Symphony New Hampshire & Lexington Symphony
"Any production of Wagner's ‘Ring’ Cycle—even a concert performance— is a mammoth undertaking for a major opera company or orchestra . . . And an "Essential Ring" is in a sense an even greater challenge. . . . Nonetheless, the combined orchestras, under Music Director Jonathan McPhee (who is also Music Director at Boston Ballet), delivered a stirring Part I of the project. . . . You got outstanding Wagner. From the eight double basses' grinding first E-flat, the Prelude to "Das Rheingold" burst into light, dancing, building to the release of the Rhinemaidens' entrance. The orchestra was bright and vivid throughout, and McPhee offered an intensely dramatic reading of the score, with huge climaxes. . . . The singers matched McPhee in characterization and emotion."
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, The Boston Globe

Boston Ballet Orchestra
"Boston Ballet's production [of The Nutcracker] . . . consistently features spectacular dancing as well as live music by an orchestra that, under the direction of Jonathan McPhee, has developed into one of the most solid ensembles in the area."
                                                                                                        —Karen Campbell, The Boston Globe

Boston Ballet Orchestra
"Yet the star of the evening was Boston Ballet music director Jonathan McPhee. You can’t have a great performance of Neumeier’s ‘Third Symphony’ without a great performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony. McPhee, leading the Boston Ballet Orchestra and the New World Chorale, delivered exactly that."
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, The Boston Globe 

Boston Ballet Orchestra
"The Boston Ballet opened its 52nd season Thursday night with one of the 20th century’s most monumental ballet-orchestral achievements, the ‘Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler: A Ballet by John Neumeier.’ The adjectives to describe the evening keep running through my head: ‘glorious,’ ‘awe-inspiring’ and ‘extraordinary’ are just a few. And a hearty thank-you goes to the Boston Ballet’s artistic director, Mikko Nissinen, for having the nerve to bring such a gift to Boston. The other hero of the enterprise is Jonathan McPhee, the Boston Ballet’s longtime music director, who conducted the orchestra."
                                                                                                        —Iris Fanger, The Patriot Ledger

Symphony New Hampshire (Nashua Symphony Orchestra) 
"In his first concert as the Nashua Symphony’s new music director, conductor Jonathan McPhee started off his tenure with strong performances of a bouquet of entertaining scores. McPhee and the orchestra delivered lively and well-played renditions of Smetena’s ‘The Moldau,’ Kodály’s ‘Peacock’ Variations, and Dvorák’s ‘New World’ Symphony No. 9. McPhee programmed the concert without a soloist so as to keep the spotlight on the orchestra, and it certainly did. All sections had their moments in each piece, with the brass standing out impressively in bringing to life the Kodály score’s tart harmonies. For me, the real achievement of the night was making the familiar New World Symphony sound fresh and exciting. But McPhee worked wonders with the music, somehow finding a way to let the players discover the piece all over again. The result was a fresh-sounding ‘New World’ that ebbed and flowed with life from the downbeat to the final chord. It held together—and held interest— for all four movements."
                                                                                                        —Jeff Rapsis, The Hippo Press 

Hamburg Philharmonic, Germany 
"With ‘Le Pavillon d’Armide’ sandwiched in between Balanchine’s ‘The Prodigal Son’ of 1929 and ‘Le Sacre du printemps’ . . . I was surprised at once by the atmospheric sounds of Nikolai Tcherepnin’s score—a composer I knew only by name, and which the various dictionaries I had looked up had made me expect an epigone of Rimsky-Korsakov who had been one of his teachers. From the very first moment I was surprised by his colorful instrumentation, beautifully realized (as was the whole programme) by the Hamburg Philharmonic, conducted by Jonathan McPhee. Yes, there were undoubtedly some Rimsky-Korsakov reminiscences (plus some Tchaikovsky and even Wagner), but to me Tcherepnin sounded much more influenced by Glazunov—all those tinkling, music-box like melodies and sweeping waltzes . . . They held me spellbound through the whole duration of the ballet. Marvelous!" 
                                                                                                        —Horst Koegler,

