Bella Voce is the select women’s ensemble at Baylor University. Organized in 2011 by their conductor Dr. Lynne Gackle, the ensemble performs a wide and interesting variety of choral selections, reflecting various style periods and genres from the vast choral repertoire featuring women’s voices. On this, the ensemble’s second CD, the selections are a stunning and complex presentation of classic and modern pieces, from Mendelssohn to some of the most brilliant new choral composers on the scene today, sung by one of the finest women’s ensembles in the nation, collegiate or professional.
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Our summer 2018 releases – “La Raphaele – The Art of Francois Couperin” / “Le cor francais authentique (The Truly French Horn)” / Poet’s Journey – Song Cycles of Benjamin Britten / “Voices of Women – From Unknown to Renowned” / Dvorak – Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 and other works.
Antonín Dvořák’s concerto for cello and orchestra is arguably one of the greatest works for the solo cello, but more importantly, one of the greatest large-scale works ever composed.
Cellist Kate Dillingham, “…an excellent cellist: dignified and compelling…an extraordinary performer.” is the soloist with the Brno Philharmonic, Czech Republic in this exciting new release.
In the opening bars, the listener is invited immediately in to the heart of the composer’s creative powers of invention. Recorded in the beautiful Besední dům, in Brno, Czech Republic, the phenomenal acoustic and superb artistry of the Czech musicians in their beautiful collaboration with Ms. Dillingham display the full range of color and allow the most profound human emotions found in music to flow forth.
The cello concerto differs from Dvořák’s previous piano and violin concertos given the important role of the orchestra, which is an equal partner to the solo instrument throughout the work. In the solo part, Dvořák made remarkable use of the varied and rich sounds the cello can produce, and, its unique ability to convey broad, singing melodies. Dillingham’s beautiful tone and fine musicianship bring a fresh interpretation to the grand scale heroism contrasted with the profoundly poetic world expressed in Dvořák’s iconic work.
Included on this album are two short pieces Dvořák composed for cello and piano. Due to their immense popularity with listeners, the composer arranged them for cello and orchestra. Tranquility, melancholy and a burnished quality characterize “Silent Woods” op. 68/5, in contrast to the energetic and delightfully playful “Rondo” Op. 94.
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Voices of Women: From Unknown to Renowned began as an idea in a workshop soprano and album producer Heather Fetrow attended called The Twenty-first Century Singer with Soprano Susan Mohini Kane in Los Angeles in the summer of 2016. The focus of the album grew further to encompass the goal of honoring female composers as a result of a collaboration with renowned soprano Dr. Julianne Baird in Philadelphia in December of 2016. These events coincided with the Women’s March in Washington DC the next month in January of 2017, lending a sense of timeliness to the project.
The focus of an album of songs by women composers and other songs about women is unique, and brings to the fore the vast social change the world is undergoing with respect to woman in our society, both here in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Each piece addresses this separately from different points of view, in some cases from a previous age where the standards of women’s expectations were very different than today. And the World Premiere of “Still” by outstanding and innovative composer Paola Prestini, sung as a duet by sisters, brings the album’s concept full circle with a song composed for and dedicated to this album. Also included are two piano pieces performed by Mila Henry, both by female composers, “Light” by Iranian composer Gity Razaz and “No. 2” from “Nine Short Piano Pieces” composed by Ms. Henry’s mother-in-law. In all, this is an album for the age of the woman and about the age in which we live.
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“Le cor français authentique” brings a style of purely French musicianship on a truly French horn playing an all-French repertoire in the hands of a master musician, Douglas Lundeen, who has researched the horn in its various incarnations throughout the ages, playing on a design of the French horn which would have been a standard for the 19th century and beyond. The valve was first introduced on the horn c. before 1814 by a German hornist/instrument builder Heinrich Stölzel, as a means of changing the length of the instrument while playing in order to fill in the gaps between the natural harmonics. Indeed, up until the later 1940’s, English horn players played on instruments of French design and manufacture. These instruments were built with trumpet-like piston valves and fitted with natural horn crooks. They also maintained the slender dimensions of the pre-valve instrument, which had reached its highest degree of perfection and virtuosic refinement in France in the first half of the 19th century. The singular sound of this instrument, as heard on this CD, harkens back to some of the best viruosic players of the golden age of the design.
The repertoire of Planel, Tomasi, Bozza, Gounod, Dukas, Saint-Saens and others are presented as these composers intended and “heard” their works to be played on this French valved instrument. The technical competence required for each track is unique, as some of them were regarded as a test of the highest level of performance. The Saint-Saens and Gounod tracks are included as examples of the pure vocal treatment of the horn by two of France’s greatest composers. The Dukas track was the first conservatory test-piece for horn to specifically exploit the newly “legitimized” valve instrument. Tomasi describes what he composed in this way: “I write for the public at large. Music that doesn’t come from the heart isn’t music.” Listening to this album will give you an entrée into a world of the French horn which has seldom been heard, and certainly not in one collection such as this, played by one of the instrument’s best and most studied master.
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Every song is a journey: a voyage of the human experience explored through the intersection of poetry and music. In fact, a song serves as a natural extension of the original poem that allows us to experience words in a new and insightful way. A composer of songs is then also a poet: a creator of profound meaning through text, meter, harmony, texture, and lyricism. The great English composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is a prime example. A great lover of poetry throughout his life, and friend to such great poets as W. H. Auden, it is difficult to think of another song composer who consistently chose poems of such high quality and breadth to set to music. Furthermore, Britten seems to fall in line as the rightful successor to Franz Schubert in the way he virtually composes the essence of a poem musically.
On this recording by outstanding tenor Eric Rieger and renowned accompanist JJ Penna, we explore the Poet’s Journey in three of Britten’s most important song cycles, each of which is bound to the works of a great poet: Michelangelo, Thomas Hardy, and John Donne. In each work, we discover Britten’s gift of lyricism, superb understanding of the voice, and exceptional pianistic capabilities. One finds a clear reverence to composer Henry Purcell through the use of florid, expansive setting of text and the use of ancient compositional techniques such as the ground bass. Britten skillfully combines these concepts with the modern influence of such great 20th century composers as Mahler and Stravinsky to create something unique and exciting. By nature, he was also a great collaborator who always chose to make music with other musicians over pursuing a career as a solo pianist. It is only natural that he would choose to compose so many songs extending most into song cycles to adequately express his deepest thoughts and feelings through an intimate and collaborative approach. This album is, without doubt, one of the finest collections of Benjamin Britten’s style, his work, and his gift to the world of music.
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