Turning Jun 20, 2014
Turning is a collection of variation sets.
This recording includes three works representing the genre of theme and variations in the traditional sense: Mozart’s Twelve Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je Maman,” K. 265; Clara Schumann’s Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 20; and Derek Bermel’s masterpiece, Turning, written in 1995. The inclusion of the other two works casts a wider net on the concept of theme and variations: the Rachmaninoff work is a transcription of a solo violin piece, and Brahms’s set of piano pieces was composed using a technique called developing variation. As a collection, these five works represent the concept of variation from many different angles.
Recorded May 23-25, 2012 at Morgan State University’s Gilliam Concert Hall, Baltimore, Maryland. Produced and engineered by Antonino d’Urzo, Opusrite Audio Productions. Piano: Steinway, Model B, built 1916. Piano Technician: Tom Wright, Wright Piano Services. Cover Photo: Katya Chilingiri. Booklet Design: Alexa Brooks. Funding assistance was generously furnished by Rick Barney of Managed Capital, Ted Mundy of Strategic Group, Bill Nerenberg and Dorothy Rosenthal, and the Peabody Institute of Music.
MUSIC OF JEFFREY MUMFORD: through a stillness brightening Jan 2014, Albany Records
National Gallery Chamber Players (Artist, Orchestra), Avalon Quartet (Artist, Orchestra), Jeffrey Mumford (Composer), Michel Galante (Conductor), Peter Wilson (Conductor), Argento Chamber Ensemble (Orchestra), Miranda Cuckson (Performer), Julia Bruskin (Performer), Christina Jennings (Performer), Lura Johnson (Performer), Eliesha Nelson (Performer), Scott Dixon (Performer), Winston Choi (Performer), Wendy Richman (Performer)
Lura Johnson and Christina Jennings perform an evolving romance for flute & piano, a work originally for violin and piano, commissioned in 2005 by Matthew Horwitz-Lee and Lura Johnson.
Perspectives: Netanel Draiblate and Luigi Mazzocchi, violins, with Lura Johnson, piano Sept 2013, Azica Records
Azica Records releases a disc featuring chamber music for violin and piano, with Annapolis and Lancaster Symphonies concertmaster Netanel Draiblate. The project was recorded at Cleveland State University’s concert hall. Repertoire includes Mendelssohn Violin Sonata in F Major (1838), Grieg Violin Sonata in F Major, Op. 8, Elgar Salut d’Amour, Kreisler La Gitana, and Prokofiev Sonata for Two Violins with Luigi Mazzocchi.
“a very lovely reading… Draiblate and Johnson give an engaging reading of Elgar’s “Salut d’amour”, where they seem to test the limits of rubato. They manage to ebb, flow, pull, and push to the furthest extreme without disturbing or distorting the line or exceeding the boundaries of good taste. They apply the same kind of freedom to the Grieg F Major Sonata, which makes it a very exciting and engaging reading… They have me eating out of their hands….”
-Elaine Fine, American Record Guide, April/May 2014
“pure virtuosity… impressive… a fine recording…”
BARTOK: MUSIC FOR STRINGS, PERCUSSION, AND CELESTA: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop conducting 2012, Naxos
New Paths: Music of composer Lawrence Moss Nov 2011, Innova Recordings
It is safe to say that grass does not grow under Lawrence Moss’s feet. As a spry 83 year old with a distinguished teaching career under his belt, he jogs in Maryland, hikes in Alaska, and composes energetic music that refreshes concert programs around the world. This 2CD set focuses on his recent chamber music; one disc instrumental, the other with solo voice.
Moss considers this collection, New Paths, as “New paths in old forests. These are not the paths to Neo-Romanticism or any other ‘old growth’ but rather walks along the trails that lead from Stravinsky and Schoenberg to Varese and Ligeti.” In his wind quintet, The Woods, for instance, he sketches internal and external landscapes featuring uncanny imitations of birdsong (can you spot the Carolina Wren?) and subjects them to fascinating patterns. The music is as prickly as it is endearing.
In the trio for oboe, violin, and piano, the title-track New Paths, you can hear some sprightly Bulgarian-inspired rhythms. Village Scenes, for violin and piano, uses an exuberant Inuit dance from Alaska. Korean Peaks, for two violins, presents variations on the Korean national anthem. Together, for two trumpets, pays homage to Stravinsky’s “Fanfare for a New Theater.” All in all, Moss’s musical map has been well pored-over, and he has found creative new ways of connecting the features and making the itinerary curiously compelling.
Los Angeles born Lawrence Moss, received his doctorate from USC in 1957, and has taught at Mills, Yale, and the University of Maryland. The performers on the album are stellar, including the Capitol Woodwind Quintet, Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players and members of the Verge Ensemble, and Left Bank Concert Society. Lura can be heard in partnership with soprano, Kathryn Hearden, in a song cycle entitled From the Chinese.
INNER VOICE: Peter Minkler, viola with Lura Johnson, piano Nov 2010, Centaur Records
Centaur Records releases a disc featuring chamber music for viola and piano, with Baltimore Symphony violist Peter Minkler and Lura Johnson, pianist. The project was recorded at Morgan State University’s concert hall. Repertoire includes Shostakovich and Rochberg Viola Sonatas, Britten Lachrymae, and Arvo Pärt Spiegel im Spiegel.
