ONE AT A TIME
Long time PARMA composer Doug Anderson is showcasing his legacy with ONE AT A TIME. As the name implies, Anderson’s solo compositions act as milestones to the artist’s musical development through the intimacy of solo instruments.
As an instrumentalist early in his expansive career, Anderson found particular affection for live performance. In this album, you will hear the diversity of the composer’s inspiration amid its intense, physical element. The first track, appropriately named “...increasingly, physical…”, establishes tension with consistent building and release, creating captivating drama that draws the listener in immediately.
Various artists spanning the artistic timeline of Anderson’s career perform on ONE AT A TIME. Each track spotlights a different instrument, adding to Anderson’s compositional legacy.
“...increasingly, physical…” performed by Maureen Keenan, kicks off the album with her intense performance on the flute. The jazz-influenced composition is played with inescapable passion. Five Bagatelles and a Synopsis, on the other hand, is an exploration lead by pianist Jin-Ok Lee into a realm evoking free jazz sharing blurred lines with the avant-garde. Contrast that with “...springing, gradually…” which presents Debbie Schmidt and her French horn creating a grand orchestral sound that evokes nostalgia for the days of radio dramas.
Anderson’s ONE AT A TIME is nothing less than engaging. Listeners will be hanging on to every breath the musicians take. Performances are raw, emotionally arresting, and yet provide the perfect insight into the mind of a completely original and unique composition talent.
Leonard Bernstein was on his honeymoon in 1951 when he began composing his one-act opera, Trouble in Tahiti, a candid portrait of the troubled marriage of a young suburban couple. Written between his biggest Broadway successes— On the Town in 1944 and Candide and West Side Story in 1956 and 1957, respectively— Trouble in Tahiti draws upon popular songs styles to deliver an uncompromising critique of post-war American materialism. Beneath the couple's marital discord is a profound longing for love and intimacy. Their spiritual emptiness, in contrast to a veneer of happy consumerism, creates the heart of the drama and is emphasized by sudden stylistic shifts in the music. Bernstein dedicated the piece to his close friend Marc Blitzstein, who had led him toward music theater.
Conducted by Leonard Bernstein
Scott Barton, contemporary composer and Assistant Professor of Music at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, engages in a rather unusual hobby: He designs and builds musical robots. Hardly unexpected then, that Barton's first Ravello Records release STYLISTIC ALCHEMIES is an electroacoustic box of surprises.
Balancing diverse musical elements with the virtuosity of a skilled playwright, Barton takes the listener on a journey that pushes the boundaries of established genre definitions. The opening track, Breeding in Pieces, starts out with a deceptively familiar early 2000's indie rock (!) sound – only to lead, like a will-o'-the-wisp, into the alluring sound of Eroding Mountains, in which a suave 1960's-style radio presenter voice juxtaposed with dissonant plucked strings creates an atmosphere of tangible unease.
For those who prefer their serving of destiny to be accompanied by a side dish of jocular existential absurdity, Opus Palladianum ticks all the boxes, offering a well-structured, soothing respite soon taken over by synthesizers and rhythmic experimentation. In many ways, STYLISTIC ALCHEMIES is a work of contrasts and the reconciliation of opposites: for Steps that Grow When Climbed is equally bleak and colorful, interrupted only by the occasional glimpse of harmonic resolution, impressively building up to a harrowing climax in which rhythm and melody eventually triumph over the chaos.
Carried by Currents could well be the soundtrack to an intriguing dream, its themes appearing and dissolving in logical successions but retaining an atmosphere of wavering physicality, at times walking a tightrope which seemingly spans an almost classicist aesthetic. The aptly titled Effusion, on the other hand, may hold interest with a recurring theme (quite the rarity on an album as diverse as this), but the instrumentation and compelling rhythm convey a mood more reminiscent of a psychedelic night out.
Scott Barton's work indubitably succeeds in transcending the limits of contemporary composition: STYLISTIC ALCHEMIES wants to be, and is, more than electroacoustic chamber music – it is a journey through the possibilities of artistic expression.
Arabella, Op. 79, is a lyric comedy or opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, their sixth and last operatic collaboration.
