On his debut Navona Records release, ALL THE WAY BACK, pianist and composer Vytautas Smetona presents a collection of keyboard repertoire that highlights his enthralling and committed interpretations of some of the great composers' masterworks as well as an example of his faculty as a cultivated and dynamic composer.
The pieces on this album offer Smetona technical feats and expressive themes, all of which the pianist handles with ease, determination, and eloquence. From Bach's lyrical and joyous Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp Major, BWV 848 to the somber and dramatic range of Liszt's Funerailles (October 1849), Smetona evokes passion and refinement in his performances. The technical mastery of works such as Brahms's Intermezzo in B-flat Minor, Op. 117, No. 2, Schumann's Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17, and Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23 is handled by Smetona with sophistication, lucidity, and powerful passage work. Smetona shows us a balance between accurately playing the notes on the score and interpreting the feeling between them. READ MORE
The history of setting literary text in music is a considerable one, from Schubert's Lieder to Benjamin Britten's Serenade to art songs of the 21st century. Composer Michael Murray presents four song cycles on PERCIPIENCE, all of which emphasize the deep connection between poetry and music as varying means of expression that can reveal different facets of the same idea.
Five Blake Songs explores the wide range of emotions in William Blake's (1757-1827) works, from cynicism and despair to playfulness and irreverence. Poetry from the Song of Songs is used in Four Songs of Solomon, in which Murray's settings, sung by tenor Andrew Childs, express the complex and various emotions depicted through both explicit and metaphorical descriptions of sexual intimacy in the biblical book. Neutral Tones: Four Songs of Thomas Hardy addresses common themes in Thomas Hardy's (1840-1928) writing such as the process of aging and how our perceptions of significant events in our lives change over time. READ MORE
On the fourth offering in Navona Records' The Shakespeare Concerts Series, ORPHEUS WITH HIS LUTE MADE TREES, executive director and composer Joseph Summer presents original works and pieces by composers from the 18th through the 21st centuries that celebrate the myth of Orpheus.
A character whose fame goes back to Ovid's The Metamorphoses, a collection that dramatically influenced Shakespeare's writing, Orpheus is a representation of the poet, composer, and performer. More than settings of texts about the Greek mythological character, these works illustrate the connection between the three aspects of Orpheus. Summer's Sonata for Violin and Voice is, as the composer states, "about itself, about the musicians, and about the composer" while his On the Death of Phillips mourns the passing of a 16th-century lutenist by his beloved instrument. READ MORE
FULL FATHOM FIVE, the fifth offering in Navona Records' The Shakespeare Concerts Series, takes the story of The Tempest, from the shipwrecked crew and magical spirits to the imprisoned servants and their questions of identity, and presents a variety of works from the 18th to the 21st centuries that set texts and depict themes from Shakespeare's play.
Regarding this collection, executive director and composer Joseph Summer says, "We are able to hear The Tempest from the very different perspective of six very different composers. As we do, we can hear their reflection on that sinking ship, on sojourners transformed from men to coral." From the intense and dramatic imagery of Beethoven's The Tempest to the angular arias of Stravinsky's Three Songs from William Shakespeare to the sorrowful and swaying sounds of Ives' A Sea Dirge, these works show the significant influence of The Tempest on composers of the past. READ MORE
What do you get when you cross a composer, a bassist, and a conductor? It's no joke, and neither is Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn. It is, however, a piece called Joker's Wild which opens up Sternfeld-Dunn's debut Navona Records release FIREWORKS, and it's a doozy, a crackerjack double concertino expertly crafted and written to showcase the talents of the Cameradschaft Duo. The piece won Best in Show from the Global Music Awards in 2012.
Music for woodwinds is prominent in Sternfeld-Dunn's catalog and on this release. Variants, featuring flutist Leonard Garrison, utilizes the form and variations method frequently favored by the composer, while ...and I will love the silence... explores a very different type of structure designed to highlight the relationship between sound and its absence through the playing of English hornist Keri McCarthy. Virtuosic writing permeates FIREWORKS, and most especially so on its title track. A shimmering concerto written for saxophonist Robert Young, Fireworks puts on a spectacular display throughout the work. READ MORE
Don't mistake the inference in the title of Emmy Award-winning composer Bruce Babcock's multi-faceted new Navona Records album TIME, STILL - the music is serious and contemplative at points to be sure, but the effervescence of Babcock's metrically shifting style and sound percolates to the surface throughout.
At home in both the concert hall and on the scoring stages of Hollywood, Babcock possesses deep insight into the process of creating emotional responses in the listener and uses it to full effect in this collection. Irrational Exuberance is a burst of sonic joy that displays a propulsive rhythmic approach, while This Is What I Know highlights the composer's facility with shading and sculpting sound and meaning in a series of Dorothy Parker settings. READ MORE