Trailblazer. Advocate. Innovator. All of these descriptors apply to Grammy Award-winner Libby Larsen, but at the core is the most important title of all: Artist. As the first woman to serve as a resident composer with a major orchestra and one of the most performed and prolific composers of our time (she has over 500 works in her catalog, including 15 operas), Larsen has established a permanent place in the annals of American concert music.
Her new Navona Records album CIRCLE OF FRIENDS in many ways highlights a number of musicians with whom she has developed lasting relationships over the years. The performers on the album – Deborah Dunham (bass), James Dunham (viola), Jeanne Kierman (piano), Norman Fischer (cello), Curtis Macomber (violin), Susanne Mentzer (mezzo-soprano), Craig Rutenberg (piano) – are all Larsen’s colleagues and associates from various points in her career.
“It occurred to me that although I’ve worked with all these superb, inspired players many times over the years, we’d never actually all collaborated on a project together,” says Larsen. “And this seemed like the perfect time and opportunity to do it.”
Produced by 4-time Grammy-winner Judith Sherman, the album opens with the 3-movement Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, an agile, nimble jazz-inspired piece that takes a gentle breather in the middle movement. Sifting Through the Ruins, a 5-movement work for mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano, was composed in memory of the events of September 11, 2001; the music and words are designed to be without artifice, focusing instead on simplicity and directness of expression.
Larsen’s Viola Sonata moves away from the expansive scope of dynamics normally found in the composer’s scores and substitutes a more restrained sense of color and texture. The vocal qualities of the viola are emphasized in this 3-movement work. The final work on the program, Up Where the Air Gets Thin, is perhaps the most adventurous piece on the album, a poetic imagination of sound at extreme altitudes in extreme environments.
This album features a web-application which includes scores and a printable digital booklet containing composer and performer biographies, liner notes, and more:
Larsen has been hailed as “the only English-speaking composer since Benjamin Britten who matches great verse with fine music so intelligently and expressively” (USA Today); as “a composer who has made the art of symphonic writing very much her own” (Gramophone); as “a mistress of orchestration” (Times Union); and for “assembling one of the most impressive bodies of music of our time” (Hartford Courant)
Her music has been praised for its “clear textures, easily absorbed rhythms and appealing melodic contours that make singing seem the most natural expression imaginable” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Libby Larsen has a catalog of over 500 works, spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas
Grammy award-winning and widely recorded, including over 50 CDs of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory
In 1973, Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer’s Forum, which has become an invaluable aid for composers in a transitional time for American arts
A former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Larsen has also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony
Libby Larsen (b. 24 December 1950, Wilmington DE) is one of America’s most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Grammy Award-winning and widely recorded, including over 50 albums of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.
As a vigorous, articulate advocate for the music and musicians of our time, in 1973 Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer’s Forum, which has become an invaluable aid for composers in a transitional time for American arts. A former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Larsen has also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony. Larsen’s offical biography is also available for download in the Press section of her website under Press Materials.
1-3) TRIO FOR VIOLIN, CELLO AND PIANO
Curtis Macomber, violin; Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman, piano
4-8) SIFTING THROUGH THE RUINS
Susanne Mentzer, mezzo-soprano; James Dunham, viola;
Craig Rutenberg, piano
9-11) VIOLA SONATA
James Dunham, viola; Jeanne Kierman, piano
12) UP, WHERE THE AIR GETS THIN
Norman Fischer, cello; Deborah Dunham, bass
13) FOUR ON THE FLOOR
Curtis Macomber, violin; Norman Fischer, cello; Deborah Dunham, bass;
Jeanne Kierman, piano
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Navona Records offers listeners a fresh taste of today's leading innovators in orchestral, chamber, instrumental, and experimental music as well as prime pieces of classic repertoire. Our music is meticulously performed by the finest musicians and handpicked to ensure the most rewarding listening experience.
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