Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Trio Casals, featuring cellist Ovidiu Marinescu, Perform at Weill Recital Hall

On May 12, PARMA Recordings presents internationally-acclaimed Romanian cellist Ovidiu Marinescu as he returns to Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall for an eclectic evening of solo cello and piano trio world premieres by composers Nicholas Anthony Ascioti, John A. Carollo, Diane Jones, Brian Noyes, Osias Wilenski, and Robert Fleisher (New York City premiere). Marinescu, whose performances are described as "bold and expressive" (Gramophone Magazine) with "rich dark tones" and "brilliant virtuoso passages" (Planet Hugill), will be joined by his colleagues in Trio Casals, violinist Sylvia Ahramjian and pianist Anna Kislitsyna, with whom he recorded these works for the upcoming summer 2015 Navona Records release MOTO CONTINUO.

The event is a follow-up to the fall 2013 Weill Recital Hall concert of ten contemporary pieces intimately performed by Ovidiu Marinescu, supported by flute, violin, viola, double bass, and piano. This previous concert featured works by composers Nicholas Anthony Ascioti, Greg Bartholomew, Alan Beeler, Arthur Gottschalk, Andrew March, and Bill Sherrill. The collection of moving works for cello was released on Navona Records’ album MOTO PERPETUO (2013).

Tickets are $25 for general admission and $12 for students, and can be purchased at the Carnegie Hall box office at 154 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019, by calling CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800, or online at www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2015/5/12/0800/PM/Trio-Casals-Ovidiu-Marinescu-Cello.

This program will also be presented by Trio Casals at 7:30pm on May 9 at the Philips Autograph Library on the West Chester University campus in West Chester PA. The event is free and open to the public. 

New PARMA Artist: Frances White

Frances White has signed on to release “She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew,” a chamber opera for solo soprano and electronic sound. This piece was created in close collaboration with soprano Kristin Norderval and writer/director Valeria Vasilevski.

Frances is particularly known for her works combining live instruments and computer-generated electronic sound spaces. She has received awards, honors, grants and commissions from organizations such as Prix Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria), the Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges (France), the International Computer Music Association, Hungarian Radio, ASCAP, the Bang on a Can Festival, the Other Minds Festival, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, The Dale Warland Singers, the American Music Center, The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and The Guggenheim Foundation.

In Frances' words: "She Lost Her Voice That's How We Knew explores the necessity to put into words what is unspeakable, moving through situations of trauma or awe that are beyond words. The "voice" struggles to reveal her secret, but questions the listener's willingness to even listen. Relentlessly, the voice searches for the heart that receives even the most despicable, or most desirable, truth."

Frances White:  rosewhitemusic.com
Kristin Norderval:  kristinnorderval.org
Valeria Vasilevski:  home.earthlink.net/~reduta

Stay tuned for updates!

2014 PARMA Anthology of Music

PARMA is pleased to announce the 2014 PARMA Anthology of Music, a resource for students, instructors, performers, and ensembles to discover works for brass quintet by young and emerging composers.

Started as a direct response to the large number of well-crafted and inspired scores we received for the inaugural PARMA Student Composer Competition in 2012, the PARMA Anthology of Music was established in order to recognize and bring attention to these composers, these creators of phenomenal and innovative works, new amalgamations of styles and genres, new conceptions of form and structure, and new methods of expression and execution.

The criteria for this year’s Anthology were basic and clear:  all applicants had to be 30 years old or younger and must actively be studying composition, while the submitted pieces must be scored for brass quintet and have a duration of no more than 10 minutes. The reason for this was that we wanted ensembles and performers to have easy access to new compositions such as these, pieces that are modest in size and scope (if not in musical language or compositional ambition), programmable, performable, and optimized for public presentation.

Additionally, we would like to extend a warm congratulations to the Grand Prize Winner of the contest which yielded this collection, Michael Mikulka. Michael’s piece “To Throw” is an inspired and finely honed work which builds to a point of precise repetition, and represents not only the quality of works submitted to the Competition but also the fearlessness with which so many modern composers approach their work and art.

As the Grand Prize Winner, “To Throw” was premiered at the 2014 PARMA Music Festival by the Redline Brass Quintet on stage at The Music Hall in Portsmouth NH.

We invite you to share, program, and perform the works included in this year's Anthology, and to support the appreciation of new music:

And check out the previous years' anthologies as well:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Collegiate Chorale's U.S. Premiere of "The Road of Promise"

PARMA artists The Collegiate Chorale are less than two months away from the U.S. premiere of the concert adaptation of Franz Werfel and Kurt Weill's epic,"The Road of Promise."

