“We agreed on many aspects of what a new harp concerto should be – strong, agile, lyrical, feisty, energetic and even heroic when necessary.” – Yolanda Kondonassis

Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis’ world premiere recording of Jennifer Higdon’s Harp Concerto, recorded live with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, has been nominated for two GRAMMY Awards® this year in the categories of Best Classical Instrumental Solo and Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

Kondonassis recalls her early conversations with Jennifer Higdon:

“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.”

American Rapture, out now on Azica Records, was recorded live with conductor Ward Stare and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in Kodak Hall in September of 2018.

Watch the album trailer:

American Rapture is available on Amazon, iTunes, and yolandaharp.com.

Acclaim for Jennifer Higdon’s Harp Concerto, Yolanda Kondonassis, and your Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra: 

“Higdon’s concerto … is a delight … Throughout, Kondonassis’s playing is a delicious thrill.” – Gramophone

“[Kondonassis] brings it all to life and commands attention with seemingly limitless vibrance and color.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The Higdon Harp Concerto of 2018 is a real find … [Higdon] outdoes herself here. For one thing, the harpist is Yolanda Kondonassis, for whom Higdon wrote the work; [Kondonassis] is an exceptional player, both charismatic and versatile … Cleveland’s small Azica label achieves world-class results at Rochester’s Kodak Hall. Recommended.” – AllMusic

“A pioneering force for harpists everywhere, Kondonassis distinguishes Higdon’s concerto with her customary expressivity and impeccable technique. She and Higdon prove to be somewhat of an ideal pairing …” – Textura

“The excitement in Kodak Hall was palpable on that September night in 2018. The Rochester Philharmonic was recording the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Harp Concerto with Yolanda Kondonassis and RPO music director Ward Stare. By the end of the night, we knew we were in for a very special release.” – Julia Figueras for Classical Minnesota Public Radio

“Kondonassis has the clearest, cleanest harp technique I have ever encountered. Never smeary or precious, she navigates the intricate passages of Higdon’s Harp Concerto superbly and keeps the harp well balanced with the orchestra.” – I Care If You Listen

“… the most formidable harpist in the world, Yolanda Kondonassis … searches for the next great harp adventure the way Captain Ahab scans the horizon for Moby Dick.” – City Pulse

“Yolanda Kondonassis plays a mean harp, and Jennifer Higdon has written a lovely concerto to exploit her abilities … This is, in short, a serious addition to the modern repertoire for harp and orchestra, and I recommend both the work and the performance highly.” – Classics Today

“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” – CITY Newspaper

“Jennifer Higdon’s marvelous harp concerto (of which this is the world-premiere recording) would be enough to give this album a Rick’s Pick designation; it’s grand and lyrical, humorous and complex, and completely enthralling–and as always, Yolanda Kondonassis’ playing is brilliant … All in all, this is an outstanding album and would make an excellent addition to any library collection.” – CD Hotlist

“The standout here … is the glorious Jennifer Higdon Harp Concerto … a truly great concerto for the instrument. It is bright, playful, and engaging. Her writing for the harp (and Kondonassis’ seemingly easy grasp of astounding virtuosity and lyricism) work well with the orchestral writing, making for a very satisfying listening experience.” – New Music Buff

Like Ginastera, Higdon has extended the [harp] beyond its usual playing parameters with a myriad of percussion-like effects encountered on this amazing journey. Will the instrument ever be the same again?” – Limelight Magazine

“The internationally acclaimed harpist Yolanda Kondonassis is the dedicatee of the concerto and, not surprisingly, plays it with utter authority, as if she’s the conduit directly from the composer. She captures the spirit of the work and confidently negotiates the tricky writing with seeming ease. She plays with a nuance and subtlety in her phrasing, with all-encompassing technique …” – MusicWeb International

“Yolanda Kondonassis here grasps a score that is equal to her talent, allowing her to reveal her technique, sensitivity, and musical engagement.” – Opus HD

“Overall, Kondonassis is electrifying as she conveys each emotional state and musical element throughout [American Rapture].” – Staccatofy

“Kondonassis elicits maximum tone, sparkle, energy, virtuosity and beauty(!) from her instrument; she seems to conjure up effortless power, coupling that with ravishing nuance and subtlety.”  – Wisconsin Public Radio

“Ms. Kondonassis’ technique is spot-on, seesawing from playful to acerbic when the music demands … Slap pizz, percussion, and Ms. Kondonassis’ knuckles against the sound board remind us that the harp is not all angelic ladies in long gowns, she can also climb trees and skin her knees with the best of them. Ms. Kondonassis does not hold back, and it just gives you chills realizing this is what the harp can do!” – Harp Column

“Yolanda Kondonassis brings this record in all its elegance and sensitivity to the harp, in the service of an interpretation that never forgets the overall narrative flow.” – ConcertoNet.com

“Higdon was keen to showcase the harp’s naturally rich harmonic colors, and there was something prayerful about Kondonassis’ playing, particularly in the quieter moments … Sonically, the presence of Kondonassis’ harp seemed to signify magic at work, in the throes of a hectic and sobering reality, as played by the orchestra …” – CITY Newspaper

“This performance was beautiful throughout, showcasing Higdon’s colorful harmonic language. Kondonassis’ outstanding playing served the music, rather than the other way around.” – The Oklahoman

“The event of the night, a new harp concerto by composer Jennifer Higdon, was a sweet-tart, crystalline delight, glittering with extra percussion. Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis made it look easy.” – City Pulse

“At the [world premiere] performances, Kondonassis’ musicality shaped the flow of the slow first and third movements, and her unerring rhythms were the backbone of both fast movements. Precision with flexibility was her hallmark.” – American Record Guide

Ward Stare, Jennifer Higdon, and Yolanda Kondonassis