For her latest studio album, pianist Hélène Grimaud travels to Salzburg where she creates a fascinating juxtaposition between the eternal Mozart and the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov (b. 1937). Hélène has long had a passion for Silvestrov's music, which some call post-modernist or even neoclassical. The composer's own words hint at why this is for her so intriguing: "I do not write new music. My music is a response to and an echo of what already exists."
In selecting the music for this album, Hélène has carefully chosen music by Mozart that fits into an overall dramaturgy: from Mozart's famous unfinished D minor Fantasy, Helene transitions seamlessly into the great D minor concerto K. 466 - one of the most popular amongst Mozart's 27 concertos (and one of only two in a minor key). The C minor Fantasy here signals "the end of Mozart" and a new beginning: The Messenger starts with a theme reminiscent of Mozart, and like a messenger, creates a connection between the present and the world that existed before. Melancholy and hope, sadness and exuberance can be felt emanating from both Mozart's and Silvestrov's works. The Messenger, one of Silvestrov's most performed works, is dedicated to his wife Larissa Bondarenko, who had recently passed away. The Two Dialogues with Postscript that serve here as an epilogue, leave the outcome open, leading the way to Schubert, Wagner and beyond.
"When I first heard it, I was mesmerized," is how Grimaud describes the first time she heard Valentin Silvestrov's music. ECM Records founder Manfred Eichner gave her a CD of Silvestrov as a birthday present, and she was hooked. Grimaud talks about her newest album (of over 20!) with 90.5WUOL: Louisville KY - Daniel Gilliam. LISTEN
t amazes me how many films today have a soundtrack that isn't informed by the movie itself. This interchangeable claptrap has made it almost impossible to review. But composer William Susman flavors the setting of Sarah Sifer's Fate of the Lhapa beautifully. Interestingly enough, I saw this documentary many, many years ago, and it truly affected me, but I never knew the soundtrack was available until it was sent to me to review 13 years after its original release. Go figure.
While there are certainly traditional forms of Western instrumentation such as harp, Susman has incorporated sounds we would associate with Nepal: There is no list, but I believe we are hearing drums - such as the dhimay, madal, and khin - a bansuri (a bamboo flute), a plucked string (perhaps the tunga), tingsha cymbals, a sringa (a large "C"- or "S"-shaped horn which is also a political symbol), and more. Along the way is minimalism that is so transporting it would make Philip Glass proud, as it helps achieve a sense of bittersweet spirituality so prevalent in the film. (Glass is also a fierce proponent for Nepal's freedom and Buddhist principles - the latter evidenced in his opera, Satyagraha.)
At first, part of the fun for me was parsing out the instruments (wait - is this sound that conch shell that has both ritual and religious importance in Hinduism?), but magically by the seventh of eleven tracks, they merge into a higher plane of trance-inducing balminess that lovingly elucidates the subject matter. While it's accurate to say that the music of Susman (who also performs) blends that mysterious, uncanny long-established Asian music with those soul-moving Western strings evokes what the press notes call an "ancient healing tradition in danger of extinction," this is music that stands alone from the film - in fact, this journey requires you to listen with headphones on and your eyes closed. The mixing by Stephen Hart at Berkeley's Fantasy Studios makes everything sound crystal clear.
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James Whale's film classic Frankenstein (1931), starring Boris Karloff, was released without a musical score, as were many films in those early days of the talkie. A number of critics, including Leonard Maltin, have remarked that Frankenstein is badly in need of music. Michael Shapiro's 70-minute score is written to be played simultaneously with the screening of the film. For modern-day concert- and moviegoers, his haunting music adds significantly to the emotional impact of the film.
Harmonious World Podcast's Hilary Robertson interviews composer and conductor Michael Shapiro.There's a good chance that I'll be jumping on a plane as soon as such things are possible again - this time to see the operatic version of Michael's film score to the original film of...
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Earlier this month Zoho (last discussed this past May for its release of two albums of guitarist Sharon Isbin) released its first CD of solo piano music performed by Jeni Slotchiver. The title of the album is American Heritage, and it surveys 125 years of music by American composers. The "early bookend" for this recording is the nineteenth-century composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, represented by one of his best-known works, "The Banjo" (Opus 15), as well as the thematically innovative "Paraphrase de Concert," the Opus 48 "Union." The other end of the survey is occupied by Frederic Rzewski with a recording of "Down by the Riverside" from his North American Ballads collection.
Where technique is concerned, Slotchiver does a far-more-than-creditable job of managing the superposition of familiar tunes in Gottschalk's "Union." I just hope she had fun playing it, since it is difficult to listen to that piece without at least chortling. On the other hand I was a bit concerned that, by paying too much attention to technique, Slotchiver may have smoothed over some of the sharper edges of the Rzewski selection. This was unabashedly political music that deserved more than just a "faithful keyboard account."
