ON & BETWEEN
Lin Ma & Zhen Chen
U.S. immigrants live in the dualities of cultures and identities. ON & BETWEEN is a musical exploration of the dualities and the accompanying anticipation, agony, pride and compromise – poignantly capturing the states of mind of an immigrant on the journey of home-seeking and assimilation.
Award winning composer Zhen Chen explores new possibilities by weaving traditional Chinese music instruments and folk tone with piano and Western style chamber music. A sweeping and at times epic recording, ON & BETWEEN is a masterstroke of sophisticated storytelling performed by a stellar ensemble of musicians.
Played by Lin Ma, the solo instrument and protagonist on this recording is the pipa (Chinese Lute), a traditional musical instrument with more than two thousand years of history. Collaborating artists include Grammy-nominees Cho-Liang Lin and Elmira Darvarova (violin), Manhattan School of Music’s David Geber (cello), the New York Philharmonic’s Liang Wang (oboe) and Howard Wall (French horn), MET Orchestra’s Shenghua Hu (violin) and Milan Milisavljević (viola). Jazz musicians Braxton Cook (saxophone) and Curtis Nowosad (drums) add yet another dimension to this multilayered recording.
ON & BETWEEN’s first track, “Arrival,” deftly references the “Going Home” theme from the second movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony to display the solemn respect and sense of promise the United States places in the hearts of new immigrants. The rolling piano figures and long cello phrases combine render a scene of the gradual landing of an airplane and the beginning of new life and discovery.
“Lost in the Midtown” bursts forth with inspired personification of each instrument as they create a tango inspired arrangement depicting an immigrant’s fight against social institutions. The monotony of the cello represents a cold, harsh institutional structure, while the pipa displays an immigrant’s sense of stress and panic in navigating political bureaucracy. The music contracts into a vertigo like quiet section spreading out into a rapid glissando articulating depression, anguish, and helplessness.
As the recording unfolds, we discover love at first sight (“Encounter”), the NYC nightlife (“Cocktails”), and a jazzy stroll through the city on “Walk on the Fifth” displaying our protagonist’s increased comfort in their new home.
ON & BETWEEN’s concluding track, “Harmony,” revisits the opening “Going Home” motif. This time, played on the pipa, the foreign becomes familiar. Subtly showing the immigrant’s adoption of their new home while bringing the entire recording to a wholly satisfying and affirming close.
Bach’s Six Sonatas & Partitas for Violin Alone
Thomas Bowes, violin
Thomas Bowes' SEI SOLO shines the spotlight on the sonatas and partitas for solo violin composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1720. Bowes believes that these six stand-alone compositions, while each individually offering insight into Bach's genius reveal more when taken as one epic work - and especially when set against the tragedy in Bach’s life in the year of composition.
The three discs in Bowes’ album contain a total of six tracks. Each disc starts with a sonata and concludes with a partita, moving through different keys. The sonatas showcase a larger, more abstract expression, while movements in the partitas are more focused on elements of the dance.
Bowes views these six compositions as a vehicle for exploration into the existential, taking his cue from Bach’s cryptic title ‘sei solo’, which reads ‘you are alone’, punning on the Italian for ‘6’ and ‘you are’.
Though the performer flies solo on all of the tracks, he reaches well beyond the limitations of just one instrument. The focus and attention the violinist brings to all six tracks draws the listener into a meditative state of mind. It’s almost as if Bowes is performing solely for each individual listener, providing an intimate experience that demands attention yet allows room for contemplation.
Die ägyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helen), Op. 75, is an opera in two acts by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 6 June 1928. Strauss had written the title role with Maria Jeritza in mind but, creating quite a sensation at the time, the Dresden opera management refused to pay Jeritza's large fee and cast Elisabeth Rethberg instead as Helen of Troy. Jeritza eventually created the part in Vienna and New York City.
As inspiration for the story, Hofmannsthal used sources from Euripides and Stesichorus. Strauss made changes to the opera in 1933, five years after the premiere, working with the director Lothar Wallenstein and the conductor Clemens Krauss.
Joana Filipe Martinez - conductor/producer
CMD Grand Opera Company of Barcelona Spain
CYBERISTAN: The Electro-Acoustic Music of Ken Walicki
Dr. Ken Walicki is an American composer and director of the Composition Program at California State University, Fullerton. He is widely recognized and acknowledged for his dramatic and engaging music, often using innovative instrumentation. Walicki was one of the first composers to use turntables in his music.
Walicki conveys the effects of globalization and increasing dependency on technology with CYBERISTAN, a Ravello Records release. Each piece contains its own environment and its own space. The natural acoustic sounds juxtaposed against man-made sounds of electronic instrumentation supports a dichotomy of two worlds vying for supremacy but inevitably merging into one homogenous identity. The compositions invoke many aspects of such a state, such as the spacious elegance of Black Water and the eponymous Cyberistan, the airy and hopeful Sabah, the verbose call and response of the bass and electronics in Light and a more primal piece, nada Brahma, commissioned and composed for the Kronos Quartet.
