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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New Release: “Provenance” by the Kinnara Ensemble / J.D. Burnett

The past two decades have marshaled an upspringing of professional choral ensembles in the United States, enriching the artistic environment for choral music lovers and professional singers alike. A product of that new landscape, the fully professional Kinnara Ensemble has forged a bold path in the busy musical marketplace in New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Kinnara Ensemble was founded in the fall of 2008 by a handful of recent Westminster Choir College alumni who missed the musical fulfillment they enjoyed as students. Ten years later, Kinnara Ensemble, comprising singers from throughout the nation, releases this album commemorating our provenance and the ensuing path of musical and human exploration. Kinnara Ensemble strives to honor the capacious choral tradition – that rich inheritance – with exemplary choral experiences that speak to the modern soul.

Kinnara Ensemble’s first album, Provenance, is a bold step out for this recent arrival on the choral scene. The ensemble tackles a wide array of choral repertoire: di Lasso, Brahms, Poulenc, Paulus… and the austere, stunning, and rarely recorded Lamentations of Jeremiah by Alberto Ginastera.

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New Release: “Infinite Piazzolla” by Quinteto del Fuego

Quinteto del Fuego consists of five internationally renowned artists, whose artistic accomplishments place each one of them among the very best of their generation. Stéphane Chapuis (bandoneon), Elmira Darvarova (violin), Lionel Monnet (piano), George Vassilev (guitar) and Irina-Kalina Goudeva (double bass) are fantastic virtuosos of their instruments who bring exquisite musicianship, refined taste and sublime perfection to their mesmerizing charismatic interpretations.

The triumphal success of their concerts in Europe and the United States has solidified the reputation of Quinteto del Fuego as one of the very rare formations which cherish every note of the musical conversation connecting and binding them to the extreme core of the composers they champion. Their unrestrained passion for Astor Piazzolla’s music, coupled with their unerring instincts and deeply-felt affinity for the composer’s intentions, allow them to intertwine their individual vision with the unique original idea of the composer, resulting in unprecedentedly high-voltage performances and electrifying interpretative achievements. This is their debut CD recording of masterpieces by Astor Piazzolla on Affetto/Naxos.

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