MICHELLE LACOURSE

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AN AMERICAN MENAGERIE

AN AMERICAN MENAGERIE

Music for Viola and Piano

Martin Amlin, Monica Houghton, Robert Merfeld

MICHELLE LACOURSE, viola
MARTIN AMLIN, piano


World Premiere Recordings

[MS1474]

$12.95

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REVIEWS
[ * * * * ] “The music is first and foremost in everything, and it is attractive, tuneful, entertaining, and descriptive in an artsy sort of way instead of merely derivative. Amlin’s Violetta and Lullaby show him at his non-programmatic best in terms of short utterances, each a lovely foray into the beauties of the viola... the best piece on the disc returns to Amlin in my opinion, his Sonata a real contribution to the viola literature in three absolutely characterful and radiant movements, [Michelle LaCourse] garners the riches to be found in all of these works, fully involved, committed, and technically adept. A gorgeous recital.”
Steve Ritter, Audiophile Audition [January 2016]
“Violist Michelle LaCourse and pianist Martin Amlin have performed together for a number of years… They often play together, and the music he writes for them fits their abilities and sensibilities perfectly… his compositional style for Kennel includes flowing, imaginative rhythms... Amlin’s Kennel is a unique piece of work that should be of interest to every musical dog lover. LaCourse plays with a rich tone. As accompanist, the composer supports her with a complementary tapestry of tone... LaCourse and Amlin play [Robert Merfeld’s] enchanting miniatures with elegance and occasional flashes of passion… Michelle LaCourse and Martin Amlin are consummate artists and their playing makes this a most desirable disc... MSR’s sound is strong and clear, too, so I recommend this disc to animal lovers and those who appreciate a night in the mountains. This recording would be good fun on a camping trip.”
Maria Nockin, Fanfare [November/December 2015]
“This is a lovely idea, and one that might well stop the browser in his or her tracks, enough perhaps to give the disc a try. Early in 2010, I welcomed a disc by LaCourse entitled Chocolates, also on the MSR label (Fanfare 33:3, MSR 1335), where the music presented was a little more jazz- oriented. LaCourse has provided another class act... Both performers exude a sense of spontaneity that belies the careful compositional goings-on. The recording is fabulous throughout, as is the playing of both LaCourse and Amlin. A surefire winner.”
Colin Clarke, Fanfare [September/October 2015]
“The viola playing of Michelle LaCourse is most praiseworthy. She performs with élan and vigor where called for, her phrasing and intonation are spot on, and her tonal production yields a sweet distillation of the inherent deep warmth of her instrument. Martin Amlin once again proves his prowess at the piano keyboard as a most able exponent of his and others’ music… LaCourse’s and Amlin’s stellar performances of this [music is] first-rate music, I can do no less than give this CD a very high recommendation.”
David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare [September/October 2015]
“this is a cleverly conceived recording for the not so unusual instrumental combination of viola and piano... The performances by violist Michelle LaCourse and pianist/composer Martin Amlin are quite fine, always coming across as spirited and totally committed. The sound reproduction is vivid and well balanced. This is certainly a colorful and rather unique CD of contemporary chamber music that should have more than limited appeal.”
Robert Cummings, ClassicalNet [June 2015]
[ * * * * ] “This entire CD gives LaCourse and Amlin ample chances to display their sensitivity both to musical matters and to animals – and if the works here are certainly post-Romantic, they all retain some of the Romantic era’s preoccupation with expressing and communicating emotion to the audience.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [June 2015]
PROGRAM NOTES
AN AMERICAN MENAGERIE
I’ve had the pleasure of playing recitals in Boston with Martin Amlin at the piano for many years. He is not only a remarkable pianist and collaborator and a wonderful colleague – easy to work with and indulgent of my (often fanciful) ideas for thematic recitals – but he is also a composer of compelling voice whose writing is rich in emotion and color as well as originality, wit, and intelligence. At about the same time I became determined to record his Violetta (which he had written for us to play together) and his Sonata for viola and piano, I also started looking for viola-piano duos inspired by animals. (I’ve shared most of my life with a cat and/or a dog from an animal shelter, and have always loved and been fascinated by animals.) Martin went with the idea, and wrote Kennel for me, offering seven miniatures each featuring a breed from one of the seven breed groups recognized by the American Kennel Club. He followed this with his Lullaby for viola and piano. Robert Merfeld, another pianist colleague at Boston University, created Animal Miniatures for me, and went with a whimsical visit to some farm animals and the sounds of a rural evening. I learned about Monica Houghton’s Whalefall in a format for viola and organ (which was a re-scoring of its original setting for voice and piano), and received permission from the composer to perform a viola-piano version of this hauntingly beautiful work. All of this combined has resulted in a wonderful collection of pieces by American composers, including several inspired by a variety of animals, so combining some popular definitions for the word “menagerie” (a gathering of animals, or a diverse collection of people or things), we thus have An American Menagerie! (…and where else could I get to bark, growl, bray, moo, and make cricket noises on the viola?)
Michelle LaCourse
December 2014
 
