Thursday, November 17, 2016

Interview with Ted Sperling on MasterVoices' THE ROAD OF PROMISE

Image result for ted sperling
Ted Sperling, MasterVoices Artistic Director
MasterVoices has been a major musical institution in New York City since their inception as the Collegiate Chorale 75 years ago, under the direction of renowned conductor Richard Shaw.

Their latest release, THE ROAD OF PROMISE, is a double-disc world premiere recording of the concert adaptaion of Kurt Weill's The Eternal Road.

In anticipation of its release, we caught up with MasterVoices' artistic director Ted Sperling to discuss the new album and learn more about how it came to light.

What inspired MasterVoices to produce and perform THE ROAD OF PROMISE?

We’ve been big fans of Kurt Weill’s music for a long time. We already produced concerts of Knickerbocker Holiday and The Firebrand of Florence. So this is very much something we’d been aware of and interested in. When the critical edition was finished, it was time to take the plunge! In addition, this work is a great showpiece for our chorus, and deals with subject matter that, unfortunately, is always timely.

This project has certainly been a long time in the making, from the premiere of Kurt Weill’s The Eternal Road in 1937 to the concert adaptation’s performance and recording in May 2015. How does the newer work interpret and expand upon the themes of Weill’s original epic?

The newer work is actually a distillation of the original into a more compact and performable version. The original production was close to five hours in running time and had a huge cast of principals. The Road of Promise concentrates on the relationship among the Rabbi, the Boy and the Skeptic, with the Bible stories providing commentary.

What would you say is the biggest benefit to the album being recorded live, rather than in a studio?

A live recording is never perfect, which is sometime hard for us to adjust to in this age of being able to manipulate nearly everything in a studio recording. But it captures a moment in time, with the sounds of an audience being engaged, so it has a special excitement. 

It is also, practically speaking, easier to pull off. You don’t have to reassemble the forces again in a recording studio, and as result, it’s also economically more feasible for a project that isn’t commercial in nature.

What message do you want your listeners to take away from this album?

I hope a greater understanding of Kurt Weill’s different voices as a composer… this is an interesting period for him, right between his European work and American work. The Road of Promise calls on both his classical roots and his showman’s talents.

What’s next for MasterVoices? What performances and recordings are you currently preparing?

We are currently preparing for two more performances at Carnegie Hall: Bach’s St. John Passion, in a newly commissioned English translation by our Evangelist, Michael Slattery, who sings the role of The Voice in THE ROAD OF PROMISE. Followed by the first major revival of Victor Herbert’s “Babes in Toyland” in over 75 years, with an all-star cast headed by Kelli O’Hara, Christopher Fitzgerald, Lauren Worsham and Bill Irwin.

THE ROAD OF PROMISE is available on Navona Records tomorrow  in the meantime, you can hear a preview of the album via the YouTube player below.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Project Update: The Music of Hayes Biggs

We're pleased to share that PARMA Artist Hayes Biggs has signed on to complete his upcoming album of chamber and choral works, with final pieces to be recorded in early-to-mid 2017.

You may recall about a year ago when Hayes began working with us towards this album (here's a link to the original post: - we've since entered the studio with him twice to produce some excellent recordings and are looking forward finishing and sharing the results with all of you.

One of the upcoming recordings, for a piece titled "Pan-fare" for 12 musicians including steel pan soloist, will likely be the curtain-raiser on a track list of works showcasing the many facets of Hayes's compositional voice across a diverse array of instrumental and choral works.

For now, you can hear our recording of "When you are reminded by the instruments" below - stay tuned for more!

Friday, November 11, 2016

New PARMA Artist: Zhen Chen

We are pleased to welcome pianist/composer Zhen Chen to the PARMA family!

