Naxos announces a new partnership to distribute North/South Recordings, an innovative, nonprofit classical concert and recording organization based in New York City. The partnership launches with two new releases from the label, largely dedicated to supporting and promoting works by living composers: Moods: Piano Music by American Women Composers, featuring North/South founder Max Lifchitz at the piano, and Harold Schiffman: Orchestral Works, featuring The Győr Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Mátyás Antal, and guitarist Katalin Koltai. Founded by pianist and conductor Max Lifchitz, North/South Recordings is dedicated to new music, particularly derived from the concert activities of its parent organization, North/South Consonance, Inc., which supports the performance of works by living composers. Founded in 1980, North/South Consonance has sponsored annual concerts both in New York City and abroad, premiering over 850 works by composers from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. The recording division, inaugurated in 1992, brings the music of composers and performers championed by North/South to the attention of listeners worldwide.
The first new release, Moods,features five piano works by four diverse American women composers performed by Max Lifchitz. The recording takes its title from Marilyn J. Ziffrin’s piano suite of the same name, composed in 2005, and also includes her Sonata for Piano (2006). Also featured is Arecibo Sonata by Elizabeth Bell, deemed “one of our country’s leading composers” by American Record Guide. Ms. Bell composed the sonata in 1968 and revised it in 2005; Mr. Lifchitz premiered it in 2006 and performs it here in honor of Ms. Bell on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Next, Mr. Lifchitz performs Rami Levin’s short work, Passages (2002), on which the composer remarks: “The music describes the joy of bringing a new life into being, and the mixed emotions of a parent watching an offspring gain independence and go off into the world.” The release concludes with four short melodic works by Rain Worthington: Hourglass, Tangents, Dark Dreams, and Always Almost (1991-2001).
Regarding the highly varied repertoire on this disc, Mr. Lifchitz comments, “The featured works approach the keyboard in diverse ways. Ziffrin combines stylish rhythms and harmonies with easy-to-understand formal structures. Bell’s striking harmonic choices and undulating melodic lines create arresting tension and drama. Levin’s work is an impressive tour-de–force for both performer and listener. Worthington’s musical language—simple and direct—rewards the listener with a seemingly endless chain of surprising melodic discoveries.”
The second release from North/South Recordings features a collection of orchestral works by composer Harold Schiffman (b 1928). In addition to performances in the United States, ensembles have presented Mr. Schiffman’s music in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Mr. Schiffman studied composition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of California at Berkeley, and Florida State University. His principal composition teacher was Roger Sessions, and he later found an influential mentor in Ernst von Dohnányi. Appointed to the faculty of Florida State University College of Music in 1959, Mr. Schiffman served in this capacity until 1983 and was designated Professor Emeritus two years later. He also was founding director of Florida State University’s Festival of New Music in 1981.
This release features two of Mr. Schiffman’s most recent compositions: Symphony No. 2: “Music for Győr” (2008), inspired by the composer’s decade-long love affair with the Hungarian city and its orchestra, and Blood Mountain Suite (2008), the transcription of an earlier song cycle for soprano and piano or orchestra. The disc also includes three earlier orchestral works: Ninerella Variata (Varied Lullaby) (1956); Variations on Branchwater for Guitar and Orchestra (1987), whose namesake is a Schiffman tune inspired by the Southern custom of drinking Bourbon whiskey with water; and Overture to a Comedy (1983), from a planned comic opera project that the composer never completed. Variations on Branchwater features Hungarian guitarist Katalin Koltai. The recording includes comprehensive program notes by the composer himself.
Pianist, composer, conductor, and North/South founder Max Lifchitz was awarded first prize in the 1976 International Gaudeamus Competition for Performers of Twentieth Century Music, held in Holland. The San Francisco Chronicle described him as “a young composer of brilliant imagination and a stunning, ultra-sensitive pianist.” A graduate of The Juilliard School and Harvard University, Mr. Lifchitz has appeared in concerts and recitals throughout the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. In 1994, New York Women Composers, Inc. bestowed upon him its Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his activities on behalf of concert music written by women.