Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January Releases

Today is release day for four truly exceptional and diverse albums on our Ravello and Navona labels. These four performer-focused albums showcase the talent of clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, cellist Chris Wild, The Apollo Chamber Players, and the McCormick Percussion Group. Click ''read more'' to find out more and hear samples from the albums!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Authority Of Intent

This Tuesday, January 28, PARMA's labels release new music by the Apollo Chamber Players, Chris Wild, Robert McCormick, and finally an album called RESOLVE, an historic collection by Grammy-winner Richard Stoltzman featuring clarinet music by Paul Hindemith. I've had the pleasure of working with Dick for a number of years on recording projects of many types, ranging from the most massive of orchestral concerti to the most intimate of modern chamber music, and his music is always nothing short of spectacular, moving, and inspiring. 

Listening to the recording we did last year of Hindemith's "Sonata For Clarinet & Piano" with Pulitzer Prize-winning pianist extraordinaire and all-around unbelievably terrific guy Yehudi Wyner, I recall one particular conversation we had during a session years prior about recording with the composer of a given piece.

In that discussion Dick expressed a deep appreciation for working with living composers to create a 'definitive' rendition of a composition, particularly a premiere recording where there is a degree of permanence, and especially when the composer himself is the performer. Going to the source, directly to it, is not only the best but often the only way to get what one truly needs artistically.

Stoltzman and Wyner in the studio
(Image by ClearEye Photo)
On RESOLVE, we hear the work of a great master, one of the most prominent forces of 20th century music, as performed by his student at Yale - Yehudi Wyner, himself a composer of breathtaking talent, skill, and renown, and a prime mover of the century and beyond - and the student of the student, another mighty master and mover in Stoltzman, who studied with Wyner at Yale. The musical insight here is deep, distilled, nuanced, the view of artists who themselves have perspectives from both inside and outside.

What if we could hear Bach play Bach? Can you imagine how much that would clear up? We could clean the oceans in the spare time we'd collectively save.

It can of course be argued that not all first performances or recordings are 'definitive' in their interpretation regardless of who is involved - it is essential to hear Gershwin and Whiteman play "Rhapsody In Blue," a must, sure, fine, but there's these Bernstein recordings...

Here are some other angles, both oblique and direct, by composers who perform:


Douglas Detrick's AnyWhen Ensemble
Coming March 25, 2014

Trumpet player and composer Douglas Detrick has created a chamber-jazz opus that is simultaneously coiled and unbridled, utilizing his crack ensemble as not only a transmitter of musical information but a generator of it as well. People talking about the "death of classical music" would be well-advised to tune into the new paradigm of composers, players, bands, and bandleaders like Detrick who are blurring all the sharp genre edges in their sight. Eraser, please.  


Don Freund
Released April 3, 2012

Variation on a theme: a composer himself finding new routes of discovery in some of the best-known works in musical history. Freund approaches the WTC as a translator, focused in part on effectively harnessing the modern instrument to transmit the original intent of the work. A third DVD disc is included with the physical product, featuring Freund offering a thoughtful and thorough analysis of various methods and techniques used by Bach in the planning and execution of the work. 

"... an unusual amount of intimacy, clarity and understanding that are remarkably in touch with the piano’s own physical characteristics." 


Patrick Beckman feat. Richard Stoltzman
Released July 28, 2009

Beckman's exploration of American roots and idioms is as spontaneous as it is studied, with big flourishes and small gestures alike coming together in his own singular voice. I've worked with Pat on a couple of albums, and his personality always beams through clearly - and not just because of the improvisational elements that he frequently employs, either. There are few composer/performers who are so adept at creating engaging, appealing music that speaks as well to the mind as to the gut. Final note about Pat: I am not breaking any confidences by saying he once described a movement from his Mass to me as, quote, "a real shoot-'em-up Sanctus," and I have never before or since heard any other human put those words in that sequence.

