NOTHING PROVEDNew works for viols, voice and electronics
Hildegard Von Bingen, Kristin Norderval, Tawnie Olson, Frances White
Beverly Au, bass viol | Lawrence Lipnik, tenor viol
Rosamund Morley, treble viol | Lisa Terry, bass viol
KRISTIN NORDERVAL, soprano
DASHON BURTON, bass-baritone
Valeria Vasilevski, narrator
World Premiere Recordings
[ * * * * ] “A fascinating collection of music by women composers. A feast for the mind and the ear!... There’s much to like about this disc. The music is uniformly interesting and filled with thoughtful depth. The performances and the recording are first rate, with silky highs and deep bass where required. I can’t imagine this won’t be a fascinating listen for classical and contemporary music fans. The performances seem spot on and are tailor made for the adventurous listener as well as those whose tastes may run to the traditional but are willing to explore a bit outside the boundaries. Recommended.”
Mel Martin, Audiophile Audition [June 2018]
“The works on this album are particularly exciting, as their composers acknowledge the viol’s origins in the Renaissance consort, while exploring new ways of presenting the instrument’s distinct timbre. The most stunning works incorporate electronics... This music is in a class of its own—don’t overlook this album.”
American Record Guide [July/August 2018]
“The sheer sound of another MSR Classics release is its main attraction... the chance to hear a Renaissance viol consort in pretty much any repertoire is a highly welcome one... The CD is a fascinating foray into nowadays little-heard sonorities that are reinterpreted in a strictly up-to-date context – a disc for a rarefied audience that will find the material sometimes charming, sometimes thought-provoking, and sometimes, however improbably, both at once.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [June 2018]
“The Hildegard of Bingen Alleluia opens this fascinating disc; one of her most famous, we read of Mary symbolized as a branch. It is a fitting way to open a program of women composers of music for viols, bringing the medieval face to face with the modern through the metaphoric link... This is a thought-provoking disc whose conception and execution are of a piece. Luckily, the recording is also excellent; Dashon Burton’s baritone voice is captured as in those fantastic 1960s Decca opera recordings, and I had fun following it as it moved across the soundstage. This is another excellent disc from Parthenia and from the composers who realized the concept’s musical and philosophical potential.”
Marc Medwin, Fanfare [May/June 2018]
The New Yorker
PROGRAM NOTESNew chamber works for renaissance viol consort, all written for and premiered by Parthenia over the past decade, by three outstanding women composers – Kristin Norderval, Tawnie Olson, and Frances White. Featured guest artists are bass-baritone Dashon Burton (Room Full of Teeth), soprano Kristin Norderval (Pomerium, Ensemble Pi), and narrator Valeria Vasilevski (NPR, Android Sisters). These compositions create a rich tapestry of stories, ranging from a song cycle for soprano, viols and electronics exploring Elizabethan political intrigue and paranoia through the words of Queen Elizabeth I, to a poignant fairytale about isolation and unexpected friendship between a girl and a bird; from a powerfully resonant depiction of Christ on the cross, to a meditative electronic-enhanced reflection on a chant by abbess Hildegard von Bingen.
PARTHENIA: OLD STORIES, NEW VOICES
The four compositions on this disc are all pieces that tell stories in one way or another. Included here are stories of the sacred: of God, his creation of light from darkness, and his sacrifice for humanity; of visions, transformations, redemption, and hope; of both faith and the impossibility of faith. There are also secular stories, like the story of a powerful woman of the sixteenth century, a woman who became Queen of England even as men in high positions tried to bring her down. This is the story of a woman who won power playing by the rules of the powerful; who was imprisoned herself and then imprisoned her own enemies; who was inwardly torn by intrigue and suspicion but needed to maintain the imperturbable demeanor of royalty. And we have a mysterious story told only in part, a fairy tale of a woman imprisoned and alone until she is liberated by the magic of nature. These stories of religion, politics, feminism, power (both worldly and otherworldly) magic, and nature are historical or ancient (or at least have the air of antiquity). Their musical treatment is purely of our time, however, even though written for the centuries-old medium of viol consort. These are stories that resonated deeply with the three contemporary composers featured on this disc, and each has responded with music that is personal, urgent, and moving.