Taken as a whole, however, the album is a valuable reference resource; and, for the most part, it makes an excellent case for music that deserves more attention in the "standard repertoire" than has been accorded to date.
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Well this is a surprise. You may have heard the radio-friendly single Little Something that the American singer-songwriter has conjured up with Sting. However, that sunny slice of Latin lite gives zero clues to Gardot's fifth studio album. Nor, for that matter, does her fourth album, Currency of Man, which was all rootsy funk and socially aware lyrics addressing racism and poverty.
No, in Covid times Gardot has evidently decided that (in the spirit of Bacharach and David) what the world needs now is love. On Sunset in the Blue, Gardot is in torrid torch-song mode with nine of her most swoonsome performances detailing passion and desire cushioned by the strings of the Royal Philharmonic. For one song, From Paris with Love, she uses musicians auditioned during lockdown beaming in their parts from around the world.
This is Gardot reunited with producer Larry Klein and arranger Vince Mendoza returning to the lustrously upholstered ballad style first heard on My One and Only Thrill in 2009. The voice is close-miked, a mix of the sensual and vulnerable, channelling the ghost of Julie London; echoes too of Diana Krall's The Look of Love – a photogenic jazz maiden making sweet music designed to be heard far beyond the jazz basements.
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Ben Rosenblum plays both piano and accordion on this pastoral session with the blended horns of trumpeter Wayne Tucker, Jasper Dutz on tenor sax or bass clarinet, guitarist Rafael Rosa, bassist Marty Jaffe, drummer Ben Zweig and guests Jake Chapman/vib, Sam Chess/tb and Jeremy Corren/p. Chapman's vibes team with Tucker's horn on an Old World tango of a title track with added accordion atmosphere, with similar moods with Corren replacing Chapman on the European "Motif From Brahms". A fun tarantella with Tucker out in front gets you dancing on "Fight Or Flight" with the horns in gorgeous harmony on the elegiac "Bright Above Us" and the folk tune "Izpoved". The team takes a dreamy read of Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" with Neil Young's "Philadelphia" a rich vehicle for Rosa and Chess. Sounds of the piazza.
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In a socio-politically charged year when our understanding of African American history has been in the spotlight and challenged like few times in the past, music can serve as a great instructor. If you think you know American Music, veteran NY based classical pianist and well-traveled concert performer Jeni Slotchiver invites you to open the door to the past deeper than you ever might have imagined on American Heritage – an extraordinary work paying homage primarily to African American composers of the 19th and early 20th Century whose works laid the foundations of later forms of music like jazz, blues and R&B.
To offer a wider view into these eras, she balances slave songs with Union Army hymns, sea shanties and secular dances and spirituals, some of which include snippets of tunes that we may be more familiar with (i.e. Margaret Bonds' "Troubled Water," based on the spiritual "Wade in the Water." Running elegantly and rhythmically over the ivories as if her mystical melodic hands were opening the doors to a treasured but often overlooked expanse of time, Slotchiver takes us from the dramatic swells of Samuel Coleridge Taylor's "Deep River, Op. 59, No. 10" (1904) and a spirited romp through the darker emotions and great moments of vibrant joy of Harry Thacker Burleigh's six tune suite "From the Southland" (1907) through the folkloric charms of William Still's "Swanee River" (1939).
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Inspired by the ground-breaking mission of NASA's Juno space probe and its ongoing exploration of Jupiter, Juno to Jupiter is a multi-dimensional musical journey through electronic, progressive, ambient, techno, orchestral, and vocal music.
Milan Records today announces the release of Luca Guadagnino's WE ARE WHO WE ARE (ORIGINAL SERIES SCORE) featuring music by producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter and vocalist DEVONTÉ HYNES.
NPR Music and Lara Downes announce the launch of AMPLIFY With Lara Downes, a new bi-weekly series of intimate and deeply personal video conversations with visionary Black musicians who are shaping the present and future of the art form, premiering Saturday, October 17 on NPRMusic.org, YouTube, and social media platforms.
Created and hosted by pianist and artist Lara Downes, and co-produced by NPR Music's Tom Huizenga, this series invites viewers to experience raw, revealing, and open-hearted conversations reflecting on how artists are responding and creating in this time of profound challenge and change. Downes and her guests-initially including MacArthur Fellow vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens, 2020 Avery Fisher Prize-winning clarinetist Anthony McGill, multidisciplinary artist Helga Davis, and vocalist Davóne Tines, with other guests such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason and family to follow-connect and reflect on highly relevant themes ranging from music and mission, legacy and lineage, to transformation and change.
Guests to include Rhiannon Giddens, Anthony McGill, Helga Davis, Davóne Tines, and Sheku Kanneh-Mason and family.