Joana Filipe Martinez - conductor and producer
CMD Grand Opera Company of Barcelona Spain
WAKING THE SPARROWS
Nancy King, soprano & Robert Nathanson, guitar
WAKING THE SPARROW, the premiere recording on PARMA RECORDINGS from classical and baroque guitarist Robert Nathanson and soprano Nancy King, performing as Duo Soreño, is the result of a twenty-year long journey exploring the grandeur of the human voice blended with the vibrancy of the guitar. Interpreting the work of five notable modern composers who were, in turn, inspired by the words of poets throughout the ages, Nathanson and King deliver a stunning performance that is rich in its variety and impressive in scope.
The album opens with William Neil’s “Out of Darkness into Light”, which adds violin, saxophone, bassoon and contrabassoon to Duo Soreño’s arrangement of what the composer described as a “mystery play interpreting through composed and improvisational music the prayer-like text written by Malgosia Sawczuk.” Along with violinist Danijela Žeželej-Gualdi, the duo interprets “Open the River,” with text from “To the Hand,” a poem by W.S. Merwin. The poem’s transcendental and archetypal imagery provides a rich underpinning for the piece.
The remaining pieces on WAKING THE SPARROW feature only Nathanson and King. “A Song of Unending Sorrow” is a three-movement setting for guitar and soprano, inspired by composer Jing Jing Luo’s interpretation of a work by the Tang Dynasty poet Ba Juji. The performance, at once both simple and intricate, captures the ecstasy of love and the sorrow of loss. Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning composer William Bolcom’s “Three Cabaret Songs” – among the most beloved of his songs – arise from his collaboration with poet Arnold Weinstein and are here for the first time arranged for soprano and guitar by guitarist Michael Lorimer. Inspired by the seasonal aspect of much of haiku poetry, “Waking the Sparrows: Five Haiku Songs” was composed for Duo Soreño by David Ketchley. Its lyrical and dramatic exploration of the timbral possibilities of voice and guitar evoke a haiku-like aura of Spring, further emphasized by King’s singing of the lyrics to several of the movements in Japanese.
Guitarist Robert Nathanson is an active recitalist and orchestral soloist, now focusing on chamber music. He has been performing as part of the Ryoanji Duo (guitar and saxophone) and the North Carolina Guitar Quartet since 1992 and as part of Duo Soreño since 1999. He is also the Artistic Director of PRO MUSICA, a concert series celebrating the music of living composers. A champion of new music, Nathanson has commissioned, premiered, and recorded works by many modern composers. He has released five CDs in various musical configurations prior to his PARMA RECORDINGS debut, WAKING THE SPARROW.
Soprano Nancy King is artistic director of Opera Wilmington and an active performer and guest lecturer. She has performed and recorded with the Wilmington Symphony, Chamber Music Wilmington, Toronto Classical Singers, and the Grammy Award-winning Oregon Bach Festival Chorus, of which she was a member from 1998 – 2004.
Peter Pan is a 1950 musical adaptation of J. M. Barrie's play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up with music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein; it opened on Broadway on April 24, 1950. This version starred Jean Arthur as Peter Pan, Boris Karloff in the dual roles of George Darling and Captain Hook, and Marcia Henderson as Wendy. The show was orchestrated by Hershy Kay and conducted by Benjamin Steinberg. The show ran for 321 performances, closing on January 27, 1951.
The production was initially intended as a full-blown musical, with Bernstein composing a complete score for it, but was staged with only five songs – "Who Am I?", "Pirate's Song", "Plank Round", "Build My House", and "Peter Peter" – to accommodate the limited vocal ranges of the principals.
In 2000, conductor Alexander Frey learned about the full score, and restored the omitted material, which included almost an hour of previously unperformed Bernstein music. The restored songs included "Captain Hook Soliloquy" and "Dream With Me".
The world premiere recording of Bernstein’s complete score was released on CD in 2005, conducted by Frey, and featuring Broadway star Linda Eder in the role of Wendy Darling, and baritone Daniel Narducci as Captain Hook, on the Koch International Classics label.
In September 2008 the world premiere performance of the full Bernstein score was performed in concert with Alexander Frey conducting the Gulbenkian Orchestra, and dialogue adapted from the original J. M. Barrie play by Nina Bernstein Simmons. Three performances were given in Cascais, Portugal, for a combined audience of over 10,000 people, and featured Geraldine James (narrator), John Sackville-West (Peter Pan), Charlotte Ellett and Rachel Nicholls(Wendy) and Nicholas Lester (Captain Hook).
