Thursday, February 26, 2015

All This Jazz

John Coltrane
In my continuing musical experience as a player and a listener, few styles have captivated my ears and my mind as much as French impressionism (particularly Debussy and Satie), and of course, jazz.

Though each movement came about in different centuries, they are not as unrelated as they may seem on the face — both styles blurred the boundaries between previously defined structural and harmonic "traditions," spawning creative revolutions that effectively erased any existing definition of "right" and "wrong."

However, while the impressionist era has come and gone, jazz continues to develop and assert itself as one of the world's most prominent and intriguing varieties of music. As artists continue to create, explore, and push the limits, the term "jazz" has become as broad and open-to-interpretation as "classical," and the diversity that exists throughout the genre is a testament to its constant expansion and development.

As hard as it is to narrow it all down into a single playlist, here are a few of my favorite cuts by some of jazz's most notable players (John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock), a few lesser-known but just-as-impressive names (Brian Blade, Red Garland) alongside a flight of samples from our expanding jazz catalog including Douglas Detrick's AnyWhen Ensemble, Jean-Philippe Gregoire, and Christina Rusnak — enjoy!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


We are pleased to announce the release of WISCONSIN SOUNDSCAPES, a release of solo piano works by six Wisconsin composers that highlight people, places, scenes, and events to create a distinctive and vivid portrait of the state, all performed by pianist Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi.  

This project is the culmination of a collaborative project with the Wisconsin Alliance for Composers that included a pilot project, a multiple-round juried commissioning phase, a presentation phase of this new music, and a recording and post-production phase of this music. Over the course of the project, WISCONSIN SOUNDSCAPES has been supported by Wisconsin Arts Board and various University of Wisconsin system institutions. Dr. Ed Martin, Vice President of the Wisconsin Alliance for Composers, served as the project manager.

Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi
From pianist Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi-
"I'm honored to have collaborated with the many people involved, including the 6 outstanding commissioned composers, (Geoffrey Gordon, Joseph Koykkar, Ryan Maguire, Joel Naumann, Yehuda Yannay, and Donald J. Young), and for the opportunity to showcase the state of Wisconsin in a very unique and honorable way."

WISCONSIN SOUNDSCAPES will be released digitally via Ravello Records on March 10th, 2015. You can learn more about the release via it's web-based enhanced content, and you can pre-order the release via Amazon

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Richard Campanelli

Richard Campanelli has signed on with PARMA to record and release his 3-movement “Piano Sonata” on an upcoming compilation.

Richard holds a DMA from the Univeristy of Michigan where he studied with Leslie Bassett and William Bolcom. His awards include the Charles Ives Scholarship and a Goddard Leiberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Meet the Composer Grant, The Nikos Skalkottas Fellowship for study at Tanglewood, and The Holtkamp Prize for new organ music. This will be Richard’s first PARMA project.

Check out the video below for a digital representation of the gripping third movement from Campanelli's Piano Sonata, and stay tuned for updates!

Friday, February 13, 2015

PARMA is for Lovers

PARMA is a company comprised of musicians, artists, and hopeless romantics.  If we know anything, it's music, and if we know anything else, it's love.  Ever since we saw John Cusack hold that boombox on high, we've been on the long, emotional climb to this playlist.

Love takes many forms in music, be it a celebration of a longtime love as in Rain Worthington's "Within a Dance..." or a recollection of a far off time as in Juan Alamo's "Memories of an Unforgettable Love."  There's grand orchestral love which get's shouted from the rooftops.  There's a quiet, personal, internal love.  There is the vocal confession of love.  There is the love of music itself.  All of these are represented here in selections from Navona, Ravello, and Big Round Records.  

As always, I've included a few pop hits alongside these contemporary works (including a little J. Geils Band for our single listeners).  

Enjoy this Valentines day playlist and celebrate with some beautiful music.

Because after all....
PARMA is for lovers.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Vytautas Smetona

We're proud to welcome pianist and composer Vytautas Smetona to the talented and diverse PARMA family.

