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American Rapture / Stare, Kondonassis, Rochester Philharmonic

Release Date: 05/17/2019 
Label:  Azica   Catalog #: 71327  
Composer:  Jennifer HigdonSamuel BarberPatrick Harlin
Performer:  Yolanda Kondonassis
Conductor:  Ward Stare
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"Yolanda Kondonassis’ enthusiasm for her instrument is infectious," says Jennifer Higdon when describing working with her to create a new harp concerto. This world premiere recording by Yolanda Kondonaiss with Ward Stare and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra is a showcase for the grandeur of the harp through this beautiful composition by Jennifer Higdon. The harp as well as the orchestra is challenged with virtuosic and beautiful moments. The recording continues with the triumphant First Symphony of Samuel Barber, and rounds out with "Rapture" by Patrick Harlin described as being similar to extreme emotional states, musical elements in this piece start subtly and are magnified to their extremes, echoing throughout as Read more inspired by the incredible experience of ultra-caving.



On the world premiere recording of Jennifer Higdon's mercurial Harp Concerto, the crystalline precision of Yolanda Kondonassis's harp, the rhythmic buoyancy of Stare's conducting, and the cohesion of the orchestra achieve a kind of mystical alchemy. Barber's Symphony No. 1 receives a revelatory performance, uncovering a wild and unfettered side to the composer's lyrical neo-Romanticism.

– Rochester City News (Daniel J. Kushner) Read less

Works on This Recording

Harp Concerto by Jennifer Higdon
Performer:  Yolanda Kondonassis (Harp)
Conductor:  Ward Stare
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Symphony no 1, Op. 9 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Ward Stare
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; United States 
Rapture by Patrick Harlin
Conductor:  Ward Stare
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Notes: (Version for orchestra.) 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Rapturous performances August 16, 2019 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Yolanda Kondonassis does not play pretty harp music. Her performances are marked with intensity and energy -- and her choice of repertoire continually pushes the limits. Jennifer Higdon wrote her a concerto that gives Kondonassis free reign to express herself -- and she does. The four-movement Harp Concerto has Kondonassis do just about everything with the instrument -- except play dreamy glissandos. I especially enjoyed the third movement, "Lullaby." Higdon pairs the harp with a variety of solo instruments for an intimate chamber piece of quiet beauty. The fourth movement, "Rap Knock" uses the harp as a percussion instrument, holding its own in a percussion ensemble. It also features some incredibly rapid -- and intricate -- passages. Kondonassis plays it all impeccably. In interviews, she talks about her enthusiasm for this work, and it shows in the performance. "Rapture" by Patrick Harlan isn't Biblical in the slightest. After weeks underground, cavers lose their circadian rhythms and enter a disoriented emotional state termed the rapture. Harlan's work recreates that experience. "Rapture" drifts from one amorphous configuration to another, with bursts of extreme intensity. Also included is Samuel Barber's Symphony No. 1, which provides a nice stylistic bridge between Higdon and Harlan. Ward Stare and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra deliver energetic performances throughout. This is their first recording in five years, and well worth the wait." Report Abuse
 Catching a musical wave May 16, 2019 By Dean Frey See All My Reviews "The literature for Harp and Orchestra is amazing, and amazingly under-valued. One work which I admire most highly is Alberto Ginastera's Harp Concerto, written in 1956 and revised in 1968. Our harpist in this new CD American Rapture, Yolanda Kondonassis, recorded a very fine version of this work, released in 2016 for the Ginastera Centennial. Another is Heitor Villa-Lobos's Harp Concerto, written in 1953 for Nicanor Zabaleta. This is not as good a work by any means, but it's completely typical of Villa's late period when the bulk of his composing time was taken by commissions. Jennifer Higdon's Harp Concerto was written for and dedicated to Yolanda Kondonassis; it was commissioned by a consortium of orchestras - the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, Lansing Symphony Orchestra and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra. It receives its first recording here. It's full of vitality, ingenuity and sentiment, and shows off the many sounds this remarkable instrument is capable of. When Kondonassis described what she wanted from the composer she said "... it should have a groove that allows the harpist to catch a musical wave with the orchestra once in a while." That's one of the great thing about the concerto form; I've been very much aware of trying to describe those moments while listening lately to Mozart Piano Concertos for a review. Higdon jams so much into this twenty minute work, but there's a coherent structure to the piece that becomes evident after a few listens. The final movement, Rap Knock, is a stand-out; the witty, percussion-based music looks to Leonard Bernstein as much as the more avant garde sounds Ginastera included in his Concerto. The Rochester Philharmonic, under the direction of Ward Stare, provide able support in a work that occasionally calls for virtuoso playing, especially from the percussion section. So check out Harp Concertos; I know you'll thank me. I'll link to some recordings of other composers' works below, but begin with the Higdon, please! After the Ginastera, I'd place the Harp Concerto by Reinhold Glière. There's a fine disc played by Anneleen Lenaerts that also includes the Concertos of Joseph Jongen and Joaquín Rodrigo. The fine Harp Concertino by Germaine Tailleferre is played by the great Nicanor Zabaleta, along with Boieldieu's Concerto. People don't value the music of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer highly enough, and his Harp Concerto deserves to be much better known. Perhaps Yolanda Kondonassis could champion it next! Alberto Ginastera wondered about what tied together music from the American continents, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego; this remained for him, and of course remains for us, an open question. American Rapture is about a subset of that really big thing, which he termed estadounidense. This disc is generously filled with works that explore this particular geographical and cultural space, from Samuel Barber's folk-infused First Symphony, written in 1936, to the intensity of Patrick Harlin's Rapture, which like most of this fine young composer's work has a special link to the soundscapes of the natural world. With three such interesting works the question of their American-ness becomes less important. At the very least there are two things these three works have in common: the magical richness of musical imagination and very fine performances." Report Abuse
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