2012 marks the 10th anniversary of Avie Records and throughout the year the label is celebrating a decade of innovation and leading the way in artist partnership. Built on a unique business model based on artist ownership, which remains as robust today as it was in 2002, this season Avie will bolster its catalogue – which now numbers over 250 titles – with some exceptional new releases that feature the label’s signature qualities: musicians ranging from established stars to developing young artists, a range of repertoire from the medieval era to the 21st century; and genres encompassing chamber, choral, instrumental, orchestral and vocal.
Last year Avie released a half-dozen recordings by the Cleveland-based baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire which ranged from late renaissance to early Americana, which made an immediate impression thanks to widespread acclaim and Top 10 Billboard Classical chart success. Under the direction of founder Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo’s Fire offers another innovative project, Sacrum Mysterium: A Celtic Christmas Vespers. Collaborating with Canadian ensemble Le Nef and director Sylvain Bergeron, this celebration of Celtic artistic traditions interweaves selections from the medieval Vespers of St. Kentigern (patron saint of Glasgow) with ancient pagan carols and popular tunes from 17th-century Welsh and Scottish manuscripts. Featuring soprano Meredith Hall, the programme mirrors the popular, sold-out performances by Apollo’s Fire in their home base of Cleveland in December 2011. The release includes a bonus DVD of highlights from the programme’s premiere.
Composer Elena Ruehr arrives on Avie with Averno, an album of vocal and choral works inspired by three distinctive American poets – Louise Glück, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes. The title work is a cantata that sets 11 poems of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Glück’s collection of the same name, which is a retelling of the story of Demeter, goddess of the earth, and her daughter Persephone. Ruehr’s score deftly conjures ancient themes in a modern idiom. The miniatures Cricket, Spider, Bee paint a vivid, aural picture of Dickinson’s scenic natural world. The large scale GOSPEL CHA-CHA sets Langston Hughes’ expansive and socially critical late poetry, evoking African dances and drumming, and the Harlem Renaissance of the 1960s with improvisatory flair. The works are performed by acclaimed New York-based Trinity Choir under their dynamic Music Director Julian Wachner, and Trinity’s new music ensemble Novus NY. The superb soloists are soprano Marguerite Krull and baritone Stephen Salters. A Juilliard graduate, Dr. Ruehr’s music has been described by Gramophone as “unspeakably gorgeous.” She is on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ensemble Epomeo, anchored by cellist Kenneth Woods who as conductor has brought a highly-acclaimed series of Hans Gál world-premieres to Avie, adds to the label’s growing Gál discography with the world-premiere recordings of his two works for string trio, Serenade, Op. 41 and Trio, Op. 104. They are paired with works by Gál’s contemporary Hans Krása, Tanec and Passacaglia and Fugue. The Austrian-born Gál and Czech-born Krása shared a Jewish heritage, but whereas Gál escaped Nazi oppression, Krása was interred in Theresienstadt where he was instrumental in organizing the cultural life of the concentration camp, then sent to Auschwitz where he perished in 1944. Tanec and Passacaglia and Fugue were written in the last year of his life.
Rounding out AVIE’s September releases, the insightful and elegant veteran pianist Russell Sherman returns to the label with a traversal of Chopin’s Mazurkas, the popular 19th-century genre amongst Polish composers but one that Chopin made his own.
One of last year’s break out solo debut recordings was Winter Words: Songs by Benjamin Britten (AV 2238), by American tenor Nicholas Phan, “an artist who must be heard,” according to National Public Radio. He continues his exploration of Britten’s vocal oeuvre with Still Falls the Rain, another intelligently devised album that focuses on works inspired by the composer’s key collaborators who included horn player Dennis Brain, harpist Osian Ellis and poet Edith Sitwell. Phan’s modern-day partners are pianist Myra Huang, horn player Jennifer Montone and harpist Sivan Magen. As with Winter Words, Phan successfully intersperses great song cycles with popular folk song arrangements. Rarely recorded, The Heart of the Matter includes the narration of Sitwell’s poems by Scottish actor Alan Cumming.
South African-born, London-based pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar follows acclaimed traversals of Mozart’s Piano Sonatas (AV 2209) – “the most completely satisfying survey of this still undervalued music ever committed to disc,” according to The Sunday Times (London) – and J. S. Bach’s groundbreaking Goldberg Variations (AV 2235), by scaling the heights of Beethoven’s monumental 33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli. Variously called “the greatest set of variations ever written” and “the greatest of all piano works”, this late work is one of Beethoven’s most adventurous, suitably challenging for Pienaar’s technical aplomb and probing intellect. He compliments the set with Beethoven’s last great work for solo piano, the Bagatelles, Op. 126, which themselves are no mere trifles.
Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo’s Fire return to their baroque roots with a selection of works by Handel that showcases the Apollo’s Fire Chorus. The centrepiece of the album is the grand Dixit Dominus written during the composer’s early days in Rome. In a gesture to Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee year, Sorrell has chosen two works written for the monarch’s forbearers – the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne which celebrated that sovereign’s birthday in 1713, and Zadok the Priest composed for the coronation of King George II in 1727. As a bonus, Sorrell includes "The Lord Shall Reign" from the epic Israel in Egypt.
Looking Ahead to the Second Decade
Throughout the summer and autumn, Avie artists are active in the studio, producing recordings for release in 2013, notably numerous young artists as well as those Avie has enjoyed developing over the years. Pianist Luiza Borac, who made her debut recording for Avie in 2003 with Enescu’s Piano Suites (AV 0013) and subsequently won a BBC Music Magazine Award for her second volume of the composer’s piano works (AV 2081), has recorded music composed by another eminent Romanian compatriot, Dinu Lipatti, including some world-premieres.
Violinist Augustin Hadelich, who was recently awarded the Martin E. Segal Award and is looking forward to his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut at Tanglewood in August and New York Philharmonic subscription concert debut in November, will make his third recording for Avie, collaborating with guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas, in works by De Falla, Paganini, Piazolla and Sarasate.
The Zurich-based Valentin Berlinsky Quartet caused something of a sensation with their debut recording of Beethoven’s first ‘Rasumovsky’ Quartet coupled with Shostakovich’s Seventh and Eighth (AV 2253), “playing that combines technical perfection with exceptional maturity and musical insight,” according to BBC Music Magazine. The second release in a series pairing the two composers includes the second Rasumovsky and the Russian’s Third.
Frank Almond, leader of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra who debuted on Avie with a recording of Janá?ek, Respighi and Strauss (AV 2113), is preparing to document the “Lipinski” Strad, the instrument he has had the privilege of playing since 2008. Karol Lipinski was a Polish virtuoso who played on this instrument from approximately 1818 until his death 1861. “A Violin’s Life” will partially chronicle the instrument’s extraordinary history including works by Tartini, Lipinski, Julius Roentgen and Robert Schumann.
The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, under director Stephen Darlington, follows up More Divine than Human: Music from the Eton Choirbook (AV 2167), one of Gramophone’s Best of 2009, with a second volume from the lavish collection of 15th-century English sacred choral music.
Celebrating the First 10 Years
Avie’s first 10 years have been plentiful, punctuated with numerous highlights including the following accolades:
· Phantasm – Orlando Gibbons Viol Consorts (AV 0032)
· Julian Bream – My Life in Music (DVD) (AV 2109 – DVD)
· Trevor Pinnock and the European Brandenburg Ensemble – J.S. Brandenburg Concertos (AV 2119)
· Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima – Vivaldi: The French Connection (AV 2178)
BBC Music Magazine Awards
· Luiza Borac – Enescu Piano Works Vol. 2 (AV 2081)
· The Dufay Collective – Cancionero: Music for the Spanish Court, 1470 - 1520 (AV 0005)
· Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Harry Bicket, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Handel Arias (AV 0030)
· Monica Huggett, Ensemble Sonnerie – J.S. Bach Orchestral Suites for a Young Prince (AB 2171)
Diapason d’or de l’année
· Simon Trpceski, Vasily Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 (AV 2192)
UK Specialist Classical Chart Top 10
· Jon Lord – Durham Concerto (AV 2145) and To Notice Such Things (AV 2190)
· Imogen Cooper – Schubert Live Volume 3 (AV 2158, 2 CDs)
· Felipe Scagliusi – Schumann Grande Sonate, Three Romances, Fantasie (AV 2177)
· Vasily Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances, Isle of the Dead, The Rock (AV 2188)
· Simon Trp?eski, Vasily Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 (AV 2192) and Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 4, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (AV 2191)
· Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima – Venice By Night (AV 2257)
Billboard Traditional Classical Chart Top 15
· Handel & Haydn Society Chorus, Grant Llewellyn – Peace (AV 0039) and All is Bright (AV 2078)
· Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Harry Bicket, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Handel Arias (AV 0030)
· Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Craig Smith, Jon Harbison, Emmanuel Music – Lorraine at Emmanuel (AV 2130)
· Monica Huggett, Ensemble Sonnerie – J.S. Bach Orchestral Suites for a Young Prince (AV 2171)
· Augustin Hadelich – Flying Solo (AV 2180) and Echoes of Paris (AV 2216)
· New York Polyphony – Tudor City (AV 2186)
· Simon Trp?eski, Vasily Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 (AV 2192)
· Apollo’s Fire – Come to the River: An Early American Gathering (AV 2205) and Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 (AV 2206)
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