The first stage production of the full Bernstein score was given by Santa Barbara Theater (California) in December 2008, directed by Albert Ihde and again conducted by Alexander Frey. A new chamber adaptation of the score will be produced at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in June 2018, directed by Christopher Alden.
BIRDS OF THE PSALMS
German philosopher Immanuel Kant defined the Sublime as "beauty accompanied by awe" – a thought which perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Cappella Clausura's second PARMA release, BIRDS OF THE PSALMS. Evocatively conducted by Amelia LeClair, the ensemble interprets a magnificent choral repertoire spanning six centuries.
Indeed, this Boston-area choir performs with such intimate dedication that the individual voices morph into a single body of sound, leading the listener deeply into the heart of the music itself. This unification of vocal expression, flawless and soulfully upheld throughout, unveils the timelessness of all works performed – from 17th-century favorite Henry Purcell's Hear My Prayer to contemporary composer Patricia Van Ness's eponymous choral cycle Birds of the Psalms.
The latter, a selection of ten psalms scored for a cappella choir, constitutes the album's focal point. Van Ness explores the pure and the divine in carefully constructed, aesthetically crafted soundscapes. Conducted by Amelia LeClair, Birds of the Psalms runs the gamut of the human condition from profound serenity to fervent longing. While Psalm 104 conveys a sophisticated tenderness, Psalm 54 and Psalm 148 examine downright primal realms of tonality, featuring grand melodic lines interspersed with strong rhythmic contrasts. The opening track, Psalm 91, develops into a spacious musical tapestry from but a single initial voice.
Unsurprisingly, Van Ness's gracious compositions pair well with the established choral repertoire. Purcell's aforementioned classic, haunting and beautiful in its own right, is performed with dolorous intensity, rendering the final resolution nothing short of breathtaking. Tchaikovsky's ethereal Svete Tihiy evokes the natural appeal of birdsong, while Rachmaninoff's Blagoslovi, its background of male vocals juxtaposed with a single alto in what could best be described as a spiritual bel canto, sounds positively out of this world.
Painstakingly recorded, mixed, and mastered, this album draws the listener into crystal-clear, extraordinary scenery, transcending the limitations of the modern secular existence. If there is a musical way to intuit Kant's ideas of the truly Sublime – this is it.
Michael Arnowitt & ImproVisions Jazz
Concert pianist and composer Michael Arnowitt, assisted by ImproVisions Jazz, makes his Big Round Records debut with SWEET SPONTANEOUS, the title drawn from a poem by e.e.cummings. This two-disc jazz album features 14 of Arnowitt’s own compositions with the composer himself at the piano, joined by a dozen jazz notables including Yosvany Terry on alto sax, Lucas Pino on tenor sax, Dave Smith on trumpet, and Colin Stranahan on drums.
Against the Wind, featuring vocalist Shirley Crabbe, tells the story of a woman summoning the strength to persist in the face of powerful forces. In The Crossing, bassist Rick Rosato’s accompaniment to the spoken words of a Langston Hughes poem evolves into a slow groove of brushes, keys, bass, and sax, rendering the listener completely spellbound.
Syria-us is the creative culmination of a deep study Arnowitt made of Syrian literature and music in preparation for benefit concerts he organized in 2016 to support humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees. The composer’s love of Bulgarian music is shown in Bulgarian Hoedown’s wild, exuberant fiddling and Shapka Swing, which opens with a triumphant fanfare that transitions to klezmer before emerging as the energetic gem of the album. Ascent features a reading of Maya Angelou’s celebrated poem Still I Rise combined with a flirtatious melody and syncopated accompaniment reflecting the spunkiness of both poet and poem.
With SWEET SPONTANEOUS, Michael Arnowitt encapsulates the journey of world music into jazz with dignity, class, and just the right amount of swing. The Washington Post wrote of an Arnowitt concert: “He played with an exquisite sense of touch, color and musical imagination.” Come join Michael Arnowitt as he takes us on voyages into these highly absorbing musical landscapes.