"Instantly appealing work fusing jazz and contemporary musical language." 
(MusicWeb International)


And we all know EXACTLY what Leonard Bernstein felt about Ravel:


Be back later... have to go practice after watching that...

Bob Lord
CEO, PARMA Recordings

Friday, January 17, 2014

New PARMA project: Clementi on Clementi

PARMA is pleased to announce our plans to work with pianist Shuko Watanabe and PARMA flutist Byron Petty, along with Dr. Timothy Gaylard of Washington and Lee University on a new release of duos and solo pieces composed by Muzio Clementi.

Muzio Clementi lived from the mid 1700's to early 1800's and is considered by many as a renaissance man, though he was 200 years ahead of the period.  He was a composer, conductor, editor, pedagogue, pianist, publisher and piano manufacturer.  It is believed that Clementi and Mozart were rivals, coming from different schools of classical piano. As a composer, Clementi was one of the first to write works for the capabilities of the pianoforte, giving him the title "Father of the Pianoforte."

The release's program was recorded at Washington & Lee University on a Muzio Clementi Fortepiano crafted in 1814 and will be a bicentennial of the piano's birth.  We are looking forward to releasing this historically significant project - look out for updates in 2014.

Listen to Clementi's highly recognizable "Op 3 No. 1 in C" below:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mark Zanter Receives ASCAP Nissim Award Special Distinction

We are proud to announce that PARMA composer Mark Zanter has recently been distinguished by ASCAP for his skill and talent in concert composition with his piece "Lament and dream" for string orchestra, piano and percussion.

Mark's score for "Lament and dream" was chosen alongside 3 other works out of nearly 300 submissions for the acclaimed Nissim Award due to Mark's expertise and skill in composing.

The Nissim Award is presented annually to an ASCAP composer for a composition requiring a conductor that has not been performed professionally. The winning compositions are selected by a jury of conductors.

Mark is an active composer, performer, and teacher at Marshall University in West Virginia. We are currently working on an album of Mark's original compositions (including "Lament and dream"), keep an eye out for Mark's album in the future and read more about the ASCAP Nissim Award here:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Classical Music = Cover Band

I have a question, and I want an answer.

Can someone please tell me when classical music became the stuff of cover bands?  I realize it's been a long, slow slide, but I'd love to know the exact moment it occurred. 

Was it the 7,770th recording of Mozart's works?  As of this writing there are in fact 7,771 of them listed on ArkivMusic.com, so chances are it happened earlier than that: 


Live settings are no different.  Bachtrack.com logged 15,091 performances of classical music in 2013, with 7,428 of them being works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach - meaning 49% of classical music performances were by 3 guys who died a collective 674 years ago (for the record, Mozart came in first with 2,512 performances).  The site is careful to state that their stats are not comprehensive, but you get the drift - this is bleak stuff:


It's nice to go to the same restaurant, get the same dish, have the same drink.  I do it myself, with food and, yes, music, both as a listener and as a performer.  But when you begin to broaden the view provided by Bachtrack even just a tiny bit, things start to look downright pathological: Beethoven was on top of the performance list for numerous years before ol' Mozart swooped in and took the big brass ring.

According to AllMusic.com, there were 15 releases of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in 2013 alone:


But that's nothing - in 1995 there were 27!  Fantastic!  Ludwig clearly needed the marketing assistance, he wasn't getting enough of a push (only 14 or so releases of No. 5 in '94, it was a slow year).

Here's a modest proposal.  What if, each year, there were a dozen releases of KATY LIED by Steely Dan, performed by cover bands, all focused on replicating with the greatest fidelity each and every intricacy of the sound, from the high hat tone on "Bad Sneakers" to the electric piano sound on "Chain Lightning," with subtle variations in performance and interpretation designed to bring out different details of the tunes - maybe slowing both the intro and outro of "Throw Back The Little Ones" to a crawl, for example.

