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Chamber Music - Released November 12, 2021 | Cedille

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Chamber Music - Released October 8, 2021 | Cedille

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The Dover Quartet, "the young American string quartet of the moment" (The New Yorker) unveils the second installment in its critically acclaimed Beethoven quartet cycle on Cedille Records. The Dover’s three-album set of Beethoven’s "Middle Quartets" includes the three Op. 59 “Razumovsky” Quartets, infused with Russian folk tunes; the graceful "Harp", Op. 74, named for its plucked string figures; and the intense Op. 95 "Serioso", a forward-looking experiment that Beethoven originally intended “for a small circle of connoisseurs". The Dover Quartet’s first Beethoven release, a traversal of the Op. 18 quartets, has garnered international praise. England’s "The Strad" said the ensemble exhibits "a beguiling freshness and spontaneity that creates the impression of these relatively early masterworks arriving hot off the press". Toronto’s "The Whole Note" cited "performances of conviction and depth. This promises to be an outstanding set". Utah-based CD Hotlist remarked, "The Dovers stand out from the pack by playing with utterly perfect intonation, a near-telepathic sense of ensemble, and a lovely balance of passion and clarity". New York’s WQXR proclaimed, "It’s hard to imagine a group better suited to recording these works than the Dover Quartet". In concert, the quartet has presented three complete Beethoven cycles, including the University at Buffalo’s famous "Slee Cycle" — which has offered annual Beethoven quartet cycles since 1955 and has featured the likes of the Budapest, Guarneri, and Cleveland Quartets. The Dover Quartet serves as the inaugural Penelope P. Watkins Ensemble in Residence at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music and holds residencies with the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, among other prestigious posts. © Cedille Records
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Classical - Released September 10, 2021 | Cedille

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Classical - Released August 27, 2021 | Cedille

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Classical - Released August 13, 2021 | Cedille

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Classical - Released July 9, 2021 | Cedille

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Chamber Music - Released June 11, 2021 | Cedille

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Classical - Released April 9, 2021 | Cedille

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Pianist Ursula Oppens is a specialist in contemporary music, and she has worked closely with composer Laura Kaminsky. This album grew out of performances marking Oppens' 75th birthday. That milestone marks no diminution in her powers, and the music here is played confidently and fluently. Kaminsky's music is distinctive, and this release may make a good introduction to it for many listeners. It is difficult to classify according to modern "schools," for it may be transparently tonal or entirely dissonant, but this is the key to enjoying it. Tonal relationships here are decorative rather than fundamental to the structure. Instead, it is rhythm that organizes Kaminsky's music, and here her range of influences is wide. "Anthem," the first movement of the Piano Quintet, draws on Kaminsky's experiences hearing drums while teaching in Ghana in 1992 and 1993. Other pieces show jazz influences or are animated by extramusical ideas, including the political climate of the U.S. in the late 2010s. The concluding Piano Concerto, which would be ideal for performance by small university orchestras, evokes the composer's views of the Hudson River and the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. An attractive release from the Cedille label, whose artist-and-repertory managers have an ear for interesting American music of the most diverse sorts. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 12, 2021 | Cedille

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It's rare, especially in the music broadly characterized as classical, to find music that's genuinely collaborative at its core. For the most part, collaborations ornament the work of one creative figure with contributions from another, but this release from the father-and-daughter Latin jazz guitarists Sérgio and Clarice Assad and the avant-garde Third Coast Percussion Ensemble manages the trick. It helps that the musicians' backgrounds overlap somewhat; Clarice has a composition master's degree, and Third Coast, which played clubs earlier in its career, certainly is literate in jazz rhythms and forms, but this does not prepare the listener for how confidently this music flows. The 12 archetypes of the title are, in the words of the players, "ancient, universal patterns of human behavior," with each piece aptly evoking "The Magician," "The Jester," "The Hero," and so on. The various elements of style here are woven together in distinctive ways that suggest the idea being portrayed. Some of the pieces are composed by Sérgio or Clarice, and some by members of Third Coast, and the division is audible but not strongly apparent. Jazz is used for the more animated archetypes, but in each case, there is full participation by all the musicians, and the considerable virtuosity of the Third Coast Percussion Ensemble is on display. This is something of a landmark in what used to be called Third Stream music, the fusion of classical music and jazz. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 12, 2021 | Cedille

