Bill Whitley and The Inside Story: Benchmark Chamber Music

Composer and pianist Bill Whitley’s writes music that is rooted deeply in themes of mysticism and nature, incorporating musical elements as diverse as a Gregorian chant, raga music, and progressive rock. Today, Whitley’s our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover what makes his new album benchmark chamber music.

When did you realize that you wanted to be a composer?

The first time I heard In a Landscape by John Cage, was when I realized that maybe ‘classical music’ was bigger than Chopin and Beethoven. I started improvising, then notating solo piano music like there was no tomorrow. What surprised me most, was that I never got tired of writing music. Unlike practicing and performing on the piano, the depth of the composing well seemed to have no end to it.

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

Testing high-quality headphones.

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

On the deck of a cabin overlooking the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers. That kind of openness is where my music comes from.

Chamber Music

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

Wow. That’s like trying to pick a favorite child.  I’m really proud of all of the tracks and all of the performances, and the mixes…

…but “The Eddy (reprise)” into “White Water” (tracks 13 & 14) at the conclusion of Little White Salmon where Donna starts humming, then falls back into “Flow”…that gets me every time. It seems like a really great way to end the album, and it’s so clear that everyone…performers, engineers, producer…everyone really got the piece, the music, and the whole album.

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

They were all either really easy to write or all really hard to write.  I can never remember. I do know that some of them came with really difficult emotions. But that’s what the pieces are for…and often the ones that are the result of working through deep sadness sound the happiest.

But one piece, in particular, captures the feeling of failing to find my way out of depression…that would be “Oaxaca.”

What does this album mean to you personally?

It’s most definitely a benchmark. I didn’t expect that. I look back at all of the work I’ve written and recorded before with I DREAM AWAKE as the acid test. I’ve already actually recycled/deleted/removed uploads of works I’d written or recorded prior since this album has been mixed. I think my body of work will be defined as pre- and post- I DREAM AWAKE.

I see the album as an example of what my work could be.

Bill Whitley’s I DREAM AWAKE releases on Ravello Records Friday, August 11th and will become available for purchase and streaming. 

The Inside Story: Matej Meštrović

Croatian composer, pianist, and professional goof ball, Matej Meštrović, is one of the most prominent artists in Croatia. Meštrović’s compositions range from chamber and orchestral concert music to music for television, theatre, and film. Today Meštrović is the next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to see where he drew inspiration for Winter…

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

I grew up with Mozart. When my mom was pregnant with me, I was listening to Mozart from her belly. Not only listening; she was onstage, while pregnant with me, me in her belly while she was performing Mozart d-minor Piano Concerto with Zagreb Philharmonic orchestra. I think that’s the moment I decided to become piano player and composer.

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

I started my music education when I was 4, so I remember one of my first performance when I was 6. It was blocked flute improvisation on the theme I’ve made myself  – “Old witch”. After that, I started playing piano and practicing a lot. My motto was ” If you want to practice piano for 25 hours a day, you have to get up one hour early.” I won all the competitions and had a lot of performances. At that time, besides the classical repertoire, I always played some of my own compositions on concerts. That made me realize that playing my compositions and composing music makes me so much happier than only reproducing classical music from other famous composers. If you ask me when – my answer is when I was 16.

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

When I was 14, I played Mozart Rondo for piano and orchestra. The concert hall was sold out, the orchestra was already on stage and everybody was waiting for me. There were several stairs at the entrance to the stage, so I ran, and missed the last step and almost fell. One of the contrabass players kept me from falling down, and the whole audience laughed. Then I realized that you can’t be late for your own performance.
Why? Because there is no concert without you. So, I don’t run to stage anymore.

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What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

It is the beginning, the opening of the first movement of the Spring. Every time we play live “4 Seasons for 3 Pianos,” I am looking at the audience, and I see smiles on their faces. That makes me smile too.

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

Yes, the finale of the Winter because I wanted to make that ending more “spectacular.” I spent days and days only on that part (for all other movements, inspiration came to me at the moment). So after many hours of playing/composing on my piano, I quit and decided not to push anymore.

I went for a long walk with my dog in nature. We live in the small village, so it is quiet and very inspirational surrounding. One moment I was listening to the birds and idea came to me as if I was hit by thunder. I realized that I have to make my “own Coda” and finish the Winter with all the other themes from Autumn, Summer, and Spring. After that, I ran home and composed that Coda in one breath. So, I made it in music the way nature made it in life – the last movement of the Winter is the first movement of the Spring – the end of the winter is intertwined with the beginning of the spring.

What does this album mean to you personally? Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

It seems that my transcription of Vivaldi’s “4 Seasons for 3 pianos” is the first one in the world. There is a lot transcription for 2 or 4 pianos, but not a single one for 3 pianos. That makes me happy and proud. Besides that, this is not the only transcription, because I have done a lot of interventions on that score. Playing and recording this album with such great piano players as Matija Dedic and Hakan Ali Toker is a great personal experience for me. At the end I want to share this – when I was much younger, Vivaldi came to me and he told me “When you grow up, play with me like you are a child”. And that’s what I did.

