The Inside Story: Betty Wishart

Composer and pianist Betty Wishart, who has been noted by FanFare Magazine as “possessed of a distinctive and worthwhile compositional voice,” is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to see her “must have’s” in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Wishart speaking at Bosendofer Hall

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

I went to a performance without a chance to try out the piano.  Since the first piece was slow, it gave me time to acclimate to the instrument.  One important note:  this was a beautiful rented Steinway.

When if dove into the fortissimo section of the second piece, the piano began moving!  What to do?

I leaned further at the first opportunity, and pulled the piano back towards me!  After the concert, they discovered that the rollers weren’t locked!!

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what are the three things you absolutely can’t live without?

There is no question that the number one priority is a grand piano.  I don’t even want to envision a life without one.  It’s the outlet for my emotions and where I begin composing.

The second must-have would be a computer.  If manuscript paper and a continuous supply of sharpened pencils could count as one, that would work fine also.

Everyone who knows me knows my third “must-have” is coffee.  However, it’s an even toss-up between coffee and Cheeze-its!

If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?

We’re dreaming, right?!  I would love to be a freelance composer in Manhattan.  Being among the arts community there always inspires me.  When I get a break from teaching, I go there to get refreshed and energized.   Of course, the job would need to support a two-bedroom apartment around 71st Street near Central Park West!

NV6094 - Passage - Front CoverWhat would you say to an artist performing your work that nobody else knows?

Sections of the horn part are devilish.  If necessary another instrument can double the high notes.

What does this album mean to you personally?

After hearing “Journey”, I hope people realize that I write music for all instruments, not only piano.*3

Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

The ominous opening leads to a sense of foreboding. Visualize the music as background to a film.

Although the music was inspired by the threat of a terrorist attack, the piece is about facing the fear of the unknown.

The Navona Records compilation album PASSAGE: Contemporary Works for Orchestra is now available to purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and ArkivMusic, and is streaming on Spotify

The PARMA Inside Story: Alla Elana Cohen

Distinguished composer, pianist, music theorist and teacher Alla Elana Cohen, immigrated to the United States from Soviet Russia in 1989. Now living in Boston, Cohen is a professor at both Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music. Today, Cohen is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings of our artists and their personalities.

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Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

My parents weren’t musicians, but they loved classical music very much – since when I was very young, I had the happiness to listen at home to many classical masterpieces on records, on radio and TV, and especially I loved piano music but also listened to a lot of orchestral and chamber music. By some reason, growing up, I much preferred instrumental music to vocal. My favorites when I was a child – and still now – great pianists Emil Gilels, Maria Yudina, Dinu Lipatti and many many others!

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?

I realized it very early. My parents bought a piano for me when I was 5, and I started piano lessons at 5, and a year later I started to compose music, and since then I have never wanted to do anything else in life – I always felt that being a composer/pianist is the greatest blessing, and is my true vocation. But my first creative experience started even earlier – I composed my first little poem when I was 4, and it was about my favorite candy that had a picture of bears near the pine tree in the forest on its foil, in Russian it had rhythm and rhyme, and if to translate it roughly into English, it will be something like:  “Naughty little bear-cub put pinecones in his mother’s tub; his younger sister is of the same sort: all day she wallows in the dirt”!

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

My most unusual performance was in 2001, when 12-year old phenomenal prodigy cellist Sebastian Baverstam played with me my cello/piano duo in 3 movements at the concert of my music –a child played super-challenging cello part in a composition of extreme difficulty both interpretation-wise and technically, and he did it brilliantly, on the level of an adult master, and what is the most remarkable is that he received the music of this duo and learned it 10 days before the concert! I still have that amazing recording – from that concert. It was the beginning of our collaboration that lasts all these years and continues now – he played solo cello pieces and cello part in all the ensembles on my CD that PARMA releases now! And PARMA will release soon the CD, that consists of only cello/piano, solo cello and solo piano music, that we recorded with Sebastian.

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What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

For a composer all his/her works should be equally dear, otherwise, there is no sense to perform/record them! Each of the works on this CD highlights certain aspects and facets of my individual musical style, each piece has its own, unique character, so it is impossible for me to decide.

Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose/perform than the others?

“Inscription on a Bamboo Screen” for soprano and viola (with cup-gong in the last movement) was the most challenging for both the singer and violist – vocal part is very challenging and requires very flexible voice and excellent intonation, and not less difficult viola part has certain extended techniques, with which my violist wasn’t familiar.

What does this album mean to you personally?

The release of my CD by PARMA, Ravello label, is very important for me – not only because it is the next step for me in my creative work, but because it is a start of my collaboration with PARMA, that will make my compositions more known to broader circles of listeners.

Alla Elana Cohen’s RED LILIES OF BELLS, GOLDEN LILIES OF BELLS, WHITE LILIES OF BELLS is now available on Amazon, iTunes, ArkivMusic and is streaming on Spotify

The PARMA Album of the Day: HALFLIGHT

 

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Kim Halliday, a British composer and pianist, released his second PARMA album HALFLIGHT on Ravello Records in 2015. In this second album release, Halliday is portrayed as a composer of our time by bringing together progressive rock, electronic ambient, and film music.  Sputnik Music says, “The utterly compelling new album from Kim Halliday showcases a beautifully enigmatic marriage between rock and electronic. Influenced by the likes of Massive Attack, Radiohead and Jimmy Page, Halliday’s new album, packed with dark instrumentals and poignant lyrics, doesn’t disappoint.”

Find HALFLIGHT, along with his debut album BIRDSONG IN MIST, on Amazon, iTunes, and Naxos Music Library.

 

 

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