Vytautas has a long and intriguing cultural and musical history.  His grandfather, Antanas Smetona, was the last President of independent Lithuania.  Escaping the 1940 Soviet occupation of Lithuania, Antanas arrived and settled in the United States in 1941 with his family.

His mother, Birute, was a concert pianist and appeared as a soloist with German conductor Franz von Hoesslin.  His older brother, Anthony, was also a pianist appearing with the Hamburg Symphony in the Brahms B-Flat Piano Concerto.  Vytautas' primary teachers were his mother and brother.

Vytautas made his recorded debut in 1979 entitled, Vytautas Smetona Plays Chopin, Listz, and Rachmaninoff, and enjoyed a successful career performing as a soloist with the Baltimore Symphony, Dallas Symphony, and St. Louis Symphony orchestras, as well as performing in venues such as New York's Town Hall and London's Wigmore Hall.

In March of 1983 Vytautas' musical career was interrupted after a performance at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH.  He has not performed or released any new recordings in over thirty years.

Vytautas has returned and we're excited to be a part of his first release in over three decades, ALL THE WAY BACK.  This new release explores some of history's finest repertoire paired with Vytautas' original composition, Capriccio in D Major.

You can listen to a release trailer below.  ALL THE WAY BACK will be available this April via Navona Records:

New PARMA Artist: Heath Mathews

L-R: Heath Mathews, Heath Mathews, and Heath Mathews
PARMA is pleased to welcome composer Heath Mathews to our roster of artists. 

Heath earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees from the University of Minnesota. 

In addition to composing, teaching, and playing guitar, Heath currently works for MakeMusic in Boulder, CO as a music production engineer.

Heath will be recording and releasing "Digressions," an energetic piece for saxophone and marimba that makes heavy and creative use of extended techniques, complex rhythms, and non-traditional pitch sets. 

From the program notes:

Digressions for soprano saxophone, alto saxophone and marimba was written for Duo Zeno (Preston Duncan – saxophones, Scotty Horey – percussion). The piece was premiered by Duncan and Horey at the 2012 North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial Conference held at Arizona State University in March of 2012. Overall, the piece is an exploration of musical texture and rhythmic diversity. The fast opening material helps to provide a grounded framework for the digression and departure of the middle sectional. The composition was inspired, in part, by the virtuosic capabilities of Duncan and Horey.

We'll be entering the studio with Heath and Duo Zeno to record "Digressions" later this year. In the meantime, you can check out a live performance via the YouTube player below. For more information about Heath and his music, visit his website here.

PARMA Takes Futura: The Stadelman Sessions, Part 1

Recently PARMA payed our first visit of 2015 to Boston's Futura Productions, where we rang in the new year with longtime recording partners, the New England String Quartet, to tackle two of three string quartets by composer Jeff Stadelman for a new album due later this year on Navona Records. 

We were fortunate enough to be joined in the studio by Jeff, who drove in from Buffalo, NY where he is the Chairman of the Department of Music at the University at Buffalo. The two quartets for this session, "String Quartet No. 2" and "Eastland," are as emotionally engaging as they are technically complex, and highlight the composer's unique creative voice. 

Jeff and our team will be returning to Futura this spring to record the last piece for the album, with a release tentatively targeted for late 2015. 

In the meantime, you can check out Jeff's first Navona release MESSENGER on the Navona website or via the YouTube player below. Stay tuned for more updates!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Project with Hans Bakker

Netherlands-based composer Hans Bakker has signed on to release music for cello and piano, along with music for flute, violin, and guitar, on an upcoming PARMA compilation of chamber works. This will be his
fifth time participating in a PARMA release.

Initially, composing was only a minor occupation next to Bakker's other work; however, in 1997 it became a daily routine. He has written a great number of chamber music works and many choir compositions along with works for orchestra and pieces for carillon. Check out for a comprehensive listing of his compositions.

You can watch a live performance of his “Hortus Conclusus” below; we'll be recording this piece this summer in the Czech Republic.