And what if these releases were all reviewed by the biggest journals in entertainment, like Entertainment Weekly, so there would be deep and detailed analysis of a dozen KATY LIED albums, all critiquing the sound and interpretive choices, and ranking them against each other and the hundreds that preceded them.

All the while, there are thousands of other groups out there who aren't cover bands - they're original groups, writing their own music, creating new material, but not getting nearly the attention that Steely Dan is, because Entertainment Weekly is hellbent on writing about KATY LIED. 

And this continues, year after year after year, and gradually the general public forgets about the vast majority of non-Steely Dan material or simply discards it until Steely Dan becomes one of two or three bands whose music makes up about half of all the music performed by cover bands.  Everywhere.  All the time.

This would of course all be complete and utter madness.  It reads like a Philip K. Dick novel, yet this is the world we are living in, the world classical music has created and become of its own twisted accord.  I don't mean to be cruel to Ludwig van, or Fagen and Becker - more people should listen to KATY LIED every day - but let's make a New Year's Resolution by swearing off the cover bands.

Many classical music commentators seem fixated on narrating the supposed death of classical music like Vin Scully analyzing Kirk Gibson walking to the plate, praying for a home run off a dominant closer against all odds, or by suggesting that we should eat our own babies (to reference another modest proposal) and simply ask our existing audiences to buy more products, or come to more concerts, or donate more.

These are backward, stasis-inducing actions that hurt more than help.  There's a huge world of new, fresh, invigorating music by composers who have taken the ball and are running fast and hard with it.  Maybe we should all go on a Mozart Diet in 2014 and resolve to hear some of the new stuff that's happening out there.

Now excuse me, gotta run, I hear "Black Friday" coming on, haven't heard it on the radio in years.

Bob Lord
CEO, PARMA Recordings

Scott Liebenow // The Daydream

We at PARMA are excited to announce that we have teamed up with Illinois composer and musician Scott Liebenow and family to release their label debut by their band, The Daydream - a music group focused on children's music.

Scott and Cathy Liebenow have written over 100 songs for various publications and this will be their commercial debut as a band.  The family is active in music education and live performance in the Chicago area.

The Daydream are heavily involved in the recording process for this album and are currently in the middle of a Go Fund Me campaign to assist with studio costs and production costs. Check out this unique project and see a preview of the family in the studio here.

You can see even more videos inside the studio and get sneak peeks into the production process directly on their Go Fund Me page. Be sure to follow the link to learn more about this fun and unique project.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014



Michael Glenn Williams
Sean Chen 
Catalog Page
FOR THE YOUNG ARTIST, Michael Glenn Williams' debut on Navona Records, pursues the tradition of hearing a composer's works performed by a world-class musician.

Sean Chen, a rising star pianist who had his 2013 break through winning the prestigious American Pianists Association DeHaan Classical Fellow Award and the Crystal Award at the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, performs the works of Williams.

Williams describes the pieces on the album as "cinematic, evoking strong characters, scenes and visual images. Sean's performance expresses the youthful energy, charm and freshness of the works." Ranging from a tender and romantic lullaby, to up-tempo waltzes and sounds that would suggest a full brass band, Sean Chen performs the works in a way that deftly expresses the relationship between composer and performer.

Friday, January 3, 2014


The snow has been falling here in New England for the past 2 days. If you live and breathe design as we do here in PARMA's Design Center days like today can be very inspirational. Everywhere you look is white. It's quite beautiful now that the withered and dormant landscape is covered with sparkly snow. There is a renewed cleanliness and simplification to our surroundings which helps the trees cast clearly defined shadows across the snow. It is no doubt that a day like today helped us envision the cover of one of our favorite albums, Navona Record's LIGHT AND SHADOW. It depicts this very thing and helps to create a mood or emotional feeling for the album, even before you listen to the music. To quote the minimalist mantra, "Sometimes less is more." 

Please enjoy this album and stay warm!