The PARMA Album of the Day: VIOLIN FUTURA

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Piotr Szewczyk‘s Navona Records album VIOLIN FUTURA, released in February of last year, is a collection of commissioned miniatures for solo violin that highlight over thirty international contemporary composers and how they are re-imagining the solo violin. “The purpose of the Violin Futura Project,” says Szewczyk, “is to sample the creative environment of our times by showcasing the wide variety of styles present in the 21st century, and to create a body of a new solo violin repertoire.” Gramophone, the curator of “The Worlds Best Classical Music Reviews,” says that the pieces in Szewczyk’s VIOLIN FUTURA “are so concisely crafted and often compelling–and sometimes really fun–that one can only give in and applaud the scope of the project.”

Find VIOLIN FUTURA on Amazon, iTunes,  ArkivMusic, and Spotify.

Beth Levin Featured in Spotify’s “Classical New Releases” Playlist

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It has been less than a week since Beth Levin released her third solo album with PARMA titled BRIGHT CIRCLE on Navona Records. Since the release, the album, which navigates the romantic masterpieces of Schubert and Brahms, and their very new counterpart –David Del Tredici, has gained a lot of positive exposure including from Classical Music Discoveries and Spotify. 

For the second release month in a row, a PARMA artist has been featured on the Spotify curated playlist “Classical New Releases.” This month, Beth Levin’s performance of Ode To Music, composed by Del Tredici, is on that playlist, which is followed by over 164,000 listeners. 

 

Long-time PARMA artist Beth Levin, a concert pianist based in Brooklyn, New York,  has been praised for her “boldly inflected readings” (Jeremy Eichler, New York Times), “powerful technique” (Allan Kozinn, New York Times), and “purely pianistic panache” (Richard Dyer, Boston Globe). Levin began her career at twelve-years-old when she debuted as a child prodigy with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Throughout her career she has studied under acclaimed pianists Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991), Leonard Shure, and Dorothy Taubman (1917-2013), and appeared as the solo concert pianist with the Boston Pops and Seattle Symphony Orchestra, to name a couple. Additionally, her solo performances and albums have received airplay on networks such as NPR, WGBH, and WQXR.

PERSONAE, Levin’s last solo album before the release of BRIGHT CIRCLE, received a lot of press and praise, including from World Music Report saying, “Beth Levin is a fresh voice whose ingenious pianism and genuine musicality warrants placement in the top tier of classical music.”

This continuing success for Levin comes as no surprise, however, we are still excited to see what’s to come for our long-time artist and friend. In addition to BRIGHT CIRCLE and PERSONAE, you can find Levin on A SINGLE BREATH and CELLO MUSIC FROM HUNGARY. And, to get an ‘inside’ look at Levin, check out “The Inside Story: Beth Levin” published earlier this month.

BRIGHT CIRCLE is available to purchase on Amazon, iTunes, ArkivMusic, and online at Classical Music Discoveries. If none of this is enough to persuade you, here’s a promo: 

The PARMA Album of the Day: HONEYLAND

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Aidan Andrew Dun released his debut album HONEYLAND on Ravello Records in October of last year. The album, which features spoken poetry and keyboard accompaniment from his wife Lucie Rejchrtová,  has roots in a number of Western musical and literary practices. The album specifically recalls the writings of James Joyce, and his interest in reciting poems to music suggests the influence of English poet and painter William Blake. Kathodik says it’s “effective, and no doubt largely enjoyable.”

Find the album on Amazon, iTunes,  ArkivMusic, and Spotify.

The PARMA Album of the Day: PERCEPTIONS

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PERCEPTIONS, released on Navona Records, is a compilation album for small ensembles featuring composers Kyle Peter Rotolo, Quinn Dizon, Amelia S. Kaplan, Kevin McCarter, Jason Barabba, and Thomas L. Read. This album presents the listener with music that entrances, enkindles, jars, lingers, connects, and engrosses–perceptions both highly incisive and deeply personal.

Find the album on Amazon, iTunes, Naxos Musc Library, and Spotify.

The PARMA Album of the Day: TEXTURES

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Trumpeter James Zingara expands the performance repertoire of the trumpet with TEXTURES, his debut release on Ravello Records. Hinged on the 21st-century art music style of composition, the works in this collection by Jeffrey D. Boehm, Valentin Mihai Bogdan, William Price, and Carl Vollrath; strengthen the trumpet’s diversity and adaptability in settings with computer-generated sounds, syncopated rhythms, blues forms, and atonal harmonic structures. American Record Guide specifically mentions Sans Titre VII, the opening piece, as “attractive and interesting.”

Find TEXTURES on Amazon, iTunes, and ArkivMusic.

EXULTET TERRA: Artist Interview with Amelia LeClair and Hilary Tann

We checked in with composer Hilary Tann and choir director Amelia LeClair following the recent release of EXULTET TERRA, and we’re pleased to share below some of their thoughts on the album’s background, influence, and their upcoming projects:

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When did you first become familiar with each other’s work?

