Welcome to Classical Music Discoveries' Season 14!
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LIGHT AND SHADOWS, WAVES AND TIME
An exploration of the unique timbral characteristics and technical extensions of wind instruments, Gregory Wanamaker’s LIGHT AND SHADOWS, WAVES AND TIME is comprised of eight compositions that collectively illustrate the composer’s ability to integrate various genre influences into a distinctive whole. His music has been lauded as “pure gold, shot through with tenderness and grace” by the San Francisco Chronicle and “achingly beautiful” by the Palm Beach Daily News.
The album’s first track, “des ondes et les temps,” which translates to “of waves and time,” explores the saxophone’s full range of possibilities. A solo piece performed by Casey Grev, “des ondes et les temps” waxes and wanes and rises and falls, and refers back to the composer’s 1988 work “Two Movements for Solo Flute,” providing what is essentially a more mature third movement of that piece.
Wanamaker expands to a quartet setting for “…unsettled, unphased…,” whose rhythmic roots can be found in genres ranging from Eastern European folk and dance music to jazz and progressive rock. Its animated propulsive motion is halted mid-stream by a vigorous interlude, before reaching a dynamic conclusion. The somber, poignant “Elegy,” written for and performed by the Akropolis Reed Quintet, was originally composed in memory of those who died in the September 11 attacks, while the virtuosic musical fantasy, “Ragahoro Breakdown” intricately weaves elements of North Indian Raga with characteristics of a Bulgarian Horo and subtle hints of American folk music.
The track that represents the second half of the album’s title, “of Light and Shadows,” is a sonata in two very contrasting movements, the first a quiet nocturne, the second its polar opposite, each exploring the extended timbres of the saxophone and extreme ranges of the piano, while the dynamic “Out of Mind, Into Body” travels a similar path, albeit one taken by John Friedrich’s solo bass clarinet. While less than two minutes in length, the spirited “Counterpunch” effectively alternates elements of driving American-style minimalist with a fusion of jazz and funk.
The album concludes with a concrète version of its opening track, transforming it into the form of experimental music in which sound identities – in this case those of the tenor saxophone – are intentionally manipulated to appear unconnected to their source, creating an ambient, layered soundscape.
THE LIFE BEFORE US
Allan Crossman & John G. Bilotta
Bearing musical witness to the versatile talents of two acclaimed northern California-based composers, THE LIFE BEFORE US combines works from John G. Bilotta and Allan Crossman.
Bilotta’s cycle of Yeats Songs, performed by baritone Andrew R. White, highlights five of the poet’s shorter lyrics in predominantly bi-tonal or atonal settings. His collection of Renaissance Songs is based on the work of several Elizabethan poets, including John Donne and Thomas Lodge (whose poem “Rosalynde” was the source of Shakespeare’s As You Like It). They’re brilliantly delivered by tenor Justin Marsh.
Bilotta draws on two American poets, Carl Sandburg and Edna St. Vincent Millay, for “Lost” and “Prayer to Persephone,” two songs united by a single poetic theme and elegantly performed by soprano Cass Panuska accompanied by pianist Hadley McCarroll, who are also featured on The Hippocampus’ Monologue, the closing aria from the first act of Bilotta’s opera Rosetta’s Stone.
Allan Crossman’s ten songs on THE LIFE BEFORE US include four inspired by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca and an international array of others: from Ireland (James Joyce), Germany (Hermann Claudius and Ricarda Huch), Russia (Alexander Scriabin), and America (Louis Phillips), performed by mezzo-soprano Megan Stetson and bass Richard Mix, with the composer himself at the piano.
Crossman’s three-movement Sonata fLux, with pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi, flows from the energetic “Moto Atlantico” through the vibrating “fLight of the Firefly” to the swirling fluidity of “Rondo a Pollock” - inspired, as its title suggests, by Jackson Pollock’s ‘action painting’ technique - and brings the eclectic program to an impressive conclusion.
MOMENTS OF TRUTH
An axiom is a self-evident truth. Everything on this album represents different aspects and shades of truth. On their debut recording, Axiom Quartet probes the soul and delivers a deeply satisfying statement on truth and inner fulfillment.
