Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Studio Update: Sergio Cervetti's "Concertino"

Karolina, Bob, Derek, and Laura
On Sunday the 12th, composer Sergio Cervetti went back into the studio with PARMA at Futura Productions in Rosindale, MA to record his new work "Concertino".

The piece, spanning three movements for piano, woodwinds, and timpani, was written last year and is dedicated to PARMA CEO, Bob Lord. The session was conducted by Geoffrey McDonald, who directs both the Longy Conservatory Orchestra and the Bard College Orchestra.

Sergio is a longtime friend of PARMA and has appeared on many of our releases over the years. His style incorporates folk elements, European tradition, and minimalist aesthetics. For a small taste of Sergio's style and range of compositions, check out some of his recent releases on Navona: NAZCA AND OTHER WORKS and UNBRIDLED.

From left: John, Andy, Bob, Sergio, Laura, Derek, and Dan 

"Concertino" is one of several compositions that will be appearing on a future Sergio Cervetti album - his fifth full-length release on our Navona label. We're all looking forward to presenting the final product!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Asylum Quartet live at the Boston Athenaeum

Before last night, I had never been to a place with a fraction in the address. The Boston Athenaeum is located at ten and a half Beacon Street -- last night the gallery/library played host to an energetic live concert from Hartford, CT locals The Asylum Quartet.

Asylum is comprised of four of Hartford's eminent young saxophone players, Joseph Abad, soprano saxophone; Tony Speranza, alto saxophone; Max Schwimmer, tenor saxophone; and Andrew Barnhart, baritone saxophone.

The large audience was captivated by the performance of their energetic and varied "American Icons" program. Alan Thomas's "Homage to Elliott Smith" was a celebration of the late pop-genius; the piece was adeptly performed by the ensemble keeping both the classical idiom and Smith's pop sensibilities in mind. 

Philip Glass' "String Quartet No.5" arranged for sax quartet by Asylum's own Max Schwimmer, was the longest and most formidable piece in the set. The technical skill and endurance of the group was put to the test by this melodic and demanding work. The end result was a triumphant performance.

PARMA composer Dr. Ryan Jesperson was also featured in the program. The quartet performed excerpts from a commissioned piece entitled "For Sounds in Winter Nights." The names of the movements in the piece are all borrowed from works by Henry David Thoreau. I believe that this piece will be remembered as a definitive work in the canon of Asylum -- their independent minded and self-reliant approach to a classical ensemble seems to fall very much in line with Thoreau's transcendental philosophy.   

The Asylum Quartet stunned the Athenaeum last night. I suggest that you see this group live if you have the chance, their vibrant energy captures a crowd. This won't be the last time you hear about The Asylum Quartet, I guarantee it.

Find out more about Asylum Quartet on their website: http://www.asylumquartet.com/

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October Releases on Navona and Ravello Records

Carmine Miranda

A renowned cellist in his own time, Carlo Alfredo Piatti (1822-1901) is known for composing his 12 Caprices, a set recognized for its technical difficulty and complexity, and widely used as developmental exercises for cellists. On his debut Navona Records release, PIATTI: 12 CAPRICES FOR SOLO CELLO, Venezuelan-American cellist Carmine Miranda interprets Piatti's virtuosic solo cello pieces, masterfully showing them as works that withstand treatment as significant concert repertoire. 

Each of Piatti's caprices has its own character with distinct writing style, musicality, and emotion, while illustrating the prominence of violin music on Piatti's writing. As Miranda portrays, these pieces create a unity between the musician and his instrument, making the cello an extension of the player's body. Not only does this collection expand the possibilities of the cello, it explores the potential for self-accomplishment. Miranda's performance places these pieces among the esteemed body of concert repertoire that includes Niccolo Paganini's 24 Caprices for Solo Violin. Read More