AL:  At the Harvard-Radcliffe Women’s Chorus conference “The Moor” spoke to me so clearly that I introduced myself to the composer immediately after the performance, and told her I wanted to do that piece.  I remember kneeling at her feet as she sat in the audience, unable to move from her fan base, and her smiling gaze at me when I gushed “I have to do The Moor!”  Her generous spirit was immediate, and she and I became fast friends.  At the time, Cappella Clausura was a women’s chorus, and I felt the piece was perfect for my energetic young vocal performance majors. Our first performance of it still rings in my ears.

HT:  I met Amy at a circular discussion (we were in a circle) during a Radcliffe Women’s Choruses Conference under the direction of Jameson Marvin. The conversation moved to “The Moor” – the first piece on the new CD – and Amy and I seemed to have similar senses of what “sacred” might mean.  Subsequently, Cappella Clausura performed “The Moor” and in the same concert performed Hildegard’s “O Deus” … the opening of which has haunted me ever since and infuses my remaining works on the CD “Exultet Terra”.

What is the story behind the album’s title work: ‘Exultet Terra”?

HT:  By the time I came to write “Exultet Terra” (a 45-minute, five-movement work) Amy and I had already been paired in many concerts.  Cappella Clausura had performed “The Moor” again and also both of the “Contemplations” — the first of which (21,22) was written for the Radcliffe Women’s Chorus, and the second (8,9) was written for Cappella Clausura.  In addition, Amy had programmed my “Three Psalms” (another extended, three-movement work).  By this time Amy and I were friends and collaborators and Amy was urging me to write a “major” work — like a Requiem — a real musical statement.  In the event, it turned out that “Exultet Terra” was composed for the 2011 Women in Music Festival at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where I was composer-in-residence.  The Artistic Director, Sylvie Beaudette, asked me what I’d like to write as the festival commission and Amy’s large-scale piece was already in my mind.  Throughout my composing life, my twin inspirations have been poetry about nature, and nature itself.  “Exultet Terra”, which translates as “Let the Earth Be Glad,” allowed me to take favorite biblical verses and to combine these with three poems by George Herbert (1593-1633).  It is fitting that Cappella Clausura has the premiere recorded performance since their “O Deus” is so clearly the inspiration for the piece and since Amy’s urging for a”big piece” planted the early ideas in my mind.

What led to the pairing of Hilary Tann’s music with the music of Hildegard von Bingen?

AL:  As Hilary mentions in her answers, Hildegard’s “O Deus”, which begins with two sequential leaps of the 5th soaring to the 9th, was the inspiration for most of the pieces on this album, so we begin the exploration here with it, unadorned.  We wanted to highlight a bit more about Hildegard, and my arrangements of her chant, hence the addition of the chant “Rex Noster”, which I enjoy in particular because it’s text is suitable for men to sing, in fact it feels as though it is meant for male voices as it speaks of the tyrant being smothered by his own sins, a topic about which we now know perhaps too much! I very much enjoy pushing boundaries and having men sing Hildegard is one way to do that.

How do you think the latter would respond to the former’s music?

AL:  We might guess that Hildegard would have been shocked, in the 12th century, to hear polyphony, never mind a double chorus of men and women singing together. We do not know if she ever heard any reeded instruments, but the medieval shawm newly arrived in Europe from the middle east during the crusades in the 12th century, may have crossed her path. We suspect as she was a formidable and self-assured woman that she’d be pleased, and perhaps, not surprised to be so admired and emulated a thousand years after her death.

What do you most enjoy about directing a choir?

AL: I love harmony, living inside it, hearing beautifully rendered. I am fortunate to direct a vocal ensemble of professionals who can make harmony as it’s meant to be, with power and grace, filling up and expanding any acoustical space.  The well-trained human voice creates the most perfect harmony, unadulterated by tuning necessities.  In other words, when we sing well, we sing in perfect intervals, not tempered ones like most modern instruments.  These perfect intervals create partials in the air around one – and these are what one lives for as a musician, as a listener, as a human.  All of us have the capacity to sense and respond to the inherent vibrations created by harmony, which is why we call music the universal language.

It may surprise people that chant is intrinsically harmonic: the upper partials are evident here as well, and with careful listening, audible, but even if they’re not discernable by the average listener, they still inform the sound that arrives in the ear and brain, and that gently nudges the entire body.

What would you most like listeners to think about when listening to this album?

AL:  I’d like them not to think at all, but to just listen and allow the music in.  In our time of increased distraction, it is a rare thing to be able to sit quietly doing nothing but listening. Hilary Tann’s and Hildegard’s music is so arresting believe it compels one to do just that.

What are your next exciting musical endeavors?

AL:  In May, Cappella Clausura will perform works by women in the court of Louis Quatorze, including Antonia Bembo, Elisabeth Jaquet de la Guerre, Mlle. Laurant, and Leonora Duarte, with a viol consort and baroque dancers.  In June I’ll be directing an opera by Elena Ruehr entitled “Crafting the Bonds” based on a novel written by Hannah Bond, a former slave; next year our season will include a repeat performance of Patricia Van Ness’s transcendent “Birds of the Psalms” written for Cappella Clausura and premiered last May, a performance of Elena Ruehr’s “Eve” alongside Arvo Pärt’s “Adam’s Lament”, and in the future I hope to perform all three of Fanny Hensel’s masterful cantatas for chorus, soloists, and orchestra.

