Naxos of America begins distribution of MN Records

On May 27, 2008, Naxos will begin distribution of MN records, a label founded by the iconic British composer, videographer, and photographer Michael Nyman. The first two releases will consist of Mr. Nyman’s most recent recordings-Mozart 252, an album designed to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and Love Counts, a chamber opera.

Founded in 2005, the label’s first release was The Piano Sings, which was the composer’s debut solo piano album. A recording of the acclaimed opera Man and Boy: Dada and the soundtrack of director Laurence Dunmore’s The Libertine followed.

Michael Nyman’s music has reached its largest audiences through his film scores, most notably for Peter Greenaway, with whom he collaborated on 11 movies between 1976 and 1991 (including The Draughtsman’s Contract and Drowning by Numbers). Nyman’s score for Jane Campion’s 1993 film The Piano is one of the most successful film soundtracks of all time. The film itself won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993and went on to win several Oscars at the 1994 Academy Awards. Holly Hunter played Ada, an elective mute who chose to communicate via her playing. Having music feature so prominently in a film was unusual; using it to convey the dialogue of the main character was extraordinary. The soundtrack of the film went on to become a multi-million seller. Perhaps surprising for music with such strong ties to its original source, many of the pieces from The Piano were subsequently used in a variety of other settings in film, television, and advertising, making it some of the most performed/frequently heard orchestral music of the last 20years. Other directors with whom Nyman has worked include Volker Schlöndorff (The Ogre), Neil Jordan (The End of the Affair) and Michael Winterbottom (Wonderland, The Claim, 9 Songs, and A Cock and Bull Story).

Composed by Michael Nyman
Hilary Summers; Andrew Slater;
The Michael Nyman Band

Mozart 252 brings together Michael Nyman’s Mozart-based scores for the first time, all newly recorded for this 11-track album. The music of Mozart has been essential to Nyman; it helped set the Michael Nyman Band on its unique course when it formed as the Campiello Band in 1977. The album features two main bodies of Mozart-derived works: the first is the soundtrack for Peter Greenaway’s Drowning by Numbers, and the second draws from Nyman’s score for Letters, Riddles and Writs (1991), the BBC2 homage to Mozart. This album was designed to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart in 2006, but it seemed more appropriate to miss the boat by two years, hence the 252.

Nyman has written about this work: “The first Nyman/Mozart collaboration, In Re Don Giovanni, effectively samples and remixes the first 16 bars of the famous ‘Catalog Song’ from Don Giovanni, and Revising the Don (a Radio 3 commission for the 250th anniversary) is a lyrical and literal revisiting of In Re.

“The Drowning by Numbers score is derived, in accordance with Greenaway’s strict instructions, entirely from the slow movement of the Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola: Trysting Fields simply ‘lists’, in order of occurrence and each repeated three times, all the ‘unprepared’ dissonances, (appoggiaturas) from the Mozart piece, and at the end introduces the 8-chord E flat/C minor/A flat/B flat/C min/E flat/A flat/B flat ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ sequence which ends the exposition of the movement, and which, along with a kind of retrograde version, is heard throughout Sheep ‘n’ Tides, Wheelbarrow Walk, Fish Beach and Not Knowing the Ropes (so called because on the ‘Drowning’ soundtrack album it is erroneously called Knowing the Ropes!).”

“Wedding Tango is built out of a chord-by-chord alternation of both the minor key version (from the very end of the movement) and more familiar major key versions of the 8-chord sequence. Knowing the Ropes, like Trysting Fields is a musical list (though with more conscious structural organization) – this time of a wiggly semiquaver motif, which is threaded through the movement and ends with a grand statement of the theme that is accompanied by the 8-chord sequence in the Mozart original.”

“Letters, Riddles and Writs deals in general, through texts taken from Mozart’s letters and riddles (the writs have to do with my frequent theft of Mozart’s music) with his relationship with his father (O my dear Papa, a remake of ‘O Isis und Osiris’ from The Magic Flute), with his own mortality (I am an Unusual Thing, which uses the texts from one of the riddles that Mozart wrote and distributed in Vienna during the 1787 Carnival and is based entirely on extract from two of his Haydn quartets) and with his business acumen (Profit and Loss, modeled on In Re Don Giovanni). ”

LOVE COUNTS – premiere recording

A Chamber Opera
Composed by Michael Nyman
Libretto by Michael Hastings
Andrew Slater, bass
Helen Williams, soprano
Michael Nyman Band
Conductor, Paul McGrath

Love Counts is the tenth release on MN Records, and the second opera recording for the label. Commissioned by the Badisches Staatstheater, Karlesruhe, Germany, Love Counts received its premiere there on March 12, 2005, directed by Robert Tannenbaum. This recording is taken from the July 2006 Almeida Theatre (London) production, where it was performed by the Michael Nyman Band with bass-baritone Andrew Slater and soprano Helen Williams. The libretto for Love Counts was written by the award-winning Michael Hastings, who also collaborated with Nyman on Man and Boy: Dada.

Love Counts is a love story between the unlikeliest of couples: Avril, a lecturer in mathematics at a major college who has divorced a man who physically abused her, and Patsy, a middle-weight fighter at the end of his career who cannot read or recognize numbers. Michael Nyman uses Riemenschneider’s collection of 371 Bach chorale harmonizations to help Patsy find his voice: they are harmonically fragmented, sped up, slowed down, and overlaid with themselves. Just as Dr P., the Alzheimer’s-suffering protagonist of Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, has ‘his’ Schumann, so, in Love Counts, Patsy, a parallel sufferer, has ‘his’ Bach.