Each track is a whirlwind journey of soul searching expression. From the bravado of “Insight” into the confounding swirl of “Hindsight,” and on to the profoundly elegant “Pur Ti Miro,” this recording turns tempo and style on a dime leaving the listener exhilarated.
While “Insight” is the exhilarating realization of truth, “Little Lies” bends truth. Axiom Quartet’s arrangement of the Fleetwood Mac classic is a refined, yet provocative update that feels surprisingly at home in a chamber setting. An understated dignity adds depth to country-folk standard “Wagon Wheel,” with a delicate banjo dancing under the Quartet’s strings. In “Everything Means Nothing to Me” an artist painfully expresses the truth in his heart while Billie Holiday begs a lover to not tell her the truth in “Don’t Explain.”
“Axiom” is a work about seeking truth and reason, only to have had the answers present from the beginning. Karl Blench wrote all of the arrangements and original compositions for this album. There are small moments of music, also original compositions of Karl Blench, between each of the longer sections of this album. They blend and blur the ideas of the music that comes before and after them to portray the grayer tones of truth.
The Axiom Quartet includes violinists Dominika Dancewicz and Ingrid Gerling, violist Nina Bledsoe, and cellist Patrick Moore.
Known for creating and performing programs that mix traditional string quartet repertoire and transcriptions of works from a variety of genres (including jazz, electronic, rock, indie, etc.), Axiom Quartet introduces audiences to extraordinary music from different genres and creates new fans of the classical repertoire.
The Axiom Quartet serves as outreach ambassador for Chamber Music Houston, one of the Houston’s top chamber music presenters. The CMH sponsorship allows the group to perform their innovative programs in communities where access to live music is limited.
For her debut album on PARMA recordings SHE, Emily Sternfeld-Dunn serves as the voice of two of history’s strongest female characters. The poetic musings in the lyrics soar with Sternfeld-Dunn’s unmistakable soprano under the current of the tender, delicate melodies performed by pianist Amanda Pfenninger.
Split into two mini-albums, SHE serves as a definitive recording that both showcases Sternfeld abilities as a vocalist and preserves the compositions for educational use. The first collection, titled “Too Few the Mornings Be (Eleven Songs for Soprano and Piano),” is composed by Ricky Ian Gordon. Gordon complimented his compositions with the poems of Emily Dickinson. Despite the relatively short run-times of these tracks, Sternfeld-Dunn takes the poet’s philosophical themes and wraps them in raw emotion as though pleading for answers to life’s biggest questions.
The second half of this album “Eve-Song” features music by Jake Heggie and text by Philip Littell. Here, Heggie creates a moving soundtrack to Littell’s poems about the biblical Eve. The composition is a monodrama. The longer compositions allow time for Pfenninger to It also lets Sternfeld-Dunn truly harness the character of Eve. She employs her vocal melodies like ancient chants exploring moods and feelings of wonderment, yearning, and even humor.
The power of SHE comes from the strength of its female performers. Sternfeld-Dunn and Pfenninger play off each other well to give life to these historically-renowned women, and translate their quests for life and purpose into a grand, new meaning.
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Mark G. Simon
Composer and Clarinetist Mark G. Simon makes his PARMA debut with his first-ever recorded album, GRECIAN URN. All selections were composed by Simon, and he is the clarinetist on every track.
“Anniversary Sonata” (1998) commemorates the 50th wedding anniversary of the composer’s parents. Movement 1, “With Restrained Energy,” is perhaps mis-named, given its sassy, Latin piano riffs (Aleeza Meir) syncopated against the melodic clarinet. “Angel Music,” is a bright, yet sympathetic Broadway-style ballad with running eighth-note phrases marked by sentimental modulations, inspired by the congeniality of the composer’s parents, his father’s vocation as a minister, and the G.K. Chesterton quote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” Concluding the sonata is the progressive “Pleasant Hill,” a sweet treasure that could easily be set to words to conclude what is the lounge-style, popular work with innate chamber music tendencies. The composer writes: “‘Pleasant Hill,’ is based on a pop tune that came to me while visiting the quiet retirement community where my parents spent the last years of their lives.” This work is a true love song.