Stay tuned for updates!

February Releases Out Now on Navona and Ravello Records

Gregory W. Brown | The Crossing; New York Polyphony

The human voice: A forceful yet delicate instrument. The weight of its expression can be as heavy as a ringing bell or as light as the whisper of an autumn breeze. Composer Gregory W. Brown presents a collection of his vocal and choral works on the Navona Records release MOONSTRUNG AIR, capturing the wonder of the human voice as our rooted connection with nature.

Five Women Bathing in Moonlight depicts an idealized rendering of a sea-side party scene by poet Richard Wilbur, evoking a dreamlike and timeless atmosphere with shifting harmonic centers, imitative polyphony, quasi-Baroque ornaments, and canonic structures. Entrai, pastores, entrai and Three American Folk Hymns - "The Dying Californian," "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and "The Morning Trumpet" - are settings of traditional tunes that pay tribute to the original while drawing on Brown's extensive singing and conducting background to create distinctive textures that range from incisive to gossamer. Imagery of the natural world and our gradual awareness of its presence in the shroud of our daily lives are primary themes in Vidi Aquam and Spring. Brown's innovative and adept technique shines in Missa Charles Darwin, a setting of texts from Darwin in the form of the Roman Catholic Mass featuring DNA from one of Darwin's finches translated into motivic material.  READ MORE

Lee Actor | Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Glover

Maestro Kirk Trevor praises composer Lee Actor as "one of the refreshing new classical voices ... who can still use a traditional language with a freshness that makes the music alive and interesting." On his latest Navona Records release PIANO CONCERTO, Actor presents three orchestral works, performed by Trevor and the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, that are engaging and tonal yet dramatic and modern.

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is a work in 3 movements that highlights the composer's depth and range of emotion as well as his strength for creating captivating lyrical themes and rhythmic charges. The exciting and intense Symphony No. 3 is a 5-movement work for full orchestra that has its origins in Actor's earlier single-movement piece Premonition, a name which expresses the often foreboding, desolate, and furious qualities of Symphony No. 3. The single-movement piece Divertimento for Small Orchestra reimagines the lighthearted 18th-century form into a modern style, filled with unexpected harmonic twists and turns, and sudden "off-kilter" rhythmic passages.  READ MORE

FELT: Striking Works for Solo Piano
Matthew Durrant, Rachel Lee Guthrie, Amir Zaheri, Richard Pressley, Byron Petty, Ron Nagorcka, Robert A. Baker

FELT, a compilation for solo piano offered by Navona Records, presents an array of techniques and themes to illustrate the piano's dexterous capacity for limitless expression and tonal colors.

In Three Excursions for Piano, Matthew Durrant explores various angles of contemporary composition - 12-tone rows, bitonality and modality, and repetition and rhythmic propulsion. Rachel Lee Guthrie's Winter is an impressionistic piece inspired by the sublimity of mid-western winter landscapes, depicting the imagery of northern winds blowing across the countryside and gently falling snow blanketing the chilling earth. In Prelude to the Holy Dark, Amir Zaheri illustrates the idea of welcoming a return to the time before electricity, while expressing the angst and frustration found in the act of regression. Written for the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth, in memoriam by Richard Pressley focuses on the struggle and ultimate collapse of the musical material toward an elusive goal. The two-movement work by Byron Petty, Propuntal Displays, references the standard teaching literature of J.S. Bach, displaying episodes of increasing difficulty and counterpoint techniques. Anything by Ron Nagorcka is a work refined by ear rather than theory, developing from a random application of notes in a rhythmic structure. Robert A. Baker presents two works, Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?, a line from Shakespeare's Sonnet 65 which Baker considers to "appropriately reflect a near exact narrative of the musical discourse" and Valence I, whose meaning is left to the interpretation of the listener.  READ MORE

Carl Vollrath | Michael Norsworthy, Yoko Hagino

The stories we tell, stemming from our experiences of people, places, and events, reveal how we understand and express the world around us. Composer Carl Vollrath presents works for clarinet and piano which depict his interpretations of past events and tones of past composers, oftentimes conveying them through ironic and spirited musical themes.

