have been of invaluable assistance to him in composing this demanding and impressive work.  It is all very well to experiment with new ideas and sounds, but to do so with playable results, as he has done successfully, is a different matter.  This fine work, both vigorous and lyrical, is a welcome addition to trumpet literature in particular and to musical repertory in general." - Joel Hupper, Westport News, March 20, 1987

[about 'Morango...Almost a Tango'] ...a soulfully beautiful score by Thomas Oboe Lee.ä    - John Rockwell, New York Times, November 16, 1986

ãLeeâs piece, 'Morango...Almost a Tango,' is a transcription of atmospheric and elegant music originally composed for string quartet; it is as sultry as Faith Domergue in a film noir, and it steams.ä    - Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, November 13, 1986
 
ã[about 'Morango...Almost a Tango']:  Non sono mancati i bis.  Un richiamo al sex appeal  del vecchio tango da parte di un giovane «premio Roma», Tom Lee.ä   - Mya Tannenbaum, Corriere Della Sera, October 9, 1986

ãLeeâs 'String Trio,' a work that was commissioned by the [St. Paul] Chamber Orchestra, is a deftly written statement and development of two of the composerâs songs, Blue Moon in July and the perhaps slightly redundant Mendelssohn, Mendelssohn, Mendelssohn.  ... Lee displays a gift for lyricism that often is compelling, especially when played so beautifully, as it was by violinist Hanley Daws, violist Evelina Chao, and cellist Mark Brandfonbrener.ä     - Michael Anthony, Minneapolis Star and Tribune, January 13, 1986

ãThomas Oboe Leeâs 'Saxxologie ... a sextet' for six saxophones distilled the hard-edged sonorities and luscious extended chords of postwar jazz into a hymn of praise to bop.ä - Bernard Holland, New York Times, October 13, 1985
 
ãThe big piece is Thomas Oboe Leeâs 'Departed Feathers' for string quartet.  Leeâs music is bold and concise and rests on rhythmic invention that keeps it in full flight.ä  - Daniel Webster, Philadephia Inquirer, June 23, 1985

"The feature of Gunther Schuller'concert with the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra Sunday at Sanders Theater was the premiere of Thomas Oboe Lee's glitzy new 'Harp Concerto,' effortlessly performed by - or so it seemed - by the BSO's Ann Hobson Pilot ...   The piece is a varicolored orchestral gewgaw, a thing of tatters and patches, always (seemingly) about to turn into something.  It gets from here to there by just turning the page, plunging right on, and not looking back.  At the start it's a tartly colored, brightly scored affair, very contemporary and jagged in its phraseology.  Then come long stretches of static, quasi-legato vamping, followed in turn by lush André Kostelanetz-isms one doesn't know quite how to take.  Was there a quote from Stravinsky's 'Orpheus' in there too?  Like every other piece being written these days, it stops rather than ends, in mid-breath as it were." - Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, April 30, 1985

ãThomas Oboe Leeâs 'Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev... ' is a setting of a poem by Adrienne Rich so powerful in its matter and its imagery that no composer with a modicum of technique could go far wrong with it.  Lee...has plenty of technique.  His piece ÷ a solo cantata, shaped as introduction, exposition, recitative, aria, and coda ÷ was striking.ä - Andrew Porter, The New Yorker, March 11, 1985

ãThomas Oboe Leeâs [String] 'Quartet No.3... ' succeeded through the juxtaposition of smartly dissonant music with a chordal, lyrical section that in mood, approached grand sentimentality in its initial appearance.  Thatâs a little surprising but not unexpected in this age of neo-Romanticism.ä - Charles Ward, Houston Chronicle, February 27, 1985

ãTo their great credit, he [violinist Joel Smirnoff], bassist Edwin Barker, and pianist Benjamin Pasternak made sense of the unlikely stylistic lurches of Thomas Oboe Lee's 'Hylidae ... The Tree Frogs,' which many in the audience were surprised to find themselves liking hugely." - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, Aug. 2, 1984

"In between came the premiere of Thomas Oboe Lee's 'Double 'L' Triptych' [for Double Reed, Double String Quartet, and Double Bass], a cleverly constructed whatnot containing some prickly rhythms insisted on en bloc, the ghost of a passacaglia (perhaps), a lovely oboe soliloquy which turns into viscuous WJIB music, musical stuff going whence to therefrom in an unnervingly miscellaneous fashion, in different degrees of irony.  The piece aimed to please, and did." - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, April 5, 1984

ãNo greater contrast [to another work heard at Tanglewood] could be imagined than the most entertaining piece of the festival so far, 'The Cockscomb,' a jeu dâesprit by Somervilleâs own Thomas Oboe Lee.  ...the whimsical, edgy combination of words and music won the composer the weekâs first standing ovation.ä    - Richard Dyer, Boston Globe, August 6, 1981

"Thomas Oboe Lee's 'Octopus Wrecks,' which pitted a brass quintet against a trio of double-basses, might well have been 'La Mer' written in a bathyscape.  Here you had dark, murky  instrumental timbres; compositional discourse that moved in slow, heavy currents; motivic scraps that were hardly more than flotsam and jetsam.  And all this worked - every bit as oddly as it sounds - to an attractive, shapely, handsome-sounding piece.  When Collage introduced it two seasons ago, 'The Mad Frog' proclaimed Lee a talented and an original composer, a 'natural.'  Octopus Wrecks confirms the impression." - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, May 2, 1981.
 

"'The Mad Frog' turned out to be a very funny, adroit, and colorful business for oboe, bass clarinet, and harp.  If Donald Barthelme were a composer, would he write this way?  Yes.   I liked hugely the scabrous overblowing from the pair of winds, the dripping-faucet ostinato from the harp that somehow turned into a march rhythm (I found myself humming it during intermission), the extended bass clarinet cadenza that was very Dolphy-like indeed.  And it all cohered.  It made sense.  What timing and what a sense of audience psychology Oboe Lee has!  Fredric Cohen [oboe], Robert Annis [bass clarinet], and Ann Hobson [harp] did 'The Mad Frog' up proud, and if they ever make a record of it, I'll buy it."    - Richard Buell, Boston Globe, March 9, 1979.