Heather Fetrow, Soprano / Mila Henry, Piano – Voices of Women – From Unknown to Renowned

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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Douglas Lundren, French Horn / Barbara Gonzales-Palmer, Piano – Le cor francais authentique (The Truly French Horn) – release date June 15

“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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Eric Rieger, Tenor / J.J. Penna, Piano – Poet’s Journey – Song Cycles of Benjamin Britten

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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Joyce Lindorff, Harpsichord – La Raphaele – The Art of Francois Couperin

La Raphaèle: The Art of François Couperin pays homage to this Italian master long venerated by the Parisian Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. This reverence also rang true of François Couperin as musical creator, who was clearly struck by Raphael’s art, and so named the first movement of his Huitième Ordre’s majestic opening allemande after the artist.

World-renowned harpsichordist Joyce Lindorff recreates Couperin’s L’Art de Toucher le Clavecin, Sixième Ordre, and Huitième Ordre with exquisite musicianship honed over four decades of researching and studying the styles and methods of the most famous keyboard composers of the 17th through 18th centuries. The essay in the booklet accompanying this album provides the listener with essential knowledge of both the composer and the selections in creating a full experience of this magnificent music.

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David Amram – So in America will be released on March 16, 2018

The phenomenon of legendary composer and multi-instrumentalist DAVID AMRAM defies easy definitions. Always ahead of his time in anything that he created, and immersed in jazz, folk, world music, film and theater music, as well as in contemporary classical music, he was praised by The Washington Post as “one of the most versatile and skilled musicians America has ever produced”, while The Boston Globe hailed him as “the Renaissance man of American music”, and The New York Times proclaimed him “multicultural before multiculturalism existed”. Being first and being ahead of his time comes naturally to David Amram – a pioneer of the jazz French Horn who simultaneously amassed the highest number of performances of the Brahms Horn Trio, while fascinating the crowds at folk and world music festivals, writing several books, composing scores for films and plays, touring worldwide, collaborating with iconic figures like Jack Kerouac, Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Eugene Ormandy, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Depp, Hunter S. Thompson, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Betty Carter, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Paquito D’Rivera and Tito Puente, and at the same time also making his mark as a celebrated prolific composer of classical music, having written over 100 works in the symphonic, operatic and chamber music genres. “Being first” also came into play when Leonard Bernstein appointed David Amram as the first ever composer-in-residence of the New York Philharmonic. Being “ahead of his time” also led David Amram to pioneer, together with Jack Kerouac, the first ever Jazz/Poetry readings in New York City in 1957. Amram’s legacy is a huge collection of so many milestones and inroads, that have established him as not only one of the most eclectic composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, but also as a guiding light, role model and enormous source of inspiration for younger generations.

This album presents selected chamber music compositions written by David Amram between 1958 and 2017, and includes four world premiere recordings. The internationally-acclaimed performers – violinist Elmira Darvarova, saxophonist Kenneth Radnofsky, pianist Thomas Weaver, violist Ronald Carbone, cellist Samuel Magill, The New York Piano Quartet and The Amram Ensemble – all of them devoted champions of Amram’s music, are joined on this album by David Amram who accompanies.

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New Release: “Songs of Darkness and Hope” by The Messalonskee Public Schools Choral Program

“Songs of Darkness and Hope” was the culmination of a project conceived and created by choral music teacher Pam Rhein of the Meesalonskee Public Schools – Rural School Unit #18 in Oakland Maine for the “Shoah Student Education Initiative” of the Maine State Holocaust and Human Rights Center in the state capital of Augusta. The songs are composed from poems written by interred children found on the walls of concentration camps after WW2, along with a few camp work songs found in the Center’s historical archives.

Sung by over 400 students from 5th grade through high school, combined choirs and select auditioned choirs conducted by high school choral teacher Kevin Rhein, the creation of this album was a moving experience in education which changed the lives of those involved, students and teachers alike, many of whom were moved to tears upon hearing the preproduction master. Both Pam and Kevin Rhein, husband and wife, were selected as Maine State Music Teacher of the Year. The uniqueness of this album is due to many aspects relating to the holocaust and human rights, so very important in our world today. It is safe to say that few albums of this nature and significance have ever been produced in such a rural school district, with some of the pieces stunningly performed due to the quality of the music educators in this school district.

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