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Baritone Will Liverman describes his album Dreams of a New Day as a passion project, which indeed it may be, but that description undersells his accomplishment. This album is a collection of art songs by African American composers, a field where it is often the same few pieces that get performed. Liverman does sing the Three Dream Portraits of Margaret Bonds, setting texts by Langston Hughes, and these have shown up fairly often on programs by Black artists. However, much of the rest of the program is revelatory, tracing the interchange between African American composition and poetry. Composer Robert Owens, who spent most of his career in Germany, also draws on Hughes, while Thomas Kerr's Riding to Town sets a poem by the highly music-ready Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and one of the two new songs by Shawn E. Okpebholo, marking the impact of terrorist attacks in Birmingham and Charleston on African American life, uses a text by Dudley Randall. Liverman's performance of five songs by Harry T. Burleigh is especially valuable; this figure is known mostly for his encounter with Antonín Dvořák and his influential settings of African American spirituals, but he wrote some 200 works in a variety of genres, and most have very rarely been heard. The "Laurence Hope" responsible for the texts of the five Burleigh songs here was actually a British woman, Adela Florence Nicolson, who lived in India with her father and then her husband and took inspiration from Indian life. Burleigh's settings, composed in 1915, are in no way conservative or derivative; they may well have been featured on song programs of the time, but they were subsequently forgotten, and Liverman's performances open up all kinds of questions about what kind of texts Burleigh decided to set and how he functioned within the world of white art music. The program is rounded out by other powerful songs, including an arrangement of a folk song by Richard Fariña, who was not African American. None of the pieces directly uses material from African American spirituals, but one of the many strengths of Liverman's readings is that he catches the inflections from spirituals that populate many of these songs and add to their power. Accompanist Paul Sánchez is adept in handling the range of expression here, and singer and pianist operate as a unit. The commercial success of this release on the Cedille label is not remarkable, for the album is both compelling and groundbreaking. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 13, 2020 | Cedille

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Violinist Jennifer Koh's Bach & Beyond series began in 2012 and concludes in 2020 with this release, the third volume. All have featured a pair of Bach works for unaccompanied violin bookending contemporary solo violin pieces, this time by Luciano Berio (the Sequenza No. VIII, not No. VII as some resources list it) and John Harbison. Even before Bach's time, music for violin solo had the flavor of an esoteric tradition, one that combined a cloistered kind of virtuosity with an aesthetic suggesting deep musical secrets. Bach's solo violin pieces have been interpreted as carrying numerological keys, and one does not have to accept this idea to feel that they respond best to the deliberate, meditative approach Koh brings to them. Her Bach playing suggests periods of deep thought about the music. Koh's pairings here are once again intelligent, placing contemporary works into the Bachian tradition. One might object that Harbison's For Violin Alone, a very Bach-like suite of dances, belonged on one of the earlier albums, which featured unaccompanied Bach partitas rather than the pair of sonatas heard here, but this is a minor and debatable issue. The Berio reflects Bach in its tight weaving of intricate structure and extended technique. By the standards of Bach's own time, he was using extended technique himself. Koh's series is highly recommended to those in search of an experience that will reward repeated hearings. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released September 11, 2020 | Cedille

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Classical - Released August 14, 2020 | Cedille

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Chamber Music - Released July 10, 2020 | Cedille

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The Pulitzer Prize has not always been a reliable predictor of music that will find ongoing performances, but perhaps its record is improving: the Pacifica Quartet release Contemporary Voices includes music by three Pulitzer winners, and only one, Shulamit Ran's String Quartet No. 3 ("Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory"), is receiving its world premiere here. It's a fair bet that this work will be receiving other performances down the road: it's gripping. The work deploys the supposedly abstract string quartet medium in an intense and grim subjective narrative. It depicts the experiences of the painter Felix Nussbaum, who died at Auschwitz in 1994. The work begins calmly and moves through phases of terror, memory, and transcendent tragedy, all cohering as the experience of a single individual. The Pacifica is aided by impressive engineering from the Cedille label, working at a University of Chicago Performing Arts Center space. The instruments represent not the dialogue of the classic string quartet but the appearance of new threats, and the sound achieves impressive spatial separation. The other two works were recorded elsewhere, and the sound is not quite as striking but is certainly adequate. The three movements of Jennifer Higdon's Voices develop from configurations signaled by the movement titles; the second movement, "Soft Enclacing," is both intricate and seductive. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Quintet for alto saxophone and string quartet is the oldest of the three works, appearing in 1999. It sets not only the saxophone against the quartet but jazz-flavored passages against those without that influence, not always corresponding to the presence or absence of the saxophone. This can be recommended to anyone interested in contemporary chamber music. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released June 12, 2020 | Cedille

