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Posts tagged 'Rufus Wainwright'

New Works on PSNY: Knight, Wainwright, Cerrone

One characteristic about the idea of "New Music" is that it is always, in some way, new. But this newness is spread out over a few key milestones: a "double bar-line", when the composer finishes the work; a first performance; a recording release; regional premieres across the world. A major milestone, often overlooked, is the availability of performance materials—a score and parts—so that the work can travel. We're featuring here newly published works by three composers—Adrian Knight, Rufus Wainwright and Christopher Cerrone

A few months ago, we wrote about Adrian Knight's Obsessions, a long-form commission by pianist R. Andrew Lee that was released on Irritable Hedgehog records before two East-coast performances in New York and Boston. Knight's work echoes Feldman, Dennis Johnson, and even hints of Bartok's Mikrokosmos in its simplicity and peripatetic repetition. And now, the full score of this mesmerizing work is available to the public. 

We have also recently published another work that is intimately connected to its composer and performer: Rufus Wainwright's Five Shakespeare Sonnets, in both a piano/vocal score and a score of the full orchestration made for the San Francisco Symphony in 2010. Wainwright first set Sonnet 29 in 2002, and in 2009 was asked to set several more for a collaboration with director Robert Wilson at the Berliner Ensemble. (Wainwright also recorded several of these sonnets on his 2010 album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu.) Most recently, Wainwright has released a full studio album of sonnet settings to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Needless to say, the ability to read through Wainwright's genius songwriting and lush orchestration is a true gift, for singers and fans alike. Check out Wainwright performing Sonnet 20, part of the published set, below: 

We end this post by featuring two works by composer Christopher Cerrone: South Catalina and The Branch Will Not Break. Commissioned by eighth blackbird for their remarkable Hand Eye album, South Catalina finds Cerrone reflecting on the city of Los Angeles and the installation-art piece Swarm, by rAndom International. The Branch Will Not Break was commissioned by Present Music for their annual Thanksgiving Concert, and features seven movements for vocal ensemble and ten instrumentalists that pull from the poems of James Wright and from Cerrone's own experience with the midwest. 

Check out eighth blackbird's premiere recording of South Catalina below. 

Rufus Wainwright's "Prima Donna" on Deutsche Grammophon

Deutsche Grammophon has released the debut recording of Grammy-award winning songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright's premiere opera, Prima Donna. The album features soprano Janis Kelly, who originated the title role at the opera's premiere at the Manchester International Festival. Praised as a “singing actress of near genius” (Sunday Times), Kelly’s experience with operatic repertoire of the past and present is fitting for Wainwright’s operatic ambition and ideals.

Prima Donna tells the story of an opera singer at the end of her celebrated career as she reminisces and muses about what may come afterward. Wainwright explains that for years he had been searching for a suitable story:

[One] that wasn't a saga involving a chorus and insane costumes... [Suddenly] a story fell into my lap, after watching an interview with Maria Callas. The opera is not about her, but it is about the persona of an opera star; it is a day in the life of an opera singer...the subtle shifts of a woman's heart; the grave consequences of little actions...

Though Wainwright's inspiration and musical language draws heavily from grand romantic opera, particularly recalling the grandiose elements of stage works by Richard Strauss, his lyrical flair and dramatic pacing is distinctly his own. The recording prominently features lush and energetic playing by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The winds are heard in playful passages as well as soaring lyrical moments, and the flute has a noticeable presence recalling familiar usage in Mozart and Verdi’s operatic works. The writing for the strings is highly effective, with exquisite emotional phrasing and color that enhance the opera's throttling moments and embellish the drama in ways recalling Wagner. The final interlude in Prima Donna is a beautiful melodramatic feast of strings with a striking violin solo that crystalizes the opera's potent emotional elements.

Alongside soprano Janis Kelly, the two-disc release features soprano Kathryn Guthrie, tenor Antonio Figueroa and baritone Richard Morrison with Jayce Ogren leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Copies of the full score as well as the vocal score (for both the full and concert versions of the work) are available from PSNY.

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