HAYDN AND THE ENGLISH LADY
When listening to keyboardist Patrick Hawkins playing an 1831 William Geib square piano on his debut Navona Records release, HAYDN AND THE ENGLISH LADY, one can imagine men and women in elegant silk gowns and suits gathered in an opulently decorated drawing room of an 18th-century English estate. This collection of piano works by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and Maria Hester Park (1760-1813) illustrate the diversity and refinement of Classical repertoire.
Park, who received notable recognition as a pianist and harpsichordist in her teenage years, composed pieces which use skilled keyboard techniques, from the virtuosic 32nd-note passages and three-against-two patterns in Sonata in E-flat Major to the double-dotted rhythms and sighing gestures in A Waltz in E-flat Major. Haydn’s Sonata in D Major and Adagio in G Major were written during his second visit to London in 1794-95, the former thought to be written as a gift for Maria Hester Park. Throughout his performances, Hawkins exhibits control and stateliness, presenting these works in a renewed display of sophistication and delicacy. Read More
On his latest Navona Records release, PARAGONIA, composer Michael G. Cunningham explores ways in which the orchestra can interact with itself on several levels. Counter Currents presents contrary phrases and themes simultaneously stated while TransActions portrays dimensions of density, emphasizing orchestral blur and presenting gestures and passages that prompt interplay between the sections of the orchestra. In Cunningham’s Piano Concerto, the orchestra and piano are equally matched, using elements of stylized jazz and vocal-like passages to structure the themes. Highlighting textural and tonal fragmentation within the orchestra, his Trumpet Concerto demonstrates different conversational techniques among the voices, such as chatter, flippancy, and imitation. Read More
From the serenity of the Smoky Mountains to the abstraction and boldness of Kandinsky’s paintings, composer Paul Osterfield’s debut solo Navona Records album SOUND AND FURY pulls inspiration from several experiences which the composer translates into refined, stimulating, and expressive chamber pieces.
Osterfield writes many of his pieces for particular performers and ensembles, giving his music unique personalities that reflect the virtuosic capabilities of the musicians. Sound and Fury, written for the Blakemore Trio, uses ornate passages and driving rhythms with soaring lyrical melodies, while Etudes for Piano, Book 1, written for pianist Caleb Harris, demonstrates various technical faculties such as parallel chords, syncopated rhythms, and blazing strings of notes. Works such as Smoky Mountain Autumn and Kandinsky Images depict the imagery of the natural landscapes of East Tennessee and the intense, often dark, and striking expressions of the painter’s pieces. Read More
SEA OF REEDS
The clarinet is an essential voice in many genres, from classical and jazz to klezmer and world music, and composer Gerald Cohen calls it one of his favorite instruments: “I love the clarinet for its wide variety of character and dynamics, and its ability to either blend beautifully with other instruments or to stand out in a crowd.” Through this affinity, the composer offers new compositions featuring the clarinet in various trio settings on his debut Navona Records release, SEA OF REEDS.
Cohen’s dramatic and lyrical compositions explore the clarinet’s colorful personality with his particular blend of classical, Jewish, and jazz influences. Variously Blue is a vibrant group of variations on a twelve-bar blues pattern, highlighting an interplay between jazz and concert music; the title collection Sea of Reeds arranges five of Cohen’s Jewish vocal works, turning them into virtuosic clarinet showpieces. Yedid Nefesh, based on a delicate Sephardic song, explores both meditative and exuberant aspects of that melody, while the wide-ranging variations of Grneta Variations take advantage of the wonderful virtuosity and unique musical personalities of the three musicians of the Grneta Ensemble. Read More
LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET
On his debut Navona Records release, LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET, composer Mark Zanter presents recently commissioned chamber works for strings. The inspiration for the title track comes from Rainer Maria Rilke’s letters to Franz Xaver Kappus, a correspondence in which his encouragement to a young poet becomes a vehicle for expressing his thoughts on the creative process and the transcendent qualities of art.
Guitarist Júlio Alves comments: “In Letters to a Young Poet, Mark Zanter reveals through a complex mosaic of sonorities the correspondence between anguished apprentice Franz Kappus and disquiet Rainer Maria Rilke, a poet still wrestling to find his own artistic identity. The intricacies of the parts, individually and together, indicate that the role of each instrument in this correspondence was purposefully left undecided, allowing both the violin and the guitar to be either ‘the apprentice’ or ‘the poet.'” Read More
Composer and musician Kim Halliday is no stranger to the aesthetics of contemporary rock music, having a diverse background in punk, new wave, and ska. While his work in film composition draws on these influences and beyond, Halliday says his music is “designed to comfort and disturb in equal measure” like the moonlight illuminating a path through the forest, yet awakening shadow beings among the trees.
His latest Ravello Records release, HALFLIGHT, portrays Halliday as a composer of our age, bringing together progressive rock, electronic and ambient music, and film music. Halliday uses a range of instruments at his disposal, from guitar and piano to sound loops and synthesizers to drum machines and narration. These works are entrenched in mystery, suggesting emotions that may be real or delusional. As does a track from a rock album, these pieces are easily self-sustaining and satisfying on their own, but they carry an atmosphere and tone of thrill and complexity which give them the ability to work within a number of film settings. Read More
CHAT CHILL HIGHLINE
On her debut Big Round Records release, CHAT CHILL HIGHLINE, composer Christina Rusnak presents works arranged for big band and large jazz ensemble, illustrating manners in which we interact with others and our environments such as conversing, observing, and absorbing. Composed during the rising popularity of internet chatrooms, Chat reflects on the energy and the sounds of movement, the multitude of voices, and the interweaving of conversations created in virtual and real social gatherings. Chill captures the cool ambience of a jazz lounge with an air of relaxation, mixed with lively sections of swinging rhythms and solos, while HighLine emphasizes the expansiveness which outdoor spaces can provide for reflection, contemplation, and wandering. In the hands of a controlled yet nimble large jazz ensemble, Rusnak’s works form their own atmospheres by threading intricate dialogues and phrases among the instruments. Read More