Through all four pieces, the medium of the viol consort itself clothes the drama in a kind of period costume. There is a quality of “once upon a time-ness” to the viols’ sound that works well with the story of From a fairy tale, and of course, Nothing proved can be benefits by setting Elizabeth’s poetry with Elizabethan instruments. But none of the composers explicitly draw from the historical literature for viols, choosing instead musically to stand solidly in the 21st century, electronics and all. The 21st century is actually a very good place for the viols to flourish again. It is perhaps no coincidence that the viol consort began to wane just as opera began to rise in popularity. The darker, more intimate sound of viols suited music-making in the home, but the future was for the public spectacle of opera, and hence the brighter, louder, edgier sound of the violin. But today, telling stories with music in public can still be an intimate experience. As heard on this disc, there are many ways the sound of the viol consort can be used to tell those stories in a compelling manner. Each composer here takes her own distinctive approach to writing for the instruments, but all were worked out directly from experience with the instruments and with the players of Parthenia. In this collection of old stories told in new voices, these four performers are the other dramatic heroes, bravely commissioning composers to write living repertoire for their ancient instruments. Theirs is not just a token interest in new music, a desire to have a contemporary piece to put on a program for novelty. The Parthenians have a genuine curiosity and an inventiveness about their instruments that allows them to enter directly into the sonic exploration with their composer collaborators. All three composers on this disc went through the same process of asking the players “what can you do?” and “what does this sound like?” And with all three the members of Parthenia asked themselves the same questions and sought out new answers. There are no doubt more stories of musical adventure to come with the members of this viol consort as the heroes. [James Pritchett, November 2017]
The viol quartet PARTHENIA brings early music into the present with repertoire ancient to freshly-commissioned, animated by a ravishing sound and a remarkable sense of ensemble. Parthenia is presented in concerts across the United States, and in its own long-running concert series in New York City, a mainstay of that city’s vibrant early music scene. Noted for regular collaborations with the world’s foremost early music specialists, the quartet has been featured in prestigious festivals and series as wide-ranging as Music Before 1800, Harriman-Jewell Series, Maverick Concerts, Regensburg Tage Alter Musik, Shalin Liu Performing Arts Center, Pierpont Morgan Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale Center for British Art, Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, Queens New Music Festival, Random Access Music and Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Parthenia’s critically acclaimed performances range from its popular touring program, When Music & Sweet Poetry Agree, a celebration of Elizabethan poetry and music with actor Paul Hecht, to the complete viol fantasies of Henry Purcell. They have also achieved notoriety through their performances of the complete instrumental works of Robert Parsons, and more than 30 new commissions and premieres featuring dozens of today’s composers. Parthenia is represented by GEMS Live! [ parthenia.org ]
Praised for a rich tone and thrilling performances, bass-baritone Dashon Burton began his professional studies at Case Western Reserve University and graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. Upon graduation, he joined Cantus, a Minneapolis-based men’s vocal ensemble known for its collaborations with notable artists and ensembles, including the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Boston Pops, James Sewell Ballet and Bobby McFerrin. After his work with Cantus, Burton entered Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music, where he earned a Master of Music degree. Burton is an avid performer of new music and has premiered works by Edie Hill and William Brittelle. He is a founding member of Roomful of Teeth, a virtuosic vocal ensemble currently directed by Brad Wells devoted to new compositions using the fullest possible range of vocal techniques. Burton tours internationally with the ensemble, which received a 2013 Grammy Award in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category. He recently recorded Lori Laitman’s Holocaust 1944, a song cycle for baritone and double bass [AcisProductions]. Recent performances include the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, the Mozart Requiem with the Handel and Haydn Society, Bach’s B minor Mass with the Baltimore Symphony under Nicholas McGegan and with the Bach Society of St. Louis, and the role of Jesus in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Burton has also performed in Handel’s Messiah with the New Jersey Symphony, Boston Baroque and the Kansas City Symphony, where he sang Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under conductor Michael Stern.