Joseph Summer

GODDESSES is the third offering in Navona Records' The Shakespeare Concerts Series, which presents several works by composer Joseph Summer from his collection of settings of Shakespearean scenes, sonnets, and soliloquies, Oxford Songs. These particular works are reflections on feminine divinity, from the literal - as in the triumvirate of Roman goddesses in the piece Honour, Riches, Marriage-Blessing - by way of the metaphorical - as exemplified by the depiction of women in the sonnets, In The Old Age Black Was Not Counted Fair and Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day - and to the figurative - contained in the idealized, eternal female characters of Juliet, Olivia, and Ophelia, respectively portrayed in the works, Gallop Apace You Fiery-Footed Steeds, If Music Be The Food of Love, and There Is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook. Summer's deep knowledge of Shakespeare's works and rich compositional technique produce a musical and literary experience that adds layers of insight to Shakespearean characters and themes. Read More

Jeffrey Jacob

Occasionally, moments of happiness and comfort can rise from experiences of anxiety and doubt, during which we learn about ourselves and our limits. Composer and pianist Jeffrey Jacob depicts the experiences of struggle and pain, and of triumph and joy on his debut Navona Records release DARKNESS TO LIGHT. 

Death and Transfiguration (Symphony No. 3), a contemporary version of Richard Strauss's tone poem, expresses the emotions of a dying man, who, fearing death, later finds exaltation in it. String Quartet No. 2 and Elegy portray turmoil, the former showing the defeat of inner darkness, and the latter referencing the violent conflict between Israel and Palestine. The short and lyrical piece Adagietto Misterioso builds tension to illustrate feelings of nostalgia and transitoriness, while Symphony No. 1 presents ideas about timelessness, taken from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. Through his music, Jacob discusses the vulnerable moments of human existence and how through our vulnerability, we can open ourselves to growth toward a brighter perspective. Read More

Mitch Hampton

As composer and pianist Mitch Hampton admits, HARD LISTENING, his debut solo album on Navona Records, "aims to dissolve all boundaries of style or taste," while providing an earnest yet sometimes humorous reflection on the questions of society and musical aesthetics. Hampton explains the focus of his compositions is on the building blocks of music - rhythm, harmony, and melody - and their innate value regardless of "extramusical" or sociological meanings: "For me music is about the art object, the piece of music itself, which communicates emotion quite powerfully on its own, quite apart from specific representational associations." Petite Dirge places the style of 19th-century composers like Chopin in a 20th-century context while Large Dirge in memory of my father takes its form from the Rodgers and Hart tune "Where Or When." Pieces such as "Feminist Singer-Songwriter Song Without Words" and Goodbye Cornelius present extremes in both style and emotion. Read More

Alan Beeler 

On his debut solo Navona Records release, THE REAL BEELER, composer Alan Beeler presents his refined and distinguishable orchestral voice, exploring various harmonic and melodic forms and structures as well as the serial techniques of the Second Viennese School. In Symphony No. 1 and No. 4, the composer creates intricate atmospheres and moving textural soundscapes, generally derived from the composer's preset tone rows. Beeler's Marimba Concerto in Sixths highlights colorful and open conversations among the instruments, while his Marimba Concerto da Chiesa builds dramatic ensemble passages, followed by reactionary interludes from the marimba. Homage to Roger Sessions and Mad Song After William Blake both retain stylistic elements from their original settings for solo piano and chorus. As Beeler himself remarks about his compositional style, "I write music that pleases me...form and technique are useless unless they produce a pleasing result." His symphonic music carries an air of mystery and abstraction, yet remains expressive, leaving space for the listener to take his or her own journey. Read More

Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra; John Page

Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique (1830) is regarded as one of the most significant works from the early Romantic period, memorably portraying the introspective and troubled life of an artist. The French composer's use of materials such as the recurring idée fixe to illustrate the protagonist's obsessive mind-state has influenced composers ever since. Conductor John Page calls Symphonie Fantastique "unquestionably the most vividly programmatic symphony in the entire orchestra repertoire." 

This digital release captures a powerful live performance by Page and the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra. Recorded by PARMA Live on June 2, 2013 at the orchestra's 2012-13 season finale at The Music Hall in Portsmouth NH, Berlioz's dramatic work is given a compelling, dark, and ominous reading in the skilled hands of Page and the PSO. Read More

Debra Kaye

Composer Debra Kaye's debut Ravello Records release, AND SO IT BEGINS, catapults the listener into her deep universe of sound - an expedition down one New York City street and up another, through the warp and weft of interior landscapes, to Taos Mountain, on a journey through a dream, a dying, a love - as she blends her classical roots with traces of jazz, pop, world music, the pulse of city rhythms, and the expansiveness of spacious landscapes. 

