Anthony Roth Costanzo, Zachary James, John Holiday & Joélle Harvey Lead New CD/DVD Releases

By Francisco Salazar

Welcome back for this week’s review of the major CD and DVD releases. This week, audiences are in for many world premiere recordings as well as rarely performed works. Here is a look at some of the pieces audiences will discover!

Virko Baley: Music for Emily Dickinson

Toccata Classics releases an album dedicated to the music of Virko Baley, a Ukranian composer, who has long been fascinated by the poetry of Emily Dickinson. This recording features soprano Lucy Shelton, violinist Karen Bentley Pollick, and pianist Timothy Hoft.

Schubert: Mass No. 6 

Recorded in January 2023, the Cleveland Orchestra is led by Franz Welser-Möst in Schubert’s Mass with soloists Joélle Harvey, Daryl Freedman, Julian Prégardien, Martin Mitterrutzner, and Dashon Burton. 

Song of Myself

Grammy award-winning artist Zachary James releases his first full-length classical vocal album. The new classical vocal song cycle, composed by James in his classical composition debut brings the life of Walt Whitman. The album also includes additional music by cellist Wick Simmons, percussionist Ariel Campos, and guitarist Frederick Poholek.

In a statement, James said, “Creating ‘Song of Myself’ has been a deeply personal and transformative experience artistically, emotionally and spiritually. I recorded all the vocals in one day, in an almost Herculean effort, in a completely dark orchestral recording studio at the Colorado Symphony and it was an experience I will never forget. I am thrilled to share this album with the world. It was a distinct honor to collaborate with Ariel, Wick and my father. Our collaboration was pure and openhearted and we hope to stir the souls of our listeners and give contemporary art song a nudge in a new direction. While there are countless musical settings of Whitmans’s words I wanted to create a song cycle that specifically focused on the human experience of feeling alone in oneself and finding love for oneself through self-acceptance and celebration. There are also overarching themes of what it is to be queer. Whitman’s own experience as a gay man in a time when it was not socially acceptable is revelatory to explore when we are still in a battle for equal rights and inclusion in society over a hundred years later. Earlier this week I proposed to my boyfriend, now fiancé. There was a beautiful write-up in his hometown paper covering our engagement. It felt wonderful to receive such attention publicly as a gay couple in a small town Texas newspaper yet the comments of many readers reminded me that to be in a same sex relationship still can invite ridicule and hate. It drew a parallel to the simultaneous celebration and censorship of Whitman and reminded me why I wanted to create this work.”

De Organizer

Naxos releases the world premiere premiere recording of James P. Johnson and Langston Hughes’s 1941 opera. The recording, conducted by Kenneth Kiesler, features principal singers Darnell Ishmel, Monique Spells, Kenneth Kellogg, Elizabeth Gray, Lori Celeste Hicks, Rabihah Davis Dunn, Olivia Duval, Emery Stephens, Lonel Woods and Branden C.S. Hood, and the USO.

The aim of this recording and the future publication of the printed music is to make these historic pieces available to the public while shining a light on the operatic compositions of Johnson. The project is part of the ongoing commitment of U-M SMTD to bring attention to underrepresented composers and their work.

La sposa dei cantici

Ars Lyrica Houston releases Alessandro Scarlatti’s “La sposa dei cantici” on the Acis label.

Starring four international stars of the early music world, the recording features the revival of a rarely-heard work that celebrates the Feast of the Assumption. The oratorio’s four main characters are portrayed by three countertenors and one soprano including countertenor John Holiday, soprano Meghan Lindsay, countertenor Jay Carter, and countertenor Ryland Angel.

The Lord of Cries 

Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) and Gil Rose present the world-premiere recording of “The Lord of Cries” by John Corigliano and Mark Adamo. Pentatone released the recording which features Anthony Roth Costanzo, William Ferguson, Leah Brzyski, Rachel Blaustein, Felicia Galivanes, David Portillo, Matt Boehler, Jarrett Ott, Kathryn Henry, and Matthew DiBattista.

Songs of the Night

Champs Hill Records will release Songs of the Night with soprano Rowan Pierce, Julien Van Mellaerts, and Lucy Colquhoun. The album includes music by Robert and Clara Schumann, Wolf, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Strauss, and Pfitzner.

Veljo Tormis: ‘Reminiscentiae’

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, and Tõnu Kaljuste lead Veljo Tormis’s music. The new album was recorded at Tallinn’s Methodist Church in October and November 2020.


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