Walicki brilliantly captures the awe of the exotic and contrasts it elegantly with the foreboding nature of modernity. In its entirety, CYBERISTAN is a snapshot of a world that is slowly succumbing to an indifferent sameness through a more connected, yet dehumanized world.
AND THAT MOMENT WHEN THE BIRD SINGS
Simon Andrews has earned a reputation as a creator of eloquent concert music that blends harmonic complexity and lyricism, introversion and broad gestures, and delicate timbres and bold statements. Here, on his recording debut, AND THE MOMENT WHEN THE BIRD SINGS, he offers up 10 compositions performed in a variety of configurations, from duos to trios and quintets, all of which emphasize his proficiency in both vocal and instrumental music.
The opening track, Violin Dialogues I and II, presents violin and piano in conversation. The first Dialogue contrasts two sets of ideas, each instrument’s individual voice rising and falling until the two come together in a hard-won consensus. If Dialogue I is oppositional, Dialogue II is conversational, its narrative more about two characters who agree on the destination and differ only on the best way to reach it.
The album’s title track, borrowed from the poem “Song” by Seamus Heaney is by turns lyrical and passionate, intimate and robust, as the five performers’ instruments weave their way through various combinings. The four movements of For the earth is hollow and I have touched the sky, performed by The Newstead Trio, is a musical response to a concert which the composer attended at the American Composers Orchestra of music by Frank Zappa. An even more pop-cultural reference is the composition’s title track and fourth movement, which is a musical representation of a quote from an episode of Star Trek, originally “…for the world is hollow and I have touched the sky.”
The album’s first track to feature solo voice is My dove, my covey, an early lyrical poem by W.H. Auden, performed by a trio of oboe, violoncello and piano (played by Andrews,) After an extended violoncello solo, the piano presents a continuous stream of notes, giving the feeling of suspended time over which soprano Celeste Godin’s voice floats. In similar fashion, The heart has narrow banks, a beautiful poem written by Emily Dickenson, was chosen by the composer because it allowed him to create a more flexible harmonic language that could express lyrics such as “blue monotony” and “a wall of unattempted gauze” while keeping a consistent musical thread throughout.
Inspired by a visit to New Mexico, Abiquiu Trio, performed the Trio Clavino, displays the impact of the desert landscape and the work of Georgia O’Keeffe on Andrews. The language of all three movements, which is not “programme music” in the strict sense of the term, is a response to different facets of those two influences. The music of the piece’s final movement, begun during a short stay at Christ in the Desert, a living monastery where church services are intoned to Gregorian chants, is a strong reminder that in addition to his more secular work, Andrews is also noted for his compositions of church music.
Simon Andrews is an English composer who has lived and worked in the US for more than three decades. A winner of the 1985 Benjamin Britten Prize, Andrews’ music has been commissioned and performed to critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. His multi-faceted career as a composer, conductor and teacher led him to undertake his own edition-completion of the Mozart Requiem, which has also been incredibly well-received. Andrews has also composed music for two documentaries, The Amish and Us and Saving Pennsylvania, for PBS.
On PARTS TO PLAY, critically acclaimed violinist Moonkyung Lee turns from the symphonic environment of the critically lauded label debut, TCHAIKOVSKY, on which she performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, to a more intimate setting, with only pianist Martha Locker as her partner on a selection of works that include both stunning solo performances and intricate yet simple duets.
Choosing to include Prokofiev’s “Sonata for Solo Violin” amid compositions from six contemporary composers who collectively represent three decades of works is indicative of Lee’s ability to tease out the subtle nuances of every piece she performs. The three-movement suite moves from the simplicity of Moderato’s Classical sonata format through the more lyrically, introverted Andante Dolce to the clever finale, Con Brio. Similarly, her transit through Benjamin Ellin’s composition for solo violin, “Three States at Play,” is a nuanced journey through three movements, in which the more serene second movement is bookended by two outer movements that are quite rhythmically active.
When performing duets with Locker, such as on Rain Worthington’s “Jilted Tango,” Lee’s violin seamlessly integrates with the piano to create an atmosphere both spirited and poignant, capturing the “push and pull in a dance of love” implied by its title. Another sort of dance entirely is captured on the duo’s performance of the vibrant and upbeat “Grand Tartanella.”
Moonkyung Lee’s career includes numerous accolades, awards and scholarships including the Yale Chamber Music Celebration, and an NYU/Steinhardt Doctoral Fellowship for Doctoral Studies, of which she was the first ever classical string performer recipient. Her extensive array of performances, both in Europe in the US, include collaborations with many eminent ensembles, conductors and performers. Among the venues at which she has performed are Lincoln Center. the Berlin Konzerthaus, Dvorak and Smetana Halls in Prague, and the Seoul Arts Center Recital Hall. Her PARMA label debut, TCHAIKOVSKY WORKS FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA, won the silver medal at the 2017 Global Music Awards and was chosen by Spotify for their Classical New Releases playlist.
Pianist Martha Locker performs as both a soloist and chamber musician in both the United States and abroad. As a soloist she has performed with the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra and the New Juilliard Ensemble; as a chamber musician and performer of contemporary music she performs throughout New York at such venues as Symphony Space and New York University. She has been a fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center and has been a guest artist at the Kyoto International Music Festival and the New York University Summer String Seminar, among many others.