HT:  My saxophone quartet “Some of the Silence” is being performed at Bruno Walter Hall of Lincoln Center March 25th, then I have a choral premiere in Bethlehem, PA, April 22. My piano trio “Nothing Forgotten” is being performed in NYC by N/S Consonance, April 24.  A number of pieces including “Seven Poems of Stillness” are being performed in Saranac Lake April 30th, then I travel to Wales for a flute-cello-piano (Marsyas Trio) premiere, “In the Theater of Air”, May 25, as part of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival.  I’m looking forward to the CD release on Navona of my soliloquy for violoncello and orchestra, “Anecdote”, as well as my “Duo” (saxophone and viola) and “Solstice” (marimba and piano) on other compilations.  My most exciting future project is a trumpet concerto for a really great performer — but that’s still in the late planning stages.


Keep an eye out for Hilary Tann’s “Anecdote” to appear on an upcoming compilation of orchestral music on Navona Records, and in the meantime, you can purchase EXULTET TERRA on Amazon, iTunes, or ArkivMusic

The PARMA Album of the Day: ALL THE WAY BACK

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Pianist and composer Vytautas Smetona presents a collection of keyboard repertoire on his debut PARMA album ALL THE WAY BACK, released on Navona Records in April of 2015. The album highlights his enthralling and committed interpretations of some of the great composers’ masterworks as well as an example of his faculty as a cultivated and dynamic composer. In a review of Smetona’s first recital in 30 years, performed in New York back when the album was first released, New York Classical Review said: “The pianist’s playing and thinking were outstanding and utterly satisfying.”

You can find ALL THE WAY BACK on Amazon, iTunes, and ArkivMusic.

The PARMA Album of the Day: CHAMBER SYMPHONIES 2, 3 & 4

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American composer Douglas Anderson presents three of his chamber symphonies on his debut release CHAMBER SYMPHONIES 2, 3 & 4 on Ravello Records. With this album, Anderson aims to envelop the listener in a varied and multifaceted musical environment, all the while exploring the genre using the necessarily limited timbral and harmonic palette of a small ensemble. Sonograma says “[The] lyricism, freshness, [and tonal color of Anderson’s compositions are] elegant, and its sensitivity invites us to intimate moments to think and reflect, protected from winds that whip our tranquility.”

In addition to CHAMBER SYMPHONIES 2, 3 & 4, Anderson is featured on SPARKS. You can purchase CHAMBER SYMPHONIES 2, 3 & 4 on Amazon and iTunes.

The Inside Story: Beth Mehocic

Beth Mehocic is a composer, poet, visual artist, filmmaker, author and currently the Composer-in-Residence, Music Director, and Full Professor in the Department of Dance at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Today Mehocic is our next featured artist for ‘The Inside Story,’ a blog series exploring the personalities and inner-workings of our artists. Read on and get to know one of our debut PARMA artists!

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Photo by Louis Kavouras

Who was your favorite artist(s) growing up?

I owe much of my preference of concert music to my older brother who always played classical music on the radio since I was three years old.  I loved the passion of Beethoven and memorized all nine symphonies.  When I went to college as a music major and was sitting in Music History class, one day the professor, who thought he was being clever and wanted to show the class what they didn’t know, asked if anyone could hum the theme from the Second Movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.  Well that was an easy one since I loved it so and I began to hum it and he almost fell off his feet.  He never asked again.  My other favorite composer is Stravinsky and I often try to emulate his philosophies on music.  My all-time favorite one is “musicians have a hard enough time playing what’s on the page, let alone what’s not.”  That kind of sums up his feelings about avant-garde music and to a great extent, mine as well.

What was your most unusual performance or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

One of the most embarrassing moments was when I was a senior in High School.  I was a member of a Madrigal group and we were performing at our Spring Concert.   I was a pretty good alto and I was front and center and the microphone was right in front of me.  The auditorium was packed and all of a sudden my nerves got the best of me and I started laughing.  [My laugh became] uncontrollable and then I started snorting!  I should have walked off the stage like any other “normal” person would do, but I was glued there and couldn’t move.  What a night that was.

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If you weren’t a composer/performer, what would you be?

Today, if I was just starting out, I would be a multimedia artist.  I would be in the fine and performing arts in some way.  In addition to being a composer, I am also a visual and video artist as well as a poet and I often work in the genre of video poetry.  If those options weren’t available to me I’d be a brain surgeon.

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?

I would spend creative time in the South West, exactly where I am.  I love the colors, the mountains, the wide-open spaces and the climate.  But, I have always had a great desire to compose out in Space like on another planet and see if that environment would affect my work.  I have always been fascinated with the Universe and the possibility of one day exploring it.

Beth Mehocic’s PIECE BY PIECE is now available on Amazon and iTunes.