Soprano Anne Azéma is a versatile figure who has been active as a conductor, scholar, stage director, and educator. She has become familiar to U.S. audiences since assuming the music directorship of the Boston Camerata in 2008. Azéma was born in Niort, in western France, on October 19, 1957. In 1993, she turned to early music, specializing in that field ever since. In France, her specialty was the vernacular song of France and Provence in the Middle Ages. Several of her solo recordings, The Unicorn (1994), Le jeu d'amour (1997), Provence mystique (1999), and Troubadour Songs (2011), have focused on this repertory; she also issued Etoile du nord (2003), an album of sacred music. She toured Europe, the U.S., and Japan, and she founded the group Camerata Mediterranea. Azéma has given masterclasses and seminars in the U.S., France, and the Netherlands. She has been in demand as a university lecturer in the U.S. Azéma was well known for solo recitals and ensemble concerts before joining the Boston Camerata; she began performing with that group in the 2000s. In 2004, she sang the role of Mother Ann of the Shaker sect in the multimedia work Borrowed Light in a Camerata production, choreographed by Tero Saarinen; she subsequently has included both the music of the Shakers and contemporary repertory among her interests. In 2008, Azéma became artistic director of the Boston Camerata, which had been led by her husband, Joel Cohen, since 1969. Cohen has remained active in a reduced capacity, and both spouses were designated as Chevaliers des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. She has continued her European activities, forming the new Aziman Ensemble, and taking the Camerata on tours to Europe. Azéma has led the Boston Camerata on several recordings, including Free America!: Early Songs of Resistance and Rebellion in 2019.
© James Manheim /TiVo
© James Manheim /TiVo
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Classical - Released September 13, 2019 | harmonia mundi
With Joel Cohen holding the conductor’s baton for just under forty years (1969-2008), notably giving us the magnificent anthologies on the theme of Christmas, the Boston Camerata ensemble returns to the label harmonia mundi, forty years after their first projects were published on the French label (such as Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas in 1980, or Pierre Certon’s Chansons and the Mass “Sus le pont d'Avignon” in 1979). Here, it is Joel Cohen’s wife Anne Azéma who is conducting the ensemble. This new recital “Free America!” celebrates the themes that fuelled the hopes of the young American Republic in the 1770s and 1860s: rallies, rebellion, battles and their rewards. The pioneers channelled their hopes for the Promised Land into their singing and dancing. They celebrate the Union, freedom, equality, and above all a desire for “new social harmony, a new community credo, in a new land”. Most of the newcomers to the United States came from countries ruled by monarchies and the United States of America emerged as a unique opportunity to establish new governmental regimes that could better cater to the aspirations of each individual, with the hope of achieving greater equality. These simple songs celebrate the founding fathers, as well as heroes of war and politics such as George Washington, or philosophical and spiritual guides such as Thomas Paine. This recital consists of marches, anthems, jigs and songs (inspired by European practices of course) and showcases an early glimpse of the “American” sound, which would in a way be re-exploited by the great American composers of the 20th century (such as Ives and Copland) as they searched for an original sound. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/QobuzThe United States of America, a promised land? “Free America!” celebrates the ideas and hopes which preoccupied the young American Republic in the years 1770-1860: the need for freedom of assembly, a willingness to rebel and go into battle fully aware of the cost, but above all, a desire for a new harmony whose songs, hymn tunes, and marches accompany the long journey to a new “promised land.” A powerful message, informing the first collaboration between harmonia mundi and Anne Azéma, now leading the Boston Camerata. © harmonia mundi