Eclectic collaborations abound on Lara Downes - Holes in the Sky / Texas Public Radio
Welcome to Major Themes, a monthly feature in which classical music experts recommend a must-hear recording based on what's happening at classical stations and programs around the country. This month, we checked in with friends in Michigan, Tennessee, Vermont and California, and the national program Pipedreams. Here are their picks, with an emphasis on Women's History Month, piano, birthdays and vocal music.
Women's History Month is upon us, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than with the new album by Sacramento-based pianist Lara Downes. "Holes in the Sky" comprises 22 tracks, all of which are composed by women. Eclectic collaborations abound, as well, including icons such as Judy Collins, Grammy winner and 2017 MacArthur Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, and classical superstars Simone Dinnerstein and Rachel Barton Pine. One world premiere recording, Jennifer Higdon's Notes of Gratitude, opens with Downes plucking inside the piano. The plucking's percussive and restrained nature eventually gives way to an outpouring of emotion via the piano "proper." The six-minute piece is replete with unconventional harmonies and juxtaposes a rhapsodic musical structure, continuing that feeling of resistance vs. release. Downes fully explores the range of the keyboard within Higdon's confines, making for an immersive and lush listening experience. - Kevin Doherty, Morning Classical host and classical content coordinator, Capital Public Radio (Sacramento, Calif.)