Portland Symphony Orchestra 
“The first indication that the program would be out of the ordinary came with the opening of Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from ‘Peter Grimes’ (Op. 33a) . . . late-comers would have missed one of the high points of the season. . . . After intermission, it was back to superior tone painting, with the long suite from Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird.’ All of the sections were eminently dance-able, even the final hymn, which often ‘melts’ because everyone enjoys the heavenly and sonorous melody so much. McPhee also captured numerous wonderful details, such as the rapid, pulsing crescendo and diminuendo of the strings, or the way a melody shifts in mid phrase from the woodwinds to the cello.”
                                                                                                        —Christopher Hyde, Portland Press Herald

Youngstown Symphony Orchestra
“McPhee’s performance of that piece (Barber’s Adagio for Strings) conveyed its organic beginnings. His faster-than-typical tempo caused the dramatic points of arrival to seem less strained than usual, giving a feeling of liberation. McPhee demonstrated that tight gestures could go a long way toward creating a big sound. His clear conducting patterns, his expression of dynamic changes through body language, his precise cues and his eye contact with the musicians translated successfully into a rousing start (Glinka’s Russlan and Ludmilla Overture). McPhee seemed to have the strongest command of the larger Romantic pieces, tapping into their excitement, dynamic range, expressiveness and virtuosity. In the program’s final piece . . . McPhee lead the symphony in Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, a difficult and fast-paced work. He conveyed the light touch that is necessary to pull off a performance of this fast Italian finale while providing the dramatic expressiveness for which Mendelssohn is known. McPhee’s ability to communicate with and connect to the musicians translated to the audience, which gave the group a lengthy and well-deserved round of applause.” 
                                                                                                        —Till Meyn & Laura Meyn, Vindicator 

Annapolis Symphony Orchestra 
“Under guest conductor Jonathan McPhee, the ASO dazzled listeners with excellent music-making and precise playing that permitted the orchestra to demonstrate its many fine qualities. That such dissimilar musical works were executed at such a consistently high standard of performance was a reflection of the merits of the orchestra and its handling by an adept conductor. Particularly impressive was Mr. McPhee’s handling of this rarely heard work (Nielsen’s Helios Overture). He led the overture so suavely and effortlessly that one would think he’d been conducting Nielsen his entire life. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 was played to the hilt by Mr. McPhee and the ASO. This conductor obviously has an affinity for the great symphonist, high-lighting many of the beautiful details in Beethoven’s scoring without losing the flow of the music . . . In the Third Movement I particularly liked the way Mr. McPhee accentuated the slight tempo changes between the minuet and trio portions of the movements. And under his sure hand, the ebullient Fourth Movement was a rollicking delight. I would be hard pressed to single out any of these three exquisite works as the highlight of last weekend’s concert. In fact, if there was a lasting impression, it was the consistency of the level of performances . . . It also represented as diverse and ingenious a program (with Bernstein’s Serenade for Violin and Orchestra) as the ASO has ever offered.” 
                                                                                                        —David Lindauer, The Capitol 

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra 
“Get to the Orpheum Theater tonight, where the LPO led by Jonathan McPhee, will reprise its earthshaking take on Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets.’ . . .The LPO had the necessary firepower but . . . under McPhee’s leadership, it showed that it had plenty of subtlety, too. . . . As Holst’s seven-part suite unfolded . . . the LPO drew out the nuances of the English composer’s brilliant orchestration. The details were indelible.” 
                                                                                                        —Chris Waddington, The Times-Picayune 

Opera Boston 
“Conductor Jonathan McPhee, Boston Ballet’s longtime music director presided in his first local professional opera gig (Massanet’s Le Jongleur de Notre Dame). Balancing the music’s naïve and knowing elements, its surface charm and spiritual backbone, McPhee— for whom the orchestra played with near perfection— proved that, if he ever tires of the patter of toe shoes, there’s a home for him at the opera.”                  
                                                                                                        —T. J. Medrek, Boston Herald 

Opera at Boston University 
“Boston University’s production made a very good case for the piece (Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet) last weekend; the audience loved it, as it should have—this was considerably more involving and satisfying than any of the Metropolitan Opera tour performances here between 1968 and 1988. The opera had charm and pathos—and when it is sung and staged this stylishly, it is plenty steamy. Credit for this goes to a generaly good cast, to a strong production, to expert coaching and musical preparation, and to the guest conductor Jonathan McPhee, who believes in this music and knows how it works. He secured lively playing from the orchestra and worked supportively with the singers." 
                                                                                                        —Richard Dyer, Boston Globe 