OF TIME & PLACE
Composer Monica Houghton has a musical and academic resume that is made even more exceptional by her experiences as a true citizen of the world. Her travels around the globe have led her to incorporate non-Western instruments and musical practices into several of her compositions as well as to find inspiration trekking through Peru, or by exploring the remote and desolate areas of the American West. On CHAMBER WORKS, her debut on Navona Records, Houghton incorporates these influences along with many others to deliver eight stunning performances showcased in a variety of musical configurations.
CHAMBER WORKS opens with “Andean Suite,” a four-movement piece, that gleans its inspiration from Houghton’s journey on foot through the mountains of Peru. The sense of freedom exhibited by the opening movement, “With the Condors,” is buoyed by the closing movement, “Dance,” which employs folk music idioms of the Andes to express pure joy.
“The Twelve Causes from the Circle of Becoming” reflects the essence of Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Life paintings. In the spirit of those paintings pianist James Winn delivers an intricate and powerful performance.
The Argenta Trio brings the three movements of “Wilderness Portraits: Three Places in Nevada,” capturing Houghton’s quiet sense of awe at the beauty of the natural world. Three of the album’s pieces, “Three Songs without Words,” and “Stay Shadow,” and “Corpo Sonoro,” gather inspiration from poets as disparate in place and time as New Spain’s Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, who worked in the mid-17th century and the Tang Dynasty poet Tu Fu. The four poetic pieces in “Corpo Sonoro” are here performed by pianist Halida Danova, for whom it was composed, and are based on poems by the Brazilian poet Maria Davico.
Turning her creative gaze on Beethoven, Houghton composed “Epigram,” performed by the Cleveland Chamber Collective, in response to his last quartet. The album concludes with the floating, mysterious “Sky Signs” which is, the composer says, a fantasy inspired by the fluctuating changes so common in the natural world.
With multiple awards testifying to her abilities as a composer, her works for large ensembles have been performed by an impressive array of orchestras, including the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. Among the distinguished ensembles who have commissioned, performed or recorded her chamber works are the Cleveland Chamber Collective, Cleveland Duo and James Umble, the Argenta Trio, and Panoramicos, all of which are featured on this album. Her works have been performed at festivals internationally, including the Virginia Arts Festival and Shanghai Spring International Music Festival, and presented in collaboration with the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society and the Nevada Museum of Art, among many others. In addition to her concert music, Houghton is the composer and co-librettist of an opera, The Big Bonanza, which won the New Music New England Concert Award from the Boston Metro Opera in 2010 and was premiered in a fully staged production with orchestra by Nevada Chamber Opera in April 2016.
REASON & REVERENCE
Ferdinando De Sena
Willem van Twillert
REASON AND REVERANCE represents an aural exploration of our world’s complexities. By comparing and contrasting present triumphs with past regrets, the composers on this album develop a compelling, philosophical reflection of the world we live in.
Conducted by Petr Vronský, the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra delivers a master class in cohesiveness while tackling a wildly diverse, yet wholly complete set of compositions.
The album starts strong with Christopher Keyes’ An Inescapable Entanglement. Keyes binds minimalist elements with late 16th and early 17th century forms of concerto to create a controlled chaos of instruments and voices playing distinct parts simultaneously. In his intent to create an antiphonal sound, Keyes employs eight loudspeakers to project the music achieving a thickened, full texture.
Red Rock is a symphonic poem commissioned by the Henderson Symphony and its music director, Taras Krysa, which premiered in the Fall of 2013. The music is based on the interaction of two musical materials, the first, calm and diatonic, presented by the French horns after the introduction and elaborated by the trumpets and the woodwinds; and the second, more angular and chromatic, also introduced by a solo French horn in the second section. Similar to a sonata form, these materials go through transformations and developments in the middle section, and return evolved and reconciled at the end of the movement. The piece suggests a gliding trip over the stunning landscape of the Red Rock canyon, with its sharp geological contrasts, its ever changing shapes, and its surprising colors.
Fernidnando De Sena’s Deciphered Reverence explores the idea of divine presence and creates an interpretation through the consistent, triumphant swelling of the orchestra. De Sena’s piece captures the many moods, modes, and colors in the music to translate his vision of life and celebrate its ambiguity and omnipresence.
Composed by Willem Van Twillert, multiple styles set the foundation for Branches of Singularity. Multiple developments transitions from one style to another -- from medieval, baroque, and renaissance, to romance, film and church music – create an enticing and evoloving piece.
Andrew Schultz’ Symphony No. 2 – Ghosts of Reason ties the whole album together. Slowing the pace of the otherwise energetic album, Schultz’s composition paints a haunting atmosphere by drawing out the wistful bleakness of its wandering melodies.
REASON AND REVERENCE wouldn’t feel complete without this track carrying a reminder that appreciating our phenomenal world comes with both the triumphs of the present and the hauntings of the past.
Never heard by Bruckner in his lifetime and he never new of its acceptance by the one audience that heard it performed.
Conducted by Sylvia Wagner
CMD German Opera Company of Berlin