To share some history about "The Road of Promise" and to document the preparation process, the Chorale is rolling out an online video series on their YouTube page called The Road to THE ROAD OF PROMISE. For a look behind the scenes, you can check out the first episode here.

The Collegiate Chorale will be performing "The Road of Promise" with the Orchestra of St. Luke's at Carnegie Hall on May 6-7, 2015. To learn more about "The Road of Promise" and to order your tickets, visit the Chorale's official website here.

"The Road of Promise" will be available on Navona Records in 2016. Stay tuned for more updates in the meantime!

March Orchestral Sessions

The PARMA team just returned from our second trip to the Czech Republic in 2015, producing a week of premiere recordings.  The week saw recordings of "Symphony for String Orchestra" from new PARMA composer Fred Broer, along with "The Luminous Mystery" by longtime PARMA artist Stephen Yip, "In Hand" for chamber orchestra by Paula Diehl,  and"Inhuman Henry" for orchestra by Alan Beeler.

Among the works recorded was Michael J. Evans anti-concerto for bassoon, "Misery."  Michael was in the Czech Republic for the recording of "Misery" and A&R Representative Alex Bourne had the chance to catch up with him and reflect on his trip.

Michael J. Evans
AB: You just went to the Czech Republic with our team to record your anti-concerto, “Misery.” Can you share some background on the piece and your approach to writing an anti-concerto?

ME: Well, the piece is based on the Anton Chekhov short story “Misery”. How this story ended up being the subject of the anti-concerto was pure serendipity. I had been kicking around the idea of writing a bassoon concerto for a while, love the sound of the instrument, and realized that there are not a lot of concertos for it.

One of the issues in writing for bassoon is the fact that it tends to get swallowed up by the orchestra unless it is amplified. Most people view that as a weakness, but I wanted to take a more zen approach and exploit that quality. It just so happened, while reading a review of an anthology of short stories, it mentioned “Misery”. I had never read the story, but once I did, I realized I had the subject for my piece. The main character is a sled driver who’s son died the week before. He tries to tell his fares about it, but everyone is too self-involved to listen. He, like the bassoon in the orchestra, tends to get swallowed up in the crowd, even though he is being incredibly strong.

A special technique I wanted to incorporate into the piece was that of circular breathing. Through this technique, I was able to give the soloist these long notes, (held for 4 or 5 minutes at a time), which represents the main character’s grief;  and, the fact that, in grief, sometimes the most difficult thing to do is hang on or keep breathing. These sustained notes help differentiate this as an anti-concerto.

Sustaining the pitches is incredibly difficult but can pass by unnoticed. It is quite effective too. When we would cut during the recording, I actually heard the other members of the orchestra audibly gasping. This is different from a typical romantic concerto, where the soloist is this heroic figure that is either triumphing over or leading the orchestra, and generally playing lots of fast passagework.

AB: What’s your favorite part of the recording process?

ME: I love working with the orchestra and hearing them breathe life into these things I put on paper. It’s one thing to hear something in your head or through a computer rendering, but quite another when you have actual humans, who are all fantastic musicians, playing your stuff and hearing their emotions coming through too.  It always makes me happy.

AB: Your last project, CIPHER, focused on language, translation, and how words can become obscured depending on how they’re interpreted.  I know you brushed up on your Czech before going overseas, but how did working and communicating with a foreign group affect the music?  Do you feel that through your writing, you were able to express your message to the orchestra, conductor, and soloist?

ME: Yes, as it turned out, I really didn’t need the Czech that much, which was good, because I am really just learning. At the same time, I didn’t want to be the typical American that doesn’t put forth the effort to learn the language. The times I did speak Czech, people really appreciated it. It also helped to know my numbers so I could find my place in the score quickly while we were recording. I will say that the language had no real impact on the performance at all.

As musicians, we all speak the same language. And, fortunately we had Vít Mužík translating and working out the specifics. He is great to work with. The soloist, Jan Hudeček, was incredible. I was told he read the story and all the notes I provided. It definitely came through in the music. In fact, he played the piece so beautifully I ended up dedicating the piece to him.

AB: Building off of that, “Misery” is a piece that tells a story.  What narrative cues should we be listening for?