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Singing in the Dead of Night has a unique structure: it is both three works and one. The music was composed by David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe, all associated with the New York contemporary music ensemble Bang on a Can. All have independent compositional careers, but they continue to collaborate with interesting results like the ones here. The album's title, and that of Julia Wolfe's contribution, come from the Beatles' "Blackbird," and the other two works also take their names from lines in that song. (The ensemble name Eighth Blackbird, however, comes from the Wallace Stevens poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.") Lang's these broken wings is a three-movement work, and interspersed among its movements are Gordon's the light of the dark and Wolfe's work. The compositions are independent of each other but linked in medium and by a general idiom that might be called postminimalist, with propulsive but spiky textures occasionally interrupted by silences or contrasting passages. The instrumentarium of the six players of Eighth Blackbird ranges from flute to cello to sandpaper, with all the musicians playing multiple instruments including, in most cases, "metals." The biggest attraction may be the production by Elaine Martone, who earned a Producer of the Year Grammy nomination for this and the entirely different African American-themed live album Bound for the Promised Land. Working at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, Martone and engineer Bill Maylone lend the percussion instruments a crackling edge. This is an absorbing, lively, and conceptually unusual contemporary music release. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 10, 2020 | Cedille

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Born in Chicago in 1963, Jory Vinikour is one of the many American harpsichordists like William Christie, Scott Ross and Kenneth Gilbert, who has gone to Paris to work on French harpsichord music, notably alongside Huguette Dreyfus. Two-time Grammy Award-nominated Vinikour set his sights on François Couperin for this album devoted to his Ordres 6, 7 and 8 ( “suites” in Couperin’s vocabulary), which the American harpsichordist is particularly fond of. All of these pieces are imbued with remarkable melodic invention and a range of atmospheres that exude poetry and melancholy. They include the enigmatic and enchanting Mysterious barricades, whose meaning no musicologist has yet deciphered. For this recording made in Chicago in June 2019, Jory Vinikour uses an instrument built by Italian harpsichord maker Tony Chinnery in 2012, based on a Taskin model. He is an eclectic musician and plays all kinds of music, from Couperin to Michael Nyman as well as modern concertos composed in the 20th century by Francis Poulenc and Frank Martin, and his release of Rameau’s complete works for harpsichord has received particular acclaim. He also devoted an entire recording to works written for the harpsichord by contemporary American composers. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released January 24, 2020 | Cedille

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Classical - Released November 15, 2019 | Cedille

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Classical - Released October 11, 2019 | Cedille

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Bryce Dessner, Paul McCartney, and others have expanded rock styles into classical realms, but the synthesizer forms of pop are rarer in this regard, even though there are intersections between the sound production of pop and classical electronic works. Thus the concert works of Devonté Hynes, known as Dev Hynes in his pop incarnations, have attracted considerable interest. Classical music was actually Hynes' first field, growing up in Britain, and he has stated that Debussy was among his influences. One can hear that in the works on this 2020 release, but the major influence is Philip Glass. This is especially evident in the chains of arpeggiated figures in Perfectly Voiceless, one of two longer works on the album. Most interesting are the 11 short movements of For All Its Fury, each titled with a single-syllable descriptive title like "Coil," "Hush," and "Gather," with "Fields" the last and longest movement. Here, the players of the Third Coast Percussion Ensemble are combined with Hynes' own synthesizer in various ways, more or less evoking the pictorial titles. The piece is a fresh and distinctive take on minimalism, and it is to be hoped that it will attract new listeners from the pop sphere. That may be a factor that attracted Grammy Award nominators who have put the album up for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance; it was also nominated for Best Engineering, and in the difficult task of recording percussion instruments with clarity, the engineers of Cedille Records did a wonderful job. © James Manheim /TiVo
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Classical - Released September 13, 2019 | Cedille

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Violinist Jennifer Koh has long been a champion of contemporary music, but she breaks new ground with Limitless, an album on which she performs in duets of various kinds with composers of the works involved. All the composers are women, people of color, or both, and all are in modernist idioms, with electronics involved in many cases. Your reaction may well depend on your basic level of sympathy with the techniques involved, but from a purely technical point of view, Koh's accomplishment is substantial. Her violin is called upon to do quite a few things over the course of this album, and she puts it through its changes impressively. Sample the two pieces: Tyshawn Sorey's In Memoriam Muhal Richard Abrams, for violin and glockenspiel, which is delicate and subtle, and Nina C. Young's Sun Propeller, based not so much on Tuvan throat singing but the idea of filtered sunlight that inspired its practitioners Huun-Huur-Tu, which calls for the violin to execute fricative sounds. Koh's status among composers is attested to by the prestige of the composers involved; they include MacArthur fellow and jazz-classical pianist Vijay Iyer. Try this out even if you're not inclined toward the genre involved. The album is genuinely innovative and has a sharp edge. © TiVo