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Iowa 2020 Classical Releases Explore Bach, Django, Guthrie, Eclipses, Poets Of The Piano And More

Cellist Isaac Pastor-Chermak Played Bach with Red Cedar Chamber Music's Miera Kim And Carey Bostian
Red Cedar Chamber Music
Cellist Isaac Pastor Chermak Played Bach With Red Cedar Chamber Music's Miera Kim and Carey Bostian

As IPR’s Tony Dehner wrote in March, an excellent way to support Iowa musicians is to buy their albums. Below are the albums released by Iowa musicians in 2020 that reached my physical or virtual desktop.

Full Albums

Nathan Carterette - “Poets of the Piano: Acts of Faith”
(self-published)

The Iowa City pianist, who has performed live in IPR’s studio and on our Steinway Cafe, plays Bach, Scriabin, Philip Glass and Judith Shatin’s remarkable “Chai Variations." What the works have in common, Carterette says, is a "search for transcendent spiritual experience." You can buy the album, the first in a projected "Poets" series, directly from the pianist at his website.

Michael Daugherty: “This Land Sings: Inspired By The Life And Times of Woody Guthrie”
(Naxos 8.559889)

Over the decades, this inventive multiple-Grammy winner from Cedar Rapids has savored many American flavors, from Elvis to Hemingway. But his 2020 release explores radically new territory, that of the Okie folk bard and activist Woody Guthrie. To suit it, Daugherty created a sound quite different from that of his previous work. The performers get its "avant-folk" style just right.

David Gompper - Double Bass Concerto, Cello Concerto & "Moonburst"
(Naxos 8.8559855)

The University of Iowa composer wrote one of these concertos for a fellow UI faculty member, double-bass virtuoso Volkan Orhan. The composer writes that the work "explores the light effects of a solar eclipse" and that the soloist should "suggest shadows, auras and glimpses of sound." Orhan does that and more with his massive instrument in this stellar recording with the Royal Philharmonic. Also on the album is Gompper's nocturnal “Moonburst,” and his Cello Concerto, whose contrasts are richly conveyed by soloist Timothy Gill, the Royal Philharmonic's principal.

Red Cedar Chamber Music – “Backlash Bach”
(self-published)

This community-oriented Iowa ensemble transcribed the Bach sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord to three modern string instruments - a violin, played by Miera Kim, and two cellos, played by Carey Bostian and guest artist Isaac Pastor-Chermak. The result, says the San Francisco Classical Voice, "takes Bach's black and white masterpiece and explodes it into orchestrated technicolor." You can purchase it here.

Zach Stanton – “Echoes of Veiled Light: 21st Century Chamber Music”
(MSR 1680)
The University of Iowa composer’s Trio for Horn, Viola and Harp won first prize in an International Horn Society competition. This CD includes its first recording. You should definitely hear it! Then stay for the other chamber works for diverse sounds - percussion, trumpet, and a duet for clarinet and double-bass.

University of Northern Iowa Varsity Men's Glee Club - "Christmas Variety Show: Live Album"

To avoid hosting a super spreader event, the UNI Men's Glee Club released this album of live recordings, which you can pre-order directly from them at http://www.unigleeclub.com/gleeclubmerch/preordercvs. The price is $12, and proceeds will be donated the the Northeast Iowa Foodbank.

Wartburg College Choir, Castle Singers, Ritterchor, and more "Christmas With Wartburg 2020: Hope Awakens, Love’s New Dawn"
The nationally renowned group from Waverly recorded its 2020 album using American Choral Director Association guidelines for masking and social distancing. You can also view it online for free: https://www.wartburg.edu/2020-cww

Streaming Events

Christmas at Luther 2020 - "For Everyone Born"
Presented online this year and watchable at their website. https://www.luther.edu/christmas-at-luther/

Elaine Hagenberg - “Songs From Silence”

The Des Moines composer shared this music online as “a complimentary gift to the choral community,” along with a performance by the Wartburg Choir led by Lee Nelson. She says the two songs are “designed to be flexible and adaptable for a variety of choral ensembles. As you sing, feel free to experiment with different voice combinations, repeat sections, add new dynamics, or even create your own descant.”

Zingaresca Ensemble - “Django in Russia”

Iowa City’s Oleg Timofeyev is renowned as a master of the lute and Russian guitar, but this new project lets us hear his singing. It was recorded in pre-lockdown sessions with the amazing Russian Roma singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Vadim Kolpakov and other artists. Here is a sample from the forthcoming album, released on YouTube.