ME: The music follows the narrative, so it is really a soundtrack for the story. Throughout the score, when the various characters have dialog, the music imitates the speech. You can hear the instruments, (representing the individual characters), speak the dialog, kind of like a wordless opera. I wasn’t just focused on the dialog though.  I wanted to create a soundscape, incorporating the snow, the amount of time passing while the main character is waiting for a fare, etc.

AB: Recently, you’ve been producing multi-media projects that appeal to new audiences.  You’re working with an artist to give “Misery” a visual treatment.  Can you tell us more about your approach and goals for the animation?"

ME: From the beginning I wanted to have a visual component to the work, so I composed the music with that in mind. I’m lucky to have a great friend, Sam Cummins, who is also a phenomenal artist. We decided to go for a graphic novel style for the images. The storyboarding of the entire piece came next, and then Sam created the artwork from the storyboards as well as from the text itself.

There are several ways to utilize the visuals. For a recording, it will be a video, with the images following the music track.  In a live performance, the images are included with the score and parts, as well as the storyboard so that a separate performer can work at a laptop and cue the images during a live performance, freeing the conductor and soloist from having to be bound to a set tempo.

Artwork for "Misery" by Sam Cummins

As far as goals, since this story is classic literature and is on almost every High School and College reading list, I would like to have it used in the classroom as a way to engage the students more, and to show the value of, and bring together the literary, visual, and musical arts.

Another goal is to present a different paradigm for composers who want to do film scores or soundtracks. Typically, unless you are John Williams and Steven Spielberg, the composer really doesn’t have much input into a film. The director decides what it will sound like, and the composer is basically stuck realizing someone else’s vision. Also, if a composer reads a book or story and has an idea for a soundtrack, typically they have to wait and hope that someone makes it into a film and that the visions line up.

With this model, the composer is the director, and the visual elements follow the score. I think there is room for both models. It will be interesting to compare a body of work is created in this way, and to the work created when the images are created first.

AB: Your writing draws from a lot of different sources and inspirations.  Can you share more about your writing process and is there anything in particular that you’re influenced by at this moment? 

ME: Again, right now stories are really influencing me.  In fact, I’m working on a String Quartet right now based on another short story. For the stories, I just read them and listen, try to get a clear picture of the scene and what that would sound like, what the emotional context is and how that would sound, etc.

Typically for any piece I generally start at the piano and just noodle around on the keys till something catches my attention.  From there, it just develops like a seed. 

AB: Tell us about a meaningful and memorable experience that your music has given you.

ME: I would have to say my life. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. I always saw myself leaving, and music and movies were my ticket to being able to do that, by showing me that there was so much more out there than what I was surrounded by. If I had stayed there I would probably be dead or in jail.

AB: What else should we know about you?

ME: Well, I’m a vegetarian, love animals, am totally into mythology and fantasy. I’m into astrology, shamanism, the tarot, and anything like that. I love to cook, and live on coffee. I’m in search of someone who is- oh, wait, this isn’t a dating profile  LOL.

We are currently working on editing and mixing the audio we captured while in the Czech Republic.  Keep an eye out for new projects from all of the artists we recorded with this month - we're excited to share these works with you all.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Bill Pfaff

NY-based composer Bill Pfaff, Associate Professor of Music at SUNY Plattsburgh, has signed on to record his piece “Lichen” for marimba and piano. This recording is planned for release on an upcoming PARMA compilation of percussive chamber works.

The music of Bill Pfaff is characterized by a strong sense of line, clear harmonic motion, and gestures that have been described as "profound and extravagant." Recent commissions include works for Ricochet Duo, North/South Consonance, Consortium Ardesia, Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the MasterSingers Chorus. Other projects include a set of three compositions for solo electric bass and looping devices that were premiered at the International Looping Festival in Santa Cruz, CA by Dr. Drew Waters.

Bill recently spent time working with underprivileged children at Trinidad’s Birdsong Academy of Music and is currently writing a concerto for horn and steel pan symphony to be premiered in 2015 by the National Steel Symphony of Trinidad with Ann Ellsworth.

Other recent residencies include: University of Massachusetts-Lowell, California State University Monterey Bay, the New Music Visions series at High Point University (High Point, NC), and an Alan and Wendy Pesky Residency at Lafayette College. The Lafayette College Concert Band premiered his commissioned work, under the direction of fellow PARMA Artist Kirk O’Riordan. He has also been an Artist-in-Residence at the Ucross Foundation, Escape to Create, the Petrified Forest National Park and the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. 

