Richard Wagner’s innovative exploration of the female heroine (Heldin), is presented here in a collection of his most famous arias inspired by Germanic, Norse and Celtic mythology. Wagner invented the concept of “larger than life” Helden singers for whom he composed huge, long, demanding roles for both women and men. By contrast, Richard Strauss drew his inspiration from the bible through Oscar Wilde’s diabolical satire, Salome. Strauss expanded the palette by increasing the sheer number of instrumental forces within the orchestra to fully embody the vile, sexual nature, and treachery of the female villain and her lust for manipulation and vengeance.
Juyeon Song, hailed for her dramatic stage presence and expressivity, demonstrates her exceptional range and intensity in richly rendered characters; forceful Brünnhilde, chaste daughter and faithful servant of Wotan, king of the gods; Isolde, tragic heroine in the medieval romantic story of love and death; and, Salome, the young politico-sexual powerhouse who demanded the severed head of John the Baptist, and caused King Herod to sin against God in retribution for the prophet’s rebuke of her affections.
In this exciting new release, Ms. Song chills and thrills the listener with her capacious vocal power, emotional sensitivity and sincerity, and visceral cathexis throughout. The Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava, led by eminent maestro Niels Muus, is superb in its balance, dynamic contrast, and dramatic realization of these magnificent scores.
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Ástor Piazzolla’s greatest masterpieces are given a fresh new interpretation in transcriptions for Violin, Horn, and Piano by three acclaimed artists – Grammy®-nominated violinist Elmira Darvarova (former Concertmaster, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra), hornist Howard Wall (New York Philharmonic) and pianist Thomas Weaver. After performing their Piazzolla tribute program internationally at prestigious venues in Europe and America (including Carnegie Hall), the artists have now also recorded it for a double-CD album presenting 14 world-premiere recordings (14 out of 17 tracks). “Ástor Piazzolla – Genius of Tango” introduces the artists’ transcriptions from Piazzolla’s original scores. The inclusion of horn brings a new dimension and richly rewarding symphonic sonorities. Several of the arrangements are by the late great tango pianist Octavio Brunetti (named by the New York Philharmonic “the inheritor of Piazzolla’s mantle”), with whom violinist Elmira Darvarova performed and recorded for several years.
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A longtime member of two of the world’s most renowned orchestras – The New York Philharmonic and The Philadelphia Orchestra, hornist Howard Wall also performs and records with the All-Star Orchestra, and is an avid chamber music proponent. Among the 19 tracks in his solo album “Horn Monologues”, 10 are world-premiere recordings. This is a kaleidoscopic collection of eclectic styles and genres ranging from Charles Koechlin’s refined impressionism and Elliott Carter’s sophisticated modernism, to Phillip Ramey’s Bartokian reflections, Erika Raum’s virtuosic tone poem, Astor Piazzolla’s melancholic tango mood, David Amram’s blues dedicated to Thelonious Monk, the unabashedly jazzy tunes of Zsolt Nagy, the poetic inspirations of Georges Barboteu, the otherworldly mysticism of Alice Gomez, the profound emotion of Lev Kogan’s Kaddish prayer, the stunning beauty and unique rhythms of Bulgarian folk music and Venezuelan joropo
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“Music From Five Centuries: 17th C. – 21st C.” is a kaleidoscopic presentation of short musical works belonging to a multitude of epochs, genres and styles, from J.S. Bach, Handel, Couperin and Biber, to Mozart and Beethoven, to romantic, contemporary, blues, folk, jazz and rock compositions. Violinist Elmira Darvarova (first and only woman-concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) and hornist Howard Wall (a New York Philharmonic member, formerly with The Philadelphia Orchestra) have selected, arranged and transcribed a number of compositions (some originals, some transcriptions), to compile a Double CD release, brimming with a large number of world premiere recordings (40 out of 45 tracks).
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Baritone Elem Eley describes this very personal album in this way: Some of the most magical moments of my childhood were the eager tearing-away of the plastic wrap from the annual Christmas album, just purchased from the Firestone dealer in our little hometown! It was through these “Stereophonic LP” discs (devotedly and regularly brought home by my father) that I was introduced to much of the classic holiday repertoire, both sacred and secular. Burl Ives, Robert Goulet, Leontyne Price, The Brothers Four, Mahalia Jackson, Isaac Stern, the New York Philharmonic, Mitch Miller and his chorus – these artists, plus many others, each year brought us the magic of the holiday season – entertaining us in this most special musical style!
Christmas Day is not consciously modeled after the Great Songs of Christmas annual series, but the comparison is inescapable. We hope that this album may provide a measure of nostalgia, “Christmas magic,” and inspiring reflection on the true meaning of the season. My own voice is complemented here by a host of outstanding artists — adult and children’s choirs, orchestra, and brilliant instrumentalists. We offer you beloved carols, some composed or newly arranged especially for this project. Join us on our journey to the cradle.
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Sonora Slocum was appointed Principal Flute of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in 2012 at the age of 22 and has performed with orchestras around the country including guest principal flute with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. She has appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra on flute and piccolo. Her collaborations as guest principal include touring and audio recordings with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra as well as visual recordings with the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York at Lincoln Center. Slocum has worked under such renowned conductors as Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Sir Simon Rattle, Edo de Waart, Otto-Werner Mueller, John Williams and David Zinman, among many others. A recent review stated that “Slocum has a HUGE sound…and a wizard’s bag resplendent with technical prowess and musical freshness.” The conception of this debut album, Return, stemmed from Slocum’s interest in astrology and reflects on this period of her life; her first Saturn Return.
The tracks on this album represent both pivotal repertoire for flutists and some of the most technically demanding. Samuel Barber (1910-1981) spent a summer in Martha’s Vineyard where he wrote Canzone for flute and piano for his friend Manfred Ibel, a German art student and amateur flutist. Several years later Barber found a new application for the music as the second movement of his Piano Concerto, commissioned for the opening of Lincoln Center. The Suite Paysanne Hongroise by Béla Bartók is a perfect example of Bartók’s affinity for transcribing traditional folk songs and adapting them to a concert performance setting. Originally for solo piano, Paul Arma, a student of Bartók, transcribed most of the work for flute and piano in 1952. Copland’s Duo was commissioned by the Curtis Institute students of former Philadelphia Orchestra principal flutist and Curtis flute teacher, William Kincaid, and led to Sonora Slocum’s decision recording the album at Curtis, Slocum’s alma mater. Movement 1 has sweeping lyricism and broad, appealing musical themes while the second movement has a forlorn and lonely mood, poetic, and is somewhat mournful; the third is buoyant and dance-like to close to the work. Chopin was the first Western Classical composer to employ Slavic elements in his compositions. Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. Posthumous, originally for solo piano written in 1830, was published 21 years after his death in 1870. The work is sometimes called Reminiscence, fitting perfectly with the concept of this album. George Hüe’s Fantaisie is far from the realm of impressionism, showcasing the musical exploration of French composers at the turn of the century. The piece is dedicated to Paul Taffanel, a professor at the famous French flute school. Ballade by Swiss composer Frank Martin is a musical gem, written as an examination piece for the 1939 International Geneva Competition. The Ballade is a short, technical work for flute regarded as almost a ‘right of passage’ for flutists. Syrinx, by Claude Debussy, paints the story of the nymph Syrinx and the god Pan. Though the piece is rather short, it has been credited as a pivotal part of developing solo flute repertoire in the early twentieth century.
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