We will be working with Zhen to release his debut album of compositions, ERGO, an exciting combination of Eastern and Western styles using the framework of traditional Chinese instruments alongside piano. Zhen takes a minimalism and modern approach in composition and emphasizes emotional appeal with melodic lines and excellent tonality.Zhen received a bachelor's degree in piano performance from the Central Conservatory of Music in China as well as a masters degree in piano performance under Dr. Arkady Aronoy at the Manhattan School of Music, where he also earned a master's degree in collaborative piano as a full scholarship recipient.

An artist of many hats, Zhen has emerged as a soloist and chamber artist in several premier music venues such as Carnegie Hall and David Geffen Hall of Lincoln Center. Although classically trained, Zhen has had the pleasure of working with Jeffery Milarsky and Edward Smaldone to perform and promote contemporary music. Zhen has also worked with folk artists from China to contribute to the diverse music scene of New York City.

He is also one half of the Jade Duo, a partnership with violinist Shuai Shi. Their debut recording FAURÉ, SCHUMANN, BARTÓK Sonatas for Violin and Piano has been hailed as "a perfect balance" with “sheer beauty of tone, fluent and fluid playing, and emotional refinement.” Below is a song from the aforementioned album.

We look forward to the upcoming collaboration, and we are excited to be working with Zhen Chen!  Please keep your eyes open for details on the release of ERGO!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New PARMA Artist: Patricia Julien

photo by Lindsay Raymondjack
We're happy to welcome composer/flutist Patricia Julien to the PARMA family of artists!

Patricia is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Vermont. Before UVM, she taught at Skidmore College, George Washington University, and University of Maryland, College Park. She has presented her continuing research at the national conference of the Society for Music Theory, and has published articles and reviews in Theory and Practice, Annual Review of Jazz Studies, Jazz Education Journal, and Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy.

Here are some thoughts from Julien describing the inspiration and content of the orchestral work we'll be recording in the spring:

"Among the Hidden grew out of my recent and ongoing exploration of what it means to be hidden, to hide, to conceal. I attempted to depict and embed some of these ideas in the piece. I considered the literal "concealer," a type of makeup used to hide so-called flaws and bruises. I thought about children experimenting with lying, attempting to hide the truth, and how this can be a type of storytelling and can also represent an effort to create a new reality. I pondered the idea that a flurry of activity and cheer can sometimes mask unease. I wondered about the use of a disguise to hide and transform, and I contemplated how hiding is related to privacy. Sometimes hiding is playful as in "peek-a-boo" with babies and "hide and seek" with young children. Sometimes there is comfort in being hidden, in not revealing oneself. Almost always, hiding takes effort, but sometimes being hidden is like being invisible, a manifestation of being ignored."

We're looking forward to revealing Patricia's music in 2017 - keep an eye out for more news on this project, and in the meantime we recommend checking out some of her past work on her website:

#ThrowbackThursday: PARMA Takes on Dr. Strange

We are not having fun at all...
Here at PARMA we work hard to make sure we are promoting our artists in the best way possible, and that we are making music that sounds terrific.

However, we are not all superheroes, and running 110% all the time is tiring.

We like to think that we deserve a break every once in a while to have some fun and relax our powers. And why not do it on November 4th, National Stress Awareness Day, you know, when we are supposed to step back and assess the stress in our lives and address it?

Last Friday the PARMA team took the afternoon off to go see the newest Marvel movie that has been receiving rave reviews, Dr. Strange! PARMA set up camp at the IMAX in Newington, put our feet up, because yes, they were the reclining seats, and slid on our trusty 3D glasses.

Dr. Strange, which is played by the English heartthrob, Benedict Cumberbatch, is about how Dr. Stephen Strange's life changes after he gets into a car accident that nearly killed him but took away his star-studded career as a neurosurgeon. Strange seeks help from an enclave where he finds hope and healing through sorcery. Strange is then caught between two lives and deciding which one to leave behind. 

Now, without giving anything away, we will tell you that we were so engrossed in the movie that we couldn't eat our popcorn! When you get a chance, take a break from your normal superhero duties and let Hollywood do the work! Happy Thursday!