He holds a Ph.D. in Composition and Theory from Brandeis University and a M.A. in Music Theory and Literature from the University of New Hampshire. His principal teachers were Martin Boykan, Yehudi Wyner, Allen Anderson, Ed Cohen and Niel Sir. 

Bill's music will be performed tonight (March 12, 2015) at 8:00PM in NYC by The North/South Consonance Ensemble; please visit this link for more info, and stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March Releases Out Now on Navona and Ravello Records

Kimiko Ishizaka

In the world of J.S. Bach, music was considered transcendent, serving a purpose beyond earthly desires. It was used to explore and answer questions of human existence, including love, death, happiness, and divinity. For a performer, reflecting on these subjects accurately means immersing oneself in every aspect of the music. Navona Records presents THE WELL-TEMPERED CLAVIER, BOOK 1 performed by award-winning pianist Kimiko Ishizaka, whose interpretations are singular to this repertoire. From the clarity of sound and balanced articulations to the seriousness and emotional depth, Ishizaka commits herself to the virtues of transparency, passion, and intellect.

Regarded as "a gifted and obviously devoted Bachian" by the New York Times, Ishizaka studied the notes and phrases of Bach's solo keyboard works in a systematic manner in order to discover an interpretation which adheres to the strictures of the great composer's writing. On the analysis of Bach's music, Ishizaka says, "Each voice should be clear, independent, and consistent from start to finish. Each voice should have its own phrasing and dynamics that are logical to its narrative." Furthermore, the pianist eschews the pedal for the benefit of lucidity and precision, while achieving cantabile lyricism and fluid passagework through superior technique and control. READ MORE

Zae Munn | Timothy McAllister

On her debut Navona Records release THEY WERE MYSTERIOUS GUESTS, composer Zae Munn showcases works for alto saxophone in eclectic chamber combinations, featuring internationally-renowned saxophonist Timothy McAllister.

Broken Tulip, which features Henry Skolnick on the contraforte, a modern reworking of the contrabassoon, is inspired by the notion that the perception of an idea or an object can undergo a radical shift while the idea or object itself remains static. Music: A Love Story is a musical narrative that depicts the ironic process of creating and writing music, while the three movements of They Were Mysterious Guests, Hard to Capture illustrate the unbidden nature of emotions, such as grief and the pain of remembrance. In Cascade, the composer addresses two associations of the word - interconnectedness found in electronic circuits and series of waterfalls over rocks. The themes in Disclosure focus on the non-static nature of personal discourse and how, as the composer says, "the act of disclosing inevitably changes what is disclosed, reveals new connections and implications, is nuanced by the one to whom the disclosure is made, and by the context of the disclosure." Various images of vines and hanging, from Tarzan swinging in the jungle to references of the fruit-bearing branches in the Gospel of John, are presented in Hanging onto the Vine. The Old Songs, Scena for Soprano and Three Instruments is a small drama in 12 Italianesque pieces, the text taken from a poem by Munn's brother Paul Munn about memories and memory loss. READ MORE

Yves Ramette, Steven Block, Rain Worthington, Paula Diehl, Allen Brings

Navona Records' latest offering of chamber music ELEMENTS RISING highlights contemporary composers who re-imagine the building blocks of music, such as melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, and timbre, in innovative ways, applying them to a number of duo and ensemble settings.

French composer Yves Ramette's Introduction et Allegro, written in 1945 for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and piano ensemble, uses space, harmonic tension, and texture to create a sense of brooding and propulsion. Fire Tiger by Steven Block, written for violin and piano, is a dramatic work that combines structural unity and a consistent non-tonal language to convey emotional intensity. In her impressionistic work Night Stream, Rain Worthington reflects on the flowing textures of life and time, while her Rhythm Modes uses various rhythmic patterns to articulate and animate the motives and melodies of the piece. Gambit by Paula Diehl uses a compositional system created by the composer called Separation, which uses sets of interlocking perfect 4ths in a process of phases that gradually isolates the intervals from each other. Allen Brings' Duo for Violin and Cello emphasizes melody, an area in which the composer finds influence from Gregorian chant to Lieder repertoire, building to an energetic and lively end.  READ MORE

Yehuda Yannay, Donald J. Young, Geoffrey Gordon, Joel Naumann, Ryan Maguire, Joseph Koykkar | Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi

On the Ravello Records release WISCONSIN SOUNDSCAPES, pianist Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi performs solo piano works by six Wisconsin composers that highlight people, places, scenes, and events chosen by each composer to create a well-rounded portrait of the state.