Longwood Symphony Orchestra 
"Introducing the Longwood Symphony Orchestra’s unusual World AIDS Day program—Silvestre Revueltas’s Sensemayá, the Coronation Scene from Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, and Leos Janácek’s Glagolska mse (‘Glagolitic Mass’)—last Saturday, LSO music director Jonathan McPhee talked about music as celebration and about the power of indigenous sounds . . . Mexican composer Revueltas finished Sensemayá in 1938 . . .Here it offered up echoes of Stravinsky’s Sacre du printemps and pre-echoes of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, the batonless McPhee dancing as lightly and easily on the podium as if the 7/8 were a waltz while giving the piece a human shape. . . .More testimony to the power of the people followed in Boris Godunov’s Coronation Scene, where Boris vows to accept the tsar’s throne only with the consent of the narod, or Russian folk, even as he wonders whether he deserves to be the people’s choice. McPhee whipped the orchestra and Holly Krafta’s distinguished New World Chorale into a fervor (Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass) without undermining the music’s chant foundation . . . Janácek thought of the Bohemian woods as his church here; the piece is like a crying out of the people, as full of doubt as of faith. The solo parts, especially the soprano’s, can invite shrieking, but McPhee’s quartet—Marjorie Elinor Dix, Mary Phillips, John Bellemer, and Gustav Andreassen—let the music prevail, John Zielinski was a demon of ebb and flow at the organ, and McPhee tightroped between thorny and lilting, reminding us that the people celebrate not just with music but also with dance.” 
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Phoenix 

Longwood Symphony Orchestra 
“I wonder whether Samuel Barber’s Night Flight . . . has ever been programmed with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Actually, I wonder whether it’s been programmed at all in Boston. The piece, like something by an American Vaughan Williams, created an intriguing void from which to approach Beethoven’s monumental symphony. The problem with the Ninth is that it gets played like a monument. The Longwood Symphony Orchestra, whose members are mostly area medical professionals, might not be able to do this work full justice, but under McPhee — also music director of Boston Ballet — it delivered one of the most satisfying performances of this piece I’ve heard. From the moment the orchestra reached the coiled outburst of the opening movement’s first theme, it was clear that this Ninth would be like soldiers charging rather than a boy throwing a temper tantrum. Strings were not privileged over the rest of the orchestra, and McPhee accorded the music its natural dance pulse rather than conducting with the usual aggressive one-to-the-bar beat. That opening movement had the ragged intensity of an all-men-shall-be-brothers village band, and the volume, when it rose, was generous rather than assaultive. There was even a hint of hysteria at the end. The scherzo was limpid even by first-class orchestra standards; the horns in their neurotic honking could have been geese warning of danger. McPhee took a common-sense approach to Beethoven’s controversial tempo markings: here the trio flowed a little faster than the main section, and in the slow movement the second theme flowed a little faster than the first. Even as the slow movement dissolves into martial fanfares, as if Napoleon had risen from St. Helena, McPhee maintained the 12/8 waltz lilt: you could hear intimations of Berlioz. The finale was so superbly paragraphed—and this movement is all about paragraphs—that it made Beethoven seem easy. Strong and conversational without forcing, bass Robert Honeysucker was a big part of that; so was tenor Ray Bauwens, jaunty and yet heroic in his ‘Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen’ (‘Joyful, like a hero to victory’). Soprano Janna Baty and mezzo Jan Wilson joined them in the quartet; Holly Krafka’s New World Chorale, provided a full-throated vocal foundation. McPhee had built up so much momentum that the usual (and usually unearned) sprint to the finish seemed in prospect; instead we got an orderly, triumphant procession.” 
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Phoenix 

Longwood Symphony Orchestra 
“People who don't go the Boston Ballet are missing out on some world-class, top-notch conducting, to judge from Jonathan McPhee's guest appearance Saturday night with the non-professional Longwood Symphony Orchestra. For one thing, you were almost never aware that you weren't hearing a rather good professional ensemble. And the music making always had a point of view—not just tinkering, but the product of up-and-down, in-and-out knowledge of how the music of Mozart (the Two- Piano Concerto, K. 365), Berlioz (‘Symphonie fantastique’), and—no real surprise here—Jonathan McPhee (‘Fantasy for Two Pianos’) achieves its effects and, when possible, works its magic. Leslie Amper and Randall Hodgkinson, the pianists, looked happy to be keeping such agreeable company.” 
                                                                                                        —Richard Buell, Boston Globe

