I get excited when I see new releases that highlight hidden or unheard voices from the world of classical music, and MSR Classics always comes through every few months with great albums for curious listeners.
This spring, two albums stand out among the latest batch of discs to arrive at KPAC. “Breaking Waves” highlights the work of Swedish women composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are short works by the composer and social activist Laura Netzel , a sonata by Elfrida Andrée (whose output also includes symphonies and an opera), plus a beautiful, pastoral sonata by Amanda Röntgen-Maier. All but one of the works on the disc were originally written for violin, but flutist Paula Gudmondson’s performance makes them feel as if they were written for her.
I’m even more excited by “Summerland,” an album of music by African-American composers performed by Duo Dolce, made up of Kristen Yeon-Ji Yun, cello and Phoenix Park-Kim, piano. The title track is a familiar melody by William Grant Still, meant to illustrate the sound of heaven. There are gospel sounds in a solo cello piece called “Theme and Variations on ‘Draw the Sacred Circle Closer’” and cello-piano arrangements by Moses Hogan of four spirituals.
Biblical inspiration is also behind my favorite piece on “Summerland,” by the Emmy-winning composer John Wineglass. Born in 1972, his solo piano suite “Times of Solitude” was written in 1994, the same year he earned his Bachelor of Music degree. The first movement, “A Midsummer Waltz,” has a sweet and sad cadence that the composer says represents God walking in the garden of Eden, looking for Adam. The second movement is inspired by Chopin as it follows the parable of the prodigal son. The third movement, “Distant Memories,” diverges from the previous two, as the young composer draws on his own life up to that moment, ending on a reflective note.
Also of note on this album is the masterful performance by Duo Dolce of music from the 2017 horror film “Get Out,” which masterfully upended the “Liberal White Friend Of Blacks” trope. In “Chris and Rose,” composer Michael Abels creates a lovely piece of music with a sinister edge. Yun’s cello carries the romantic melody while Park-Kim’s piano uses what sound like whole-tone arpeggios, reminiscent of Arvo Pärt’s “Tabula Rasa,” to add to the mystery.
Both of these releases are enriching additions to the classical music world, and if you haven’t already heard selections on KPAC 88.3 FM, you will!