NPR's Classical Music Editor Previews 2 Albums You'll Want To Hear | CRB

NPR's Classical Music Editor Previews 2 Albums You'll Want To Hear

Jan 13, 2021
Originally published on February 9, 2021 10:45 am

In 2021, I'm looking forward to, fingers crossed, live music. I really miss the roar of a symphony orchestra in concert or a soaring soprano on the opera stage. But artists are still making albums, even in lockdown, like British composer Max Richter. His upcoming album is a follow-up to last year's Voices. This new one is Voices, Part 2 which will be released in April.

Richter is good at erasing the lines between classical and ambient music on this album. It's not complicated music, and that's okay. It offers the potency of direct communication, right to the heart, right to our emotions — you can just feel your blood pressure drop listening to it, which comes in handy these days.

There are some very richly textured pieces on the album, such as the song "Follower," where Richter stages translucent scrims of wordless voices above the drone of a very low-pitched keyboard.

Another record I'm looking forward to spending time with is a recital album by the up and coming, velvety-voiced baritone Will Liverman. It's called Dreams of a New Dayreleased Feb 12 — and it's devoted to songs of Black composers. It's a very smartly programmed recital that includes songs of Black pioneers like Harry T. Burleigh, the man who originated a space for Black art songs beginning at the turn of the 20th century, and wonderful songs by Margaret Bonds, one of a number of undervalued black female composers from mid-century.

What I love about Liverman's voice is his dynamic control. He has a gorgeous half-voice, or mezza-voce as the opera nerds would say, and even falsetto, used to astonishing effect in the song, "The Rain." It's part of a two-song composition called Black Churches. The text is about the horrific shooting in Charleston, S.C. in 2015. And, in contrast to the older trailblazers this is contemporary music, composed by Shawn Okpebholo with a text by Charleston's former poet laureate, Marcus Amaker. The way Liverman delivers the words "Emanuel AME Church" is breathtaking.

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TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

With the new year comes new music to look forward to, and we can always count on our friends at NPR Music for guidance.

TOM HUIZENGA, BYLINE: I'm Tom Huizenga, NPR's classical music editor. And in 2021, I'm looking forward to - fingers crossed - live music. I really missed, like, the roar of a symphony orchestra in concert or the soaring soprano up on the opera stage. But artists are still making albums even in lockdown, like British composer Max Richter. His upcoming album is a follow-up to last year's "Voices." The new one is called "Voices, Part 2," released in April.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER'S "FOLLOWER")

HUIZENGA: Richter's really good at erasing the lines between classical and ambient music on this album. It's not complicated music, and that's OK. It offers, I think, the potency of direct communication right to our emotions. I think you can just feel your blood pressure drop listening to it, which comes in handy these days. And I'm especially drawn to the song called "Follower," where Richter stages these kind of translucent scrims of wordless voices above the drone of a very low-pitched keyboard.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER'S "FOLLOWER")

HUIZENGA: Another record I'm really looking forward to - it's a debut recital album by the up-and-coming velvety-voiced baritone Will Liverman.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DREAM VARIATION")

WILL LIVERMAN: (Singing) While light comes in gently, dark like me, that is my dream.

HUIZENGA: It's called "Dreams Of A New Day," released February 12, and it's devoted to songs of Black composers. I think it's a very smartly programmed recital that includes songs of pioneers like Harry T. Burleigh, the man who really originated a space for Black art songs beginning at the turn of the 20th century, and some wonderful songs by Margaret Bonds, one of a number of undervalued Black female composers from the mid-century.

What I love about Liverman's voice is his dynamic control. He has this gorgeous half-voice, or mezza-voce, as the opera nerds would say, and even a falsetto, as we'll hear in this amazing song, part of a two-song composition called "Black Churches." And the text here is about the horrific shooting in Charleston, S.C. in 2015. This is contemporary music, composed by Shawn Okpebholo, with a text by Charleston's former poet laureate Marcus Amaker. And just listen to how Liverman delivers the words Emanuel AME Church.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE RAIN")

LIVERMAN: (Singing) Emanuel AME Church...

HUIZENGA: I think it's an engaging album for our time, tracing an important heritage in music.

MOSLEY: That was Tom Huizenga of NPR Music, talking about two of the albums he's most looking forward to in 2021, Will Liverman's "Dreams Of A New Day" and Max Richter's "Voices, Part 2." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.