Norwegian Opera Orchestra 
"The evening's conductor, Jonathan McPhee, has re-orchestrated the Stravinsky score (Rite of Spring) for a smaller orchestra. He has done this with a deep understanding of the score, which was also apparent in his interpretation. Personally, I thought that the work's splintered, raw qualities of sound was more authentic here than in the Oslo Philharmonic's performance of the original version. Like everything else, the general musical level was so good that all we missed was some of the real power of a larger orchestra. 
                                                                                                        —Yngvild Sorbye, DAGBLADET Oslo, Norway 

Boston Ballet Orchestra 
“Not the least of this Sacre's enticements is the playing of the Boston Ballet Orchestra. Ever since Pierre Boulez, in the 1950s, stripped Stravinsky's piece of its color to reveal the stark rhythmic skeleton, performances have tended toward the primitive and brutal. Boston Ballet music director Jonathan McPhee restores the color, and the mystery, and the majesty.” 
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Phoenix 

Boston Ballet Orchestra 
“Jonathan McPhee confirmed his reputation (in Serenade for Strings) as a Tchaikovsky conductor of international stature—particularly in the Waltz, which can so easily turn saccharine.”
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Phoenix

Boston Ballet Orchestra

“The Company (Boston Ballet) also takes pride of place in its music, Jonathan McPhee’s orchestra outdoing James Levine’s MET in the Verdi (ballet music from Don Carlos ‘Ballo della Regina’) the audible bassoon burbling in the D-minor waltz; the majesty and harmonic weight of the Spanish hymn and matching anyone in the Stravinsky (Monumentum pro Gesualdo and Movements for Piano and Orchestra) – the brass cadences of the second and third Monumentum madrigals; pianist Freda Locker and all hands in the fiendish Movements and in the Prokofiev (Prodigal Son).” 
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Phoenix   

Boston Ballet Orchestra 
“It [Madame Butterfly] ends with the lovers couched under the stars, Puccini’s chiming melody played with sublime magic—as is the rest of the score—by Jonathan McPhee and the Boston Ballet Orchestra (the better you know the opera, the more you’ll appreciate how good their performance is).”
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Phoenix 

Boston Ballet Orchestra  
“TCHAIKOVSKY TRIUMPH: Probably no one outside Russia understands this score better than Boston Ballet music director Jonathan McPhee.” (The Nutcracker)
                                                                                                        —Lloyd Schwartz, Boston Phoenix

Boston Ballet Orchestra

“For the past few years I’ve been plumping for a Boston Ballet Nutcracker video or CD, and the CD, at least, has arrived. . . . Jonathan McPhee understands that the winds, brass, and percussion are not an embarrassment to the strings but essential elements in Tchaikovsky’s vision. Very few competing releases . . . can make that claim. Besides, The Nutcracker tends to be a personal thing—I like Richard Bonynge/National Symphony and Yuri Temirkanov/Royal Philharmonic, but you might not. This recording has ideas, perceptions, nuances (the buildup to the Christmas Tree Forest tableau climax, the reedy winds in Coffee, the delectable celeste in Sugar Plum’s variation) that you won’t find elsewhere—and you could spend big bucks looking.” 
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Phoenix 

Boston Ballet Orchestra

“In George Balanchine’s Who Cares? (music by George Gershwin) . . . Jonathan McPhee’s splendid orchestra, brash but not coarse, conjures the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein.”           
                                                                                                        —Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Phoenix 

Symphony Nova Scotia 
“Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite . . . crackled with energy and surprisingly tight rhythmic balance. . . . McPhee’s conducting style is restrained, but obviously what lay behind it was the thorough preparation of the orchestra during rehearsals, which was evident in all four works on the program. . . . They all showed meticulous preparation and detailed knowledge of the intricacies within all four scores. . . . Close listening revealed a high level of faithfulness to musical dynamics and tempos as well as the work’s design and structure. McPhee’s interpretation of Schubert’s Fifth Symphony showed a faithful adherence to virtually all the values of the score. . . . McPhee showed himself a terrific accompanist in the Mozart Concerto No. 10 in E-Flat for Two Pianos (K365). The precision of attacks, releases, and sensitive entries, as well as the clarity of the sound of the orchestra, provided excellent support to pianists Leslie Kinton and James Anagnoson.” 
                                                                                                        —Stephen Pedersen, The Chronicle-Herald