Matej Meštrović’s 4 SEASONS FOR 3 PIANOS will be available to order and to stream Friday, August 11th. 

But wait…there’s more!

July 2017 New Music is Here

You don’t have to wait any longer, our new music and artists in July are finally here. Pick your liking and order now…

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ARGOT  | Véronique Mathieu

Véronique Mathieu’s ARGOT is a spectacular demonstration of her abilities as a violinist with a unique array of violin-centric works strengths of twentieth-century modernist composers.

iTunes | Amazon | ArkivMusic | Spotify


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BACK BEFORE BACH  |  Piffaro, The Renaissance Band

The Philadelphia-based ‘Renaissance band’ Piffaro presents an exceptional compendium of sixteenth and early seventeenth-century German and Franco-Flemish music.

iTunes | Amazon | ArkivMusic | Spotify


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THE SEA KNOWS  |  Michael Kurek

Composer Michael Kurek presents a charming collection of works that are a tonal idiom reminiscent of the great melodist of the early 20th century.

iTunes | Amazon | ArkivMusic | Spotify


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ASCEND  |  Society of Composers, Inc. 

The latest collection of works by Society of Composers, Inc., is an enthralling showcase of leading composers and performers from around the world.

iTunes | Amazon | ArkivMusic | Spotify


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WOEFULLY ARRAYED  |  Jonathan Little

Sacred and secular choral works by composer Jonathan Little showcasing intricate “polychoral” techniques such as multi-part, multi-divisi, solo, echo and spatial effects.

iTunes | Amazon | ArkivMusic | Spotify


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SUFFICIENT TROUBLE  |  Brian Belet

Composer and performer Brian Belet offers a selection of computer music composed over the last twenty years, featuring acoustic instruments and responsive electronic materials.

iTunes | Amazon | ArkivMusic | Spotify


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TURNING TO THE CENTER  |  Phillip Schroeder

A subdued, atmospheric tour de force of songs written primarily for an ensemble of baritone voice, clarinet, and keyboards that feature texts by Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Rumi.

iTunes | Amazon | Spotify

What Happens When Everything Goes Right in A Recording Session

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(from left to right): Ovidiu Marinescu, Samantha Granville, Sylvia Ahramjian, Anna Kislitsyna, Brad Michel, L Peter Deutsch

Often times with PARMA, we’re in a hundred different places at once. As a record company recording music all over the world, sometimes we have sessions that overlap, like the recent Czech Republic, Poland, and Philadelphia sessions. Three different recording sessions in three parts of the world with multiple performers and composers. However, despite these overlaps, each session is consistent with the fact that each is unique in experience.

In A&R Representative Marina Altschiller’s recent blog post A Moment of Reflection in the Czech Republic, she tells the story of when everything goes right during a session. For her, it was in St. Mortiz Church as the performers played a few bars on the 6th take of Peter Greve’s “Aria for Trumpet and Organ.” It was a moment where everything came together and the engineers, composer, directors, and whoever else was in the sound room, just paused for a second and listened.

It’s funny that what we do here a PARMA is “make music that sounds terrific” but sometimes, in the heat of making sure each take is perfect, each string is tuned, every piano key rings smooth, that we are not truly hearing a piece until it’s mastered and sitting packaged in our hands. However, moments like these created in the process is what makes it all worth it.

After reading Marina’s piece, I was reminded of my own experience in Philadelphia, recording five pieces with the PARMA infamous Trio Casals. On the last day of recording, we began takes of L Peter Deutsch’s “Ocean Air.” This piece, originally based on the story of a cat dreaming, was rewritten to paint the picture of sailing on the ocean through the night.

I was sitting in the recital hall, legs crossed and jotting down notes of the day while the Trio tuned up and rehearsed before the red light went on. GRAMMY Award-Winning producer Brad Michel “radio silky voice” (as Ovidiu pointed out) chimed in from the sound room and the red light turned on. The Trio announced that they were going to do a run through of the second movement of the piece.

As I sat there writing, taking in the last day of recording, I noticed that my heart felt like it was caught in my throat and goosebumps began to climb up my arm. I set down my pen and rested my eyes on the moving bows and swaying bodies of the Trio as they synced together and listened. It was that special moment. The moment where everything was just perfect.

Following their run through, there was silence for a moment as their bows and heads raised to the ceiling. Then, starting to smile at one another and laughed. Brad overhead said, “that was beautiful.” I couldn’t help myself, I clapped!

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What performers look like when a take goes well…

Not every moment is like this but every session has them. Recording sessions are a process full of repetition, flats, and squeaky notes having to be done over. But when it works, it works and you end up with a moment that’s not only captured in the master, but also in your veins.

– Samantha Granville, Social Media Specialist

 

Ready for New Music in July?