Kristin Norderval is a composer and singer who specializes in developing new works for voice, cross-disciplinary works, and works using interactive technology. Her first full-length opera, The Trials of Patricia Isasa, for soloists, choir, instrumentalists and electronics, was commissioned by Norway’s Artxchange. The premiere performance took place in a Chants Libres production at the Monument National Theater in Montreal in 2016 with Norderval singing one of the lead roles. The opera was awarded two Quebec Opus prizes in 2016: Best Production in Montreal and Best Contemporary Music Production. Norderval has received commissions for the Ultima Festival in Oslo, Den Anden Opera, jill sigman/thinkdance and Parthenia Viol Consort. As a soprano, Norderval has performed with the Oslo Sinfonietta, Philip Glass Ensemble, Netherlands Dance Theater and San Francisco Symphony. A 2005 recipient of the Henry Cowell Award from the American Music Center, and two-time recipient of the Norwegian Artist’s Stipend, Norderval has also received support from the Jerome Foundation, Meet the Composer, Harvestworks and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her compositions are featured on the Deep Listening, Koch International, Everglade Records and Losen Records labels. Her solo album Aural Histories, which features post-ambient arias for voice and electronics, was listed by critic Alex Ross of The New Yorker as one of “Ten Notable Classical Music Recordings of 2012.”
The music of Canadian composer Tawnie Olson draws inspiration from politics, spirituality, the natural world and the musicians for whom she composes. Olson has received commissions from the Canadian Art Song Project, New Music USA’s Third Practice vocal ensemble, Canada Council for the Arts, The Women’s Philharmonic at Mount Holyoke College, Blue Water Chamber Orchestra and Robert Baker Commissioning Fund of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, among others. In 2017, she received an OPERA America Discovery Grant to develop a new work with re:Naissance Opera, and a Canada Council for the Arts Professional Development Grant to study field recording at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Olson’s music, which has been described as “glorious” and “ethereal”, is performed on five continents, and can be heard on recordings by the Canadian Chamber Choir, soprano Magali Simard-Galdes, percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum, bassoonist Rachael Elliott, oboist Catherine Lee and Shawn Mativetsky, professor of tabla and percussion at McGill University. Her scores are available from the Canadian Music Centre, Galaxy Music, Hal Leonard and E.C. Schirmer.
Frances White composes instrumental, vocal and electronic music. A 2004 Guggenheim fellow, she has received commissions, awards, grants and fellowships from notable organizations, including the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Alice M. Ditson Fund, Mary Flagler Cary Trust, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Prix Ars Electronica, Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges, International Computer Music Association, Hungarian Radio, ASCAP, Bang On A Can Festival, Other Minds Festival, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, American Music Center, MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Third Practice Festival, The Fromm Foundation, MAP Fund and Commissioning Music USA. White’s music is widely available on CD, including two chamber music collections, Centre Bridge (Mode Records) and In the library of dreams (Pogus Productions), and her chamber opera She Lost Her Voice That’s How We Knew, a collaboration with Kristin Norderval and Valeria Vasilevski (Ravello). White’s music was featured as part of the soundtrack of three of Gus Van Sant’s award-winning films: Elephant, Paranoid Park, and Milk. White studies the shakuhachi flute, and has been influenced both as a performer and a composer by the traditional music of the instrument. Much of her music is inspired by a love of nature, and her electronic works frequently include natural sound recorded near her home in New Jersey. She studied composition at the University of Maryland, Brooklyn College and Princeton University. [ www.rosewhitemusic.com ]
Valeria Vasilevski is highly regarded in the world of Voice Performance for her extensive work in film narration, museum installations and radio drama. She is also active in live performances, and can be heard in a wide array of settings, from the popular music explorations of rock band Dr. Nerve to the contemporary classical music scene. Vasilevski is also a writer and director.
PROGRAMHILDEGARD VON BINGEN
CHANT “Alleluia, O Virga Mediatrix” (1150)
A FLOWER ON THE FARTHER SIDE for viol quartet and electronic sound (2010)
NOTHING PROVED CAN BE for viol quartet, soprano, and interactive audio processing (2008)
I. On the Execution of Lord High Admiral Thomas Seymour
II. The Doubt
III. Grieve and Dare Not
THORNS for viol quartet and bass-baritone (2013)
FROM A FAIRY TALE for viol quartet (2013)
Story by JAMES PRITCHETT