HARPIST YOLANDA KONDONASSIS’ NEW ALBUM AMERICAN RAPTURE FEATURES THE WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING OF PULITZER PRIZE WINNER JENNIFER HIGDON’S HARP CONCERTO, A PIECE THAT IS DEEPLY PERSONAL TO BOTH ARTISTS.
Lansing’s City Pulse describes the concerto as, “a sweet-tart, crystalline delight, glittering with extra percussion,” while Rochester’s CITY Newspaper notes, “Higdon was keen to showcase the harp’s naturally rich harmonic colors, and there was something prayerful about Yolanda’s playing, particularly in the quieter moments.” The concerto was written for and dedicated to Yolanda.
Released on Azica Records on May 17, American Rapture also includes the world premiere recording of Patrick Harlin’s Rapture and Samuel Barber’s Symphony No. 1 in One Movement. Conductor Ward Stare leads the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra on all three works.
The album is designed to highlight three generations of American composition and, as defined by Harlin in the context of his work, to depict rapture not as a religious event, but as an experience of extreme human emotion. The Harp Concerto is a consortium commission from the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, Lansing Symphony Orchestra, and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra.
Yolanda notes, “We’ve come to associate many ideas with classical music composition in North America, but even so, there is a tangible and unique essence that embodies the ‘American Sound’ in all its forms. This repertoire is just a tip of the iceberg, but with strong threads of that which personifies the American experience: originality, introspection, power, whimsy, pain, joy and grit.”
Jennifer Higdon, one of the greatest musical voices of our time, says, “I love writing concerti because it gives me a chance to not only explore the different instruments’ qualities, but also because I get to experience the joy of the performer in displaying those qualities. Yolanda Kondonassis’ enthusiasm for her instrument is infectious.”
Yolanda echoes, “The journey of bringing Jennifer Higdon’s Harp Concerto to life has been an amazing ride. We agreed on many aspects of what a new harp concerto should be – strong, agile, lyrical, feisty, energetic and even heroic when necessary; it should be challenging, but really fun to play, and it should have a groove that allows the harpist to catch a musical wave with the orchestra once in a while. Jennifer managed all this and more, delivering a work that is all at once powerful, heart-wrenching, whimsical, and original.”