American violist Michelle LaCourse has appeared as soloist and chamber musician on four continents, including performances in France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and South Korea. LaCourse was formerly a member of the Lehigh Quartet, the Delphic String Trio, and the Aeolian Trio. Her numerous festival appearances have included Aspen, Bowdoin, Eastern, Interlochen, Skaneateles, Musicorda, and the Heifetz Institute. Internationally, she has participated in festivals in Brazil at Campos do Jordão, in Italy at Positano, and in Luxembourg at Vianden. LaCourse holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where she studied with and was for many years teaching assistant to renowned pedagogue Karen Tuttle. LaCourse currently teaches viola and chairs the String Department at Boston University’s School of Music, where in 2009 she was awarded the Metcalf Cup and Prize, the university’s highest honor for excellence in teaching. She performs on a viola made for her in 2000 by Steven Keller of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with bows made by Michael Hattala of Fabius, New York.
American composer and pianist Martin Amlin has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Tanglewood Music Center, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Artists Foundation, and Council for the Arts. Amlin is also a recipient of an ASCAP Grant to Young Composers, several ASCAPlus Awards, and Boston University’s Kahn Award. He has been a resident at Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the MacDowell Colony, where he was named a Norlin Fellow. A composer whose compositions have been performed around the world, Amlin has received commissions from the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, Seattle Flute Society, Pacific Serenades, and Chicago Flute Club, among others. As a performer, he has appeared as soloist with the Boston Pops, and has performed on the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Prelude Concerts at both Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, on the FleetBoston Celebrity Series, and with the M.I.T. Experimental Music Studio and New England Ragtime Ensemble. He has given the premiere of numerous works, including pieces by Lukas Foss and George Perle. He studied with Nadia Boulanger at the Ecoles d’Art Américaines in Fontainebleau and the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, and received advanced degrees and a Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School. Amlin is currently Chairman of Composition and Theory at Boston University’s School of Music and Director of the Young Artists Composition Program at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.
 
PROGRAM
MARTIN AMLIN (b. 1953)
KENNEL (2012)
1. Boxer
2. Collie
3. Xoloitzcuintli
4. Bull Terrier
5. Papillon
6. Weimaraner
7. Whippet
LULLABY (2012)

ROBERT MERFELD (b. 1945)
ANIMAL MINIATURES (2012)
1. The Donkey (Braying Tempo)
2. The Mice Visit the Cows in the Barn
3. The Turtle’s Lament
4. Music of the Night (Cricket Tempo); Lullaby

MARTIN AMLIN
SONATA (1987)
I. Chaconne
II. Interlude
III. Rondo

MONICA HOUGHTON (b. 1954)
WHALEFALL (2006, 2007, 2013)

MARTIN AMLIN
VIOLETTA (2010)
 



MSR Classics
JAMES GRANT: CHOCOLATES
JAMES GRANT: CHOCOLATES
Music for Viola and Piano

MICHELLE …

[MS1335]