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We’re getting ready to kick-off the second half of the year with new music featuring debut artists like Véronique Mathieu; fan-favorites like Piffaro; as well as experimental music, re-releases and more. Help create buzz by following our promotion on our Facebook event: Ready for New Music in July?

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ARGOT  | Véronique Mathieu

Véronique Mathieu’s ARGOT is a spectacular demonstration of her abilities as a violinist with a unique array of violin-centric works strengths of twentieth-century modernist composers.


 

NV6106 - Back Before Bach - Front Cover.jpg

BACK BEFORE BACH  |  Piffaro, The Renaissance Band

The Philadelphia-based ‘Renaissance band’ Piffaro presents an exceptional compendium of sixteenth and early seventeenth century German and Franco-Flemish music.


 

NV6111-TheSeaKnows-FrontCover.jpg

THE SEA KNOWS  |  Michael Kurek

Composer Michael Kurek presents a charming collection of works that are a tonal idiom reminiscent of the great melodist of the early 20th century.


 

NV6112 - Ascend - Front Cover

ASCEND  |  Society of Composers, Inc. 

The latest collection of works by Society of Composers, Inc., is an enthralling showcase of leading composers and performers from around the world.


 

NV6113-WoefullyArrayed-FrontCover.jpg

WOEFULLY ARRAYED  |  Jonathan Little

Sacred and secular choral works by composer Jonathan Little showcasing intricate “polychoral” techniques such as multi-part, multi-divisi, solo, echo and spatial effects.


 

RR7969 - Sufficient Trouble - Front Cover.jpg

SUFFICIENT TROUBLE  |  Brian Belet

Composer and performer Brian Belet offers a selection of computer music composed over the last twenty years, featuring acoustic instruments and responsive electronic materials.


 

RR7970 - Turning To The Center - Front Cover.jpg

TURNING TO THE CENTER  |  Phillip Schroeder

A subdued, atmospheric tour de force of songs written primarily for an ensemble of baritone voice, clarinet, and keyboards that feature texts by Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Rumi.

Zhen Chen wins a Global Music Award with ERGO

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The Navona Records 2017 April release of ERGO, featuring compositions by New York-based composer and pianist Zhen Chen has won the Silver Medal in the Global Music Awards.

Zhen Chen received his Bachelor’s in piano performance at the Central Conservatory of Music in China, and his Master’s in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where he was presented the Helen Cohen Award. Since graduating, he has traveled the world as a solo and chamber artist.

Chen has performed in notable concert halls such as Stern Auditorium, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and the David Geffen Hall of Lincoln Center, to name a few. In addition to performing as a solo artist, Chen has also been the featured soloists in orchestras such as the China Xinhua Philharmonic Orchestra in which took him on a China tour.

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Zhen Chen on the Red Carpet at the 2016 GRAMMY Awards, holding new album ERGO and present as a voting member of the Academy. 

ERGO, which is an album of chamber compositions featuring traditional Chinese folk instruments with performers, Chen on piano, Jiaju Shen playing the pipa, Feifei Yang playing the erhu, and vocalist Yixuan Pang , has received press from all around the world. Reviewers such as Sonograma Magazine say Chen is “a composer of unusual talent, [and] a great advocate of contemporary music.” 

Since the release, Chen has been featured in China Daily, in World Journal, and in a YouTube interview series by SinoTVUSA.

Here at PARMA, we’re proud to be working with talented artists such as Zhen Chen. If you haven’t already, find the album on iTunes, Amazon, and streaming on Spotify. Keep up with Zhen Chen on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Speaking of YouTube, have you seen his music video for Turpan Tango?

 

The PARMA Album of the Day: THE WELL-TEMPERED CLAVIER, BOOK 1

The Well-Temperes Clavier, Book 1

Regarded as “a gifted and obviously devoted Bachian” by the New York Times, award-winning pianist Kimiko Ishizaka, performs the work of  J.S. Bach in Navona Records release THE WELL-TEMPERED CLAVIER, BOOK I.  Gramophone Magazine says, “Ishizaka plays the 24 preludes and figures with impeccable taste and technique, finding many levels of musical meaning as she brings utmost clarity to the multiplicity of textures.”

In an interview with Robert Douglass, PARMA Recordings CEO Bob Lord talks about the project:

Want to hear more? Find the album on Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify. Stay updated with Kimiko Ishizaka on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The PARMA Album of the Day: SENSATIONS

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Australian composer, music educator, and pianist Margaret Brandman presents her debut Navona Records release SENSATIONS, featuring several of her celebrated compositions, each one presenting a unique musical experience and sensation. Kathodik says “The music of Margaret Brandan is a continuous celebration of life, of nature, and hope for a better future.”

Find SENSATIONS on Amazon, iTunes, and ArkivMusic. If you’re looking for more music by Margaret Brandman you can also find her on ABRAZO.  Still not enough? Follow Brandman on Facebook and Twitter.

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