February Releases Out Now on Navona and Ravello Records

Gregory W. Brown | The Crossing; New York Polyphony

The human voice: A forceful yet delicate instrument. The weight of its expression can be as heavy as a ringing bell or as light as the whisper of an autumn breeze. Composer Gregory W. Brown presents a collection of his vocal and choral works on the Navona Records release MOONSTRUNG AIR, capturing the wonder of the human voice as our rooted connection with nature.

Five Women Bathing in Moonlight depicts an idealized rendering of a sea-side party scene by poet Richard Wilbur, evoking a dreamlike and timeless atmosphere with shifting harmonic centers, imitative polyphony, quasi-Baroque ornaments, and canonic structures. Entrai, pastores, entrai and Three American Folk Hymns – “The Dying Californian,” “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” and “The Morning Trumpet” – are settings of traditional tunes that pay tribute to the original while drawing on Brown’s extensive singing and conducting background to create distinctive textures that range from incisive to gossamer. Imagery of the natural world and our gradual awareness of its presence in the shroud of our daily lives are primary themes in Vidi Aquam and Spring. Brown’s innovative and adept technique shines in Missa Charles Darwin, a setting of texts from Darwin in the form of the Roman Catholic Mass featuring DNA from one of Darwin’s finches translated into motivic material.  READ MORE

Lee Actor | Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Glover

Maestro Kirk Trevor praises composer Lee Actor as “one of the refreshing new classical voices … who can still use a traditional language with a freshness that makes the music alive and interesting.” On his latest Navona Records release PIANO CONCERTO, Actor presents three orchestral works, performed by Trevor and the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, that are engaging and tonal yet dramatic and modern.

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is a work in 3 movements that highlights the composer’s depth and range of emotion as well as his strength for creating captivating lyrical themes and rhythmic charges. The exciting and intense Symphony No. 3 is a 5-movement work for full orchestra that has its origins in Actor’s earlier single-movement piece Premonition, a name which expresses the often foreboding, desolate, and furious qualities of Symphony No. 3. The single-movement piece Divertimento for Small Orchestra reimagines the lighthearted 18th-century form into a modern style, filled with unexpected harmonic twists and turns, and sudden “off-kilter” rhythmic passages.  READ MORE

FELT: Striking Works for Solo Piano
Matthew Durrant, Rachel Lee Guthrie, Amir Zaheri, Richard Pressley, Byron Petty, Ron Nagorcka, Robert A. Baker

FELT, a compilation for solo piano offered by Navona Records, presents an array of techniques and themes to illustrate the piano’s dexterous capacity for limitless expression and tonal colors.

In Three Excursions for Piano, Matthew Durrant explores various angles of contemporary composition – 12-tone rows, bitonality and modality, and repetition and rhythmic propulsion. Rachel Lee Guthrie’s Winter is an impressionistic piece inspired by the sublimity of mid-western winter landscapes, depicting the imagery of northern winds blowing across the countryside and gently falling snow blanketing the chilling earth. In Prelude to the Holy Dark, Amir Zaheri illustrates the idea of welcoming a return to the time before electricity, while expressing the angst and frustration found in the act of regression. Written for the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth, in memoriam by Richard Pressley focuses on the struggle and ultimate collapse of the musical material toward an elusive goal. The two-movement work by Byron Petty, Propuntal Displays, references the standard teaching literature of J.S. Bach, displaying episodes of increasing difficulty and counterpoint techniques. Anything by Ron Nagorcka is a work refined by ear rather than theory, developing from a random application of notes in a rhythmic structure. Robert A. Baker presents two works, Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?, a line from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65 which Baker considers to “appropriately reflect a near exact narrative of the musical discourse” and Valence I, whose meaning is left to the interpretation of the listener.  READ MORE

Carl Vollrath | Michael Norsworthy, Yoko Hagino

The stories we tell, stemming from our experiences of people, places, and events, reveal how we understand and express the world around us. Composer Carl Vollrath presents works for clarinet and piano which depict his interpretations of past events and tones of past composers, oftentimes conveying them through ironic and spirited musical themes.

Several of the works allude to the genius and techniques of composers from the 20th century: Copland’s Coda captures a writing style of Aaron Copland that incorporates the influence of French Impressionism learned during his student years in Paris. Poulenc’s Plunk and Prokofiev’s Polka explore the compositional characteristics of the two composers in clever and contemporary musical material. Delius’s Dream is a work inspired by the English composer’s residency in France later in his life, combining impressionistic themes with imagery of the English countryside.

Coco and Igor, inspired by the film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009), expands on a five-note phrase played in the movie, while the title work and A Place Some Where reflect on experiences such as the birth of a friend’s daughter, the whispers of autumn air, and the Latin-inspired music of Ástor Piazzolla. Vollrath’s quirky and often humorous reminiscences give renewed life and energy to the events and composers referred to in his music, offering these memories as part of our own experiences.  READ MORE

Pamela J. Marshall | Lexington Symphony Chamber Players, Susan Jackson, Duo “2”, Addington-Barringer Duo, Jennifer Slowik, Kevin Owen, Karolina Rojahn

The rush and restlessness of our daily lives can be like a fog, an opaque shroud that can distract from the enlightening experiences of nature. On her debut Ravello Records album THROUGH THE MIST, composer Pamela J. Marshall presents several works that find their origins in the composer’s experiences with the natural world.

The title track references Marshall’s trips to a lake in New Hampshire, evoking the imagery of the stillness of morning, waves knocking on the rocky shore, and the sunset’s glorious colors spreading across the horizon. Communing with Birds is a rhapsodic response to the chorus of birds one hears while in a tropical rainforest, while the musical motives of Waves and Fountains depict cascading water. In Zoa, for multiple flutes and harp, Marshall applies extended techniques to illustrate an otherworldly and primordial landscape representing what the composer calls “imagined music of elemental creatures.” Dance of the Hoodoos gives life to the ghostly rock figures of Yellowstone National Park, inviting the listeners to a syncopated and primitive dance.  READ MORE

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