Series premieres today!! Saturday, October 17 on NPR Music.org and NPR's YouTube and social media platforms.
Says Downes of the series: "In this time of our collective reckoning about historical inequities in American life and art, I'm excited to amplify the voices of extraordinary artists of color, shining a bright light on a diverse and rich future that is, in the words of James Weldon Johnson, 'full of the hope that the present has brought us.'"
On March 1, 2019, American pianist Lara Downes releases her new album, Holes in the Sky, on Portrait, an imprint of the Sony Music Masterworks label.
Holes in the Sky is a genre-fluid collection of music written and performed by today's leading female artists, celebrating the contributions of phenomenal women to the past, present, and future of American music.
The music of Holes in the Sky tells the story of what women and girls can contribute to the world when they are given a chance - their dreams can make holes in the sky. Lara collaborates with an extraordinary multi-generational group of female guest artists on this album, including the iconic singer / songwriter Judy Collins, boundary-breaking violinist Rachel Barton Pine, pianist Simone Dinnerstein, fast-rising cellist Ifetayo Ali-Landing, and the urban youth vocal ensemble Musicality.
The album is presented in direct support of PLAN International Because I Am A Girl, bolstering the rights and empowerment of girls and young women around the globe; Women's Empowerment in Sacramento, ending homelessness one woman - and one family - at a time; the Downtown Women's Center in Los Angeles, a permanent and supportive housing and healthcare provider for women; Girls on the Run in Spokane, teaching life skills through fun, engaging lessons that celebrate the joy of movement; and the Lower East Side Girls Club, breaking the cycle of poverty by training the next generation of ethical, entrepreneurial, and environmental leaders.
Lara Downes' new album For Lenny celebrates the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein with a special friends-and-family tribute to the man behind the music. The recording features Bernstein's aptly-named Anniversaries for Piano, new arrangements of his songs, and world premieres of works dedicated to Bernstein by leading American composers including Stephen Sondheim, John Corigliano, and Stephen Schwartz. The album is introduced by an essay from acclaimed writer Adam Gopnik.
Pianist Lara Downes releases a solo album, America Again, worldwide on Sono Luminus on October 28, 2016. The album's title is taken from Langston Hughes' poem, Let America Be America Again, written in 1938. America Again features twenty pieces selected by Downes that explore the elusive but essential American dream, written by composers including Duke Ellington, Lou Harrison, Morton Gould, Amy Beach, George Gershwin, Angélica Negrón, Dan Visconti, Leonard Bernstein, Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, Florence Price, Aaron Copland, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and more.
26 NEW 67 TOTAL
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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday's birth, Lara Downes releases: A Billie Holiday Songbook on Steinway & Sons Records, A personal tribute to this sensitive, timeless icon of American music.Radiant. Intimate.
Lara Downes grew up listening to Holiday's recordings with her father, born and raised in Harlem. Trained in the conservatories of San Francisco, Paris, Vienna and New York, Downes acknowledges that Holiday's singing has been a lifelong influence. "As a musician, I learned from Billie Holiday to make something completely personal when you make music," she says. "something that is completely your own - maybe something unexpected, something indefinable, perhaps complicated, but beautiful. To take a chance. As the song says: "But beautiful to take a chance, and if you fall, you fall. And I'm thinking I wouldn't mind at all."
20 NEW 49 Total
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In June of 1955, Glenn Gould made his groundbreaking recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations for Columbia Records, rescuing the Goldbergs from obscurity in one of the most significant classical recordings of a generation. Critically acclaimed pianist Lara Downes will be breaking ground of her own when Tritone Records releases her new CD 13 WAYS of Looking at the Goldberg, a fascinating new take on Bach's masterpiece. In an extraordinary coincidence of fate and timing, Lara's recording of her new Goldberg project took place over the same four days in June as Gould's historic 1955 sessions.
11 New 'ON' this week: 93 Total
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Pianist Lara Downes is known for her fusing of rare pianistic sensitivity and evocative, thought-provoking concepts. Her latest album, Exiles' Café-released on the Steinway & Sons label  -- is the result of a moment of inspiration after hearing a lovely little piece entitled Tango from the Exiles' Café. Downes fantasized about this café and created a narrative around it, which she describes as "both real and metaphorical." This album captures the pain, nostalgia, and freedom that are indelibly tied to this state of being-in exile. Featuring miniature works by composers such as Chopin, Milhaud, Bartok, Weill, and including a premiere work by Mohammed Fairouz, Exiles' Café goes beyond an examination of what is to be in exile, to consider the inspiration exiled composers drew from the musical communities they found in their new homes. Because in this sense, the exiles cafes were actual places – there were indeed such locations throughout history to which composers and musicians gravitated and found each other, and they and their music were influenced accordingly.
17 New 'ON' 183 Total
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