“Un Buen Piola Porteño” (2001) is a tango/fantasia for clarinet and piano and fabulous in every way – from the transformative qualities of the clarinet’s voicing through different octaves to the smooth, indelible, charismatic melody of the tune itself, fleshed out with the glittering harmonies of the piano. Listen for the second of three tango melodies, through which the composer promises an “out of body experience.”
In “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” Simon and Meir add soprano Linda Larson to their combo. In this setting of four of the five stanzas of the John Keats poem, in which the poet describes his visits to the British Museum, Simon reincarnates Keats’ experience noting that “The poem’s very existence to the power of art to affect people’s lives.” “Thou Still Unravished Bride,” is reminiscent of an Argento song--delicate and complex, yet unforgiving. “Heard Melodies” is a torrent of surface emotions transpired into a popular folk tune. “Coming to the Sacrifice,” is a haunting but spirited dance concluded with an extended instrumental fugue--in homage to J.S. Bach’s own Musical Sacrifice (BWV 1097). “O Attic Shape,” is an elegy directed to the Grecian Urn itself through which a harrowing soprano outcry lauds the Urn for its beauty.
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The Little Nothings Ballet, K. 299b
Symphony No. 31 in D Major, K. 297
CMD Philharmonic of Paris in Orleans
Dominique Beaulieu, conductor
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Intermezzo, Op. 72, is an opera in two acts by Richard Strauss to his own German libretto, described as a Bürgerliche Komödie mit sinfonischen Zwischenspielen (bourgeois comedy with symphonic interludes). It premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 4 November 1924, with sets that reproduced Strauss' home in Garmisch. The first Vienna performance was in January 1927.
The story depicts fictionally the personalities of Strauss himself (as "Robert Storch") and his wife Pauline (as "Christine") and was based on real incidents in their lives. Pauline Strauss was not aware of the opera's subject before the first performance. After Lotte Lehmann had congratulated Pauline on this "marvelous present to you from your husband", Pauline's reply was reported as "I don't give a damn". The most celebrated music from the opera is the orchestral interludes between scenes.
His usual librettist up to that time, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, refused to work on the opera and suggested that Strauss himself write the libretto, which he eventually did after having been refused by other writers. This is why the libretto is not in verse but in prose and even mimics the dialect used by the servants in the play, against the more polished German of the principals.
The opera's title is intended to refer to the intermezzi that used to be staged during the intermissions of serious operas during the 18th century, sort of mini-comic-operas, easy to follow with themes usually about marital confusions and other light comedies.
Joana Filipe Martinez - conductor/producer
CMD Grand Opera Company of Barcelona Spain
Bruckner's original version, published in an edition by Leopold Nowak in 1975, was composed between 2 January and 22 November 1874. This version was never performed or published during the composer's lifetime, though the Scherzo was played in Linz on 12 December 1909. The first complete performance was given in Linz more than a century after its composition on 20 September 1975 by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kurt Wöss.
Performed by the CMD German Opera Company of Berlin Orchestra
Conducted by Sylvia Wagner
When he had completed the original version of the symphony, Bruckner turned to the composition of his Fifth Symphony. When he had completed that piece he resumed work on the Fourth, though it is possible that he made some revisions to the latter in 1876 or 1877. Between 18 January and 30 September 1878 he thoroughly revised the first two movements and replaced the original finale with a new movement entitled Volksfest ("Popular Festival"). This Volksfest finale was published as an appendix to Robert Haas's edition of 1936 and in a separate edition by Leopold Nowak in 1981.
In December 1878 Bruckner replaced the original Scherzo with a completely new movement, which is sometimes called the "Hunt" Scherzo (Jagd-Scherzo). In a letter to the music critic Wilhelm Tappert (October 1878), Bruckner describes the new movement thus: "[the Scherzo] represents the hunt, whereas the Trio is a dance melody which is played to the hunters during their repast". The original title of the Trio reads: Tanzweise während der Mahlzeit auf der Jagd ("Dance melody during the hunters' meal").
Performed by the CMD Paris Philharmonic in Orleans
Conducted by Dominique Beaulieu
The Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43, by Jean Sibelius was started in winter 1901 in Rapallo, Italy, shortly after the successful premiere of the popular Finlandia, and finished in 1902 in Finland. Sibelius said, "My second symphony is a confession of the soul."
Dominique Beaulieu, conductor
CMD Paris Philharmonic in Orleans
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