In Finding Accord, the 3-way conversation goes in and out of agreement in a tête-à-tête of musical opposites as the composer creates new timbres for the piano trio using prepared piano techniques and percussive accents of an ankle bell. Incidental Ducklings brings quacking ducks to life through Kaye's playful wit and irony. Béla Fleck meets Schubert in Africa in The Doppelganger as Kaye explores the colors of the trombone, while The Beauty Way and Visions bring us the light, the air, the magic of Taos NM. Read More

Sauro Berti

SOLO NON SOLO, the debut Ravello Records release of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma's bass clarinetist Sauro Berti, presents contemporary works for solo bass clarinet as well as for traditional and unusual duos, including those with percussion, saxophone, narration, and electronics. 

Reconciling Berti's passions for classical and jazz music, pieces such as Blue Buk and Cosmic Turtles Sidekick are inspired by the swing and improvisation of jazz while Due Pezzi Brasiliani uses two popular, distinctive Brazilian rhythms, baiao and choro, as its primary motifs. The latter work shows Berti's faculty of other woodwinds, specifically the basset horn, the instrument also employed in Adagio e Allegro. Spasm proves a remarkable piece for Berti by displaying his comfort with challenging scores, stretching the limits of his bass clarinet, and using electronic accompaniment. Read More

David Liptak / Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon

Our human history, our search for something greater than ourselves, and our discoveries in the process are reflected in the tales we tell. As with words, music can express our stories, and composers David Liptak and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon present several sonic narratives, referencing authors, poets, astronomers, folk musicians, and more on their debut Ravello Records release, STARS STORIES SONG. 

Each of the pieces in Liptak's Preludes focuses on a single idea, from movements of celestial objects to imagery of lightness and darkness to short phrases from literary works, while yo no / tú sí / yo tú / sí no and Flores de Viento III by Zohn-Muldoon respectively use texts by Raúl Aceves and Laura Zohn. Liptak's The Eye that Directs a Needle and Freight make reference to works by historical figures, the former being Maria Mitchell, one of America's first professional astronomers, and the latter being folk guitarist Elizabeth Cotten. Daphne, for solo marimba, by Zohn-Muldoon is a musical metaphor of the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, depicting the nymph's dizzying race from her pursuer. These two composers shape tales about what's real and imagined, and what's yet to be discovered. Read More

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Common Threads

Back when I was a college radio DJ, I really enjoyed mashing up new and old music, electronica and folk, post-modern and Classical - you get the picture. Part of the fun was finding that common thread tying one track to the next, maybe a closely-related key signature or a similar rhythmic phrase, sometimes even a shared word in a band name, something to justify placing one otherwise-unrelated track next to another, next to another... Another big part of the fun was knowing that many of the people listening hadn't heard of most of the music before; they were learning something new, and hopefully enjoying it enough to seek out more.

I've created a playlist in this spirit; some of these artists I've listened to for years, some I've come across within the past few months, some rock, some electronica, and a number of works from PARMA artists as well. The selection is pretty diverse, but see if you can find some connecting threads interwoven throughout - enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New PARMA Artist: Mel Braun

PARMA is pleased to welcome baritone Mel Braun to our roster of artists. Mel will be joining PARMA artist Laura Loewen (of the Harrington/Loewen Duo) to release an album called BY THE RED on Big Round Records.

BY THE RED is a collection of traditional Canadian folk songs featuring piano, baritone, mandolin, percussion, and electric bass. 

Mel has earned attention and acclaim throughout Canada for his versatility as a singer, performing a broad range of music from baroque repertoire to premiering new works, to folk and rock.

Mel is the head of the Vocal Program at the Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. In addition, he maintains an active schedule as an educator and clinician, collaborating with a number of music education initiatives including the Annual Opera Theater School Tour, the Professor Bach Project, and the Contemporary Opera Lab.

BY THE RED will be released on Big Round Records in 2015. In the meantime, stay tuned for updates on the Big Round debut from Mel and Laura's longtime musical partnership.