Yehuda Yannay's Midwestern Mythologist, a six-movement theater work, is a tribute to the composer's friend Steve Nelson-Raney, a pianist and saxophonist, composer, poet, and visual artist working in Madison and Milwaukee. Donald J. Young's Three Root River Scenes depicts various imagery of Wisconsin's Root River, from pleasant afternoons on the banks near the rolling water to the destructive flooding of the river in 2008. Reflecting on three Wisconsin towns, Geoffrey Gordon's Three Summer Sketches illustrates impressions of the rich and evocative name of Black Earth, the old mining town of Mineral Point, and the theater and cultural center of Spring Green. READ MORE

Friday, March 6, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Masatora Goya

We are very excited to welcome New York based composer Masatora Goya (www.masatoragoya.com) to the PARMA family.  We will be working with Masatora on a release of chamber works inspired by his desire to share a story with listeners. 

Masatora's narrative writing might be due to his unique and non-traditional musical journey. From an interview with American Composer's Forum, "I was 27 when I attended music school in Japan as a vocal major in contemporary music,” recalls Masatora. “I then came to the US at 29 to study musical theater, and gradually moved into writing as the years went by. So I really never had a systematic training to be a "classical" composer.”

Masatora received a BA in Integrated Human Studies from Kyoto University and also studied music at Koyo Conservatory. Since relocating to the United States, he earned a Master of Music from New Jersey City University and studied in the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, and is completing a DMA in Composition at Five Towns College.

Masatora unique musical roots put him in a position of being often asked to write works using traditional Japanese instruments and techniques, however starting his musical career in his late 20's puts him in an interesting situation.

“I need to study those instruments and repertoire from scratch. In a strange way, Japanese traditional music is as foreign as Western classical music or hip-hop to me. In Japan, I wasn’t paying much attention to my ethnicity because I never grew up with what Americans see as the authentic Japanese culture like Noh, Zen, Kabuki and things like that. Japanese society no longer embraces it so you don't experience it if you live in a modern city. But as I present new music people are hearing something not American or European in my music and finding it attractive.” (American Composers Forum)

Masatora's writing is emotional, engaging, empathetic, and widely recognized, awarding him ASCAP Plus Awards, Jerome Fund for New Music Awards, and a Diversity Doctoral Fellowship at SUNY Purchase. 

The recording for this release is still in progress, but you can listen to an excerpt from "Sound of Life," the result of his 2012 JFund Award below. Keep checking back for more updates on what will be an important project.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

New PARMA Project: Hilary Tann's "Anecdote"

Welsh-born composer Hilary Tann, currently the John Howard Payne Professor of Music at Union College, Schenectady, has signed on to record her orchestral work “Anecdote” with PARMA this
summer. The recording will feature performance by cellist and fellow PARMA Artist Ovidiu Marinescu as soloist, for whom the piece was originally composed.

Tann's music is influenced by her love of Wales and a strong identification with the natural world. She is currently in the midst of composing a piece for the National Youth Brass Band of Wales under Philip Harper.

Here's a live performance from another of her orchestral works, "Shakkei" (below)

We're looking forward to this summer's recording sessions; in the meantime, you can visit http://hilarytann.com/ or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilary_Tann to learn more about Hilary Tann's work.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

American Brass Quintet at the Shalin Liu Performance Center

CW from left: Kevin Cobb, Louis Hanzlik, Michael Powell, Eric Reed, John Rojak

Attention Boston-area classical music fans: clear your calendars on March 22nd, or prepare to kick yourselves for the foreseeable future.

On that Sunday, our friends and longtime recording and performance partners at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, MA will be hosting The American Brass Quintet, the Newsweek-proclaimed "high priests of brass" from New York City featuring PARMA artist John Rojak on bass trombone.

Since its inception in 1960, The American Brass Quintet have been ardent proponents for new and existing works written specifically for brass. Their repertoire has included pieces by Palestrina, Bach, Hindemith, and Poulenc, as well as new music by an array of contemporary composers, including Virgil Thomson, William Bolcom, Gunther Schuller, and Elliott Carter.

To learn more about the ABQ, check out their official website. For more information about their performance later this month (which will feature a pre-concert talk with Andrew Shryock from Boston Conservatory's department of music history), head over to the event page on the Shalin Liu website.