Jean-Yves Thibaudet: Gershwin with the Baltimore Symphony April 27, 2010
Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Baltimore Symphony, Marin Alsop conducting
Rhapsody in Blue
I Got Rhythm Variations
Concerto in F
(Lura plays the orchestral piano part in the Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue.)
grammy nominated recording of Bernstein’s Mass: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop conducting Aug 2009, Naxos
When Leonard Bernstein was asked by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to compose the inaugural work for the opening of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., he wrote: “The Mass is also an extremely dramatic event in itself—it even suggests a theater work.” Premiered on September 8, 1971, with additional words by Stephen Schwartz of Godspell fame, Mass is a remarkable, visionary work with a kaleidoscope of musical styles that touches on themes of political protest, existential crisis and religious faith lost and found. Lura played Principal Keyboard on this recording.
MARK O’CONNOR: AMERICANA SYMPHONY – BALTIMORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, MARIN ALSOP CONDUCTING 2008
MARK O’CONNOR’S AMERICANA SYMPHONY ‘VARIATIONS ON APPALACHIA WALTZ’
Recorded by Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony to critical acclaim.
“‘Americana Symphony’ may well be regarded one day as one of this country’s great gifts to the classical music canon, as well as being a pivotal moment in the rise of the new American classical music.”-David McGee (Spin, Rolling Stone, Barnesandnoble.com, BluegrassSpecial.com)
“a monumental work…inevitably will be compared to Copland.”-Associated Press
“as unrepentantly tonal, accessibly melodic and sonically spacious as a great Elmer Bernstein film score.”-Los Angeles Times
“With the release of Americana Symphony, one has the opportunity to explore O’Connor’s artistry in the area of symphonic composition…This is a wonderful piece bold and brassy, ineffably affecting, and virtually dripping the American experience from every measure.
Given the symphony’s bold rhythms, playfully aggressive percussive writing, and brightly shining brass, comparisons to Copeland are inevitable, but also deceivingly facile the American idiom brings its similarities, but the voice is entirely O’Connor’s own. This is one of the most enjoyable contemporary orchestral CD’s heard in quite some time.” – ConcertoNet.com – The Classical Music Network (February 26, 2009)
“Mark O’Connor provides his answer to a question that has intrigued U. S. composers since the debut of Dvorak’s New World Symphony in 1892: ‘How do you write the great American Symphony?’”-David Wallace- Juilliard School
The Jennings-Johnson Duo: Christina Jennings, flute with Lura Johnson, piano 2006, Foxridge Records
The Jennings-Johnson Duo debut CD challenges the hierarchy of soloist and accompanist with transcriptions and newly-commissioned works of personal significance to the duo. Jeffery Mumford’s evolving romance is a transcription of his gracious accord: romance for violin and piano, which was commissioned by Lura Johnson and Matthew Horwitz-Lee in 2005. The other world premiere recording on this release, A.J. McCaffrey’s Reflections on Beati quorum via, was commissioned by Betty Blume in memory of her late husband, Dr. Howard Blume, a celebrated neurosurgeon and devoted amateur flutist. For this disc, Ms. Jennings recorded the piece playing Dr. Blume’s custom-built Powell flute.
Drei Romanzen, Op. 94: Robert Schumann
Poem: Charles T. Griffes
Reflections on Beati quorum via: A.J. McCaffrey
Evolving Romance: Jeffrey Mumford
Sonata in A Major, Op. 13: Gabriel Fauré
Fantasie, Op. 79: Gabriel Fauré
“The Jennings-Johnson Duo CD is a spectacular display of extraordinary musical poise and technical brilliance. The artistry of these two musicians is most compelling and gratifying in this beautifully programmed CD.” -Jeanne Baxtresser, Former Principal Flute, New York Philharmonic
“The Jennings-Johnson Duo is a magical partnership. Christina’s wizardry as a colorist is matched by Lura’s sensitivity to nuance and phrasing. This is a powerful, enchanting CD.” -Leone Buyse, Professor of Flute, Rice University, Shepherd School of Music
“This is music worth finding. Both musicians are laureates of major compositions in recent years, with growing reputations in performance and teaching… Jennings is an extraordinary musician, with facile technique, a soaring tone, and a natural sense of phrasing that is often absent from flute playing. Pianist Lura Johnson is an equal partner. She plays with a rich, deep tone and impeccable technique. The standard literature- Schumann, Griffes, and Fauré – is all played with dazzling proficiency… This goes on the “must hear” shelf instead of the dusty “good reference for some highly unlikely later date” pile lower down.” -CHAFFEE, American Record Guide January/February 2007
“This CD, featuring flutist Christina Jennings and pianist Lura Johnson, presents a varied and interesting program of old favorites… balanced by fresh and newly adapted works… Throughout this recording it is evident that Jennings and Johnson are truly a “duo”, a shared partnership of equal voices that are matched in musical understanding and approach to interpretation. Even when the flute is more prominently featured in the melodic line, the sensitive underpinning and comment by the piano accompaniment is sure and supportive. The Schumann Romances… require the flutist to step up and play with expressiveness and control. Jennings has just the right tone and passion needed to make these small gems shine. The Griffes Poem likewise requires intensity and fervor to be effective, and here again Jennings is up to the challenge with a lyrical stye, agile technique, and ravishing tone as the work builds toward the bright and flashing cadenzas, sways with the rhythmic pulse of the dance section, goes headlong into the mad rush of the final presto, and then settles down again with the reprise of the mournful and resigned opening theme. The inherent challenge of ensuring the listener does not miss the color of the original orchestral accompaniment is well met by Johnson.” -Flutist Quarterly, Spring 2007 issue
“On our courses we’ve been talking about how we should always refer to the person who is playing the piano part as a “pianist” rather than an “accompanist.” This recording demonstrates this beautifully, a true partnership between flute and piano. Christina Jennings is the flute player and she is well worth listening to – beautiful, musically sublime playing. If you only buy one CD this summer, make sure it is this one.” -FluteWise magazine, on the Jennings-Johnson Duo’s recent CD