Several of the works allude to the genius and techniques of composers from the 20th century: Copland's Coda captures a writing style of Aaron Copland that incorporates the influence of French Impressionism learned during his student years in Paris. Poulenc's Plunk and Prokofiev's Polka explore the compositional characteristics of the two composers in clever and contemporary musical material. Delius's Dream is a work inspired by the English composer's residency in France later in his life, combining impressionistic themes with imagery of the English countryside.

Coco and Igor, inspired by the film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009), expands on a five-note phrase played in the movie, while the title work and A Place Some Where reflect on experiences such as the birth of a friend's daughter, the whispers of autumn air, and the Latin-inspired music of Ástor Piazzolla. Vollrath's quirky and often humorous reminiscences give renewed life and energy to the events and composers referred to in his music, offering these memories as part of our own experiences.  READ MORE

Pamela J. Marshall | Lexington Symphony Chamber Players, Susan Jackson, Duo "2", Addington-Barringer Duo, Jennifer Slowik, Kevin Owen, Karolina Rojahn

The rush and restlessness of our daily lives can be like a fog, an opaque shroud that can distract from the enlightening experiences of nature. On her debut Ravello Records album THROUGH THE MIST, composer Pamela J. Marshall presents several works that find their origins in the composer's experiences with the natural world.

The title track references Marshall's trips to a lake in New Hampshire, evoking the imagery of the stillness of morning, waves knocking on the rocky shore, and the sunset's glorious colors spreading across the horizon. Communing with Birds is a rhapsodic response to the chorus of birds one hears while in a tropical rainforest, while the musical motives of Waves and Fountains depict cascading water. In Zoa, for multiple flutes and harp, Marshall applies extended techniques to illustrate an otherworldly and primordial landscape representing what the composer calls "imagined music of elemental creatures." Dance of the Hoodoos gives life to the ghostly rock figures of Yellowstone National Park, inviting the listeners to a syncopated and primitive dance.  READ MORE

Thursday, February 5, 2015

One Piano

The voice of one piano playing is among the most ubiquitous sounds in the classical idiom.  Erik Satie's "Gymnopédies" are among my first introductions into the genre and are still a cornerstone of what I think of as chamber music. To me, there are few things as evocative as the left and the right hands working together on the keyboard.

We have a great deal of solo piano work in the catalog here at PARMA (and a new solo piano compilation out in a few days!) -- this list barely scratches the surface.

From Matthew Davidson playing Brahms "7 Fantasies..." with all of its original beauty, to Gráinne Mulvey's angular and challenging "Steel Grey Splinters," to the aptly titled "Encore Blues" from Allen Bonde, the piano shows off it's wide range within these pieces.  You can even hear one piano played by more than a dozen hands in "New York Drones" by Stephen Scott's Bowed Piano Ensemble.  (I also threw in a beautiful interpretation of one of my favorite pop songs for solo piano.)

Enjoy the sounds of 88 keys, and (usually) ten fingers in this slice of PARMA's piano offerings.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Steve Rouse

Kentucky-based composer Steve Rouse has signed on to release his next album of chamber works on a PARMA label. Ensembles to be featured will include various combinations of clarinet, flute, violin, cello, piano, corno, trumpet, bass, and percussion.

Steve has achieved numerous awards over the course of his career, including the Rome Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Composition Fellowship, and two prizes from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Currently he is Professor of Theory and Composition at the University of Louisville School of Music.

Among the works to be included on his upcoming album is "Form Fades," an 18-minute work for mixed sextet which will be premiered this Thursday (2/5/15) at 8:00pm at Indiana University Bloomington's Auer Hall; here's a link to the event page:

Below, you can also hear "Flying Leap" for trumpet ensemble, another work to be included on Rouse's upcoming album:

We're looking forward to working with Steve on this release; check out for more info, and stay tuned for updates!