Adele Anthony Plays Sibelius and Ross Edwards Violin Concertos on Her First Solo Recording for Canary Classics

09.26.11
Adele Anthony
21C Media Group

From 21C Media Group

On Adele Anthony’s last concerto album – a recording of Philip Glass’s violin concerto on the Naxos label – she “prove[d] herself the ideal soloist,” scoring the 15th spot in Classic FM’s “Best Albums of 2000–09” feature; the New York Times describes the results as “a vibrant, throbbing performance” on which “Anthony’s sweet-toned, romantic playing soars.” Now, on her first solo recording for Canary Classics, Anthony (winner of the 1996 Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition) pairs two more violin concertos: Sibelius’s turn-of-the-20th-century classic and Maninyas, the “contemporary masterpiece” (Financial Times) by leading Australian composer Ross Edwards. She is accompanied by Australia’s Adelaide Symphony and its Music Director and Chief Conductor, noted Sibelius interpreter Arvo Volmer.
 
The new album, which has its U.S. release this month, is already available in Europe and Australia, where it has found notable champions. The Finnish press – notoriously exacting when it comes to Sibelius – nonetheless sat up and took note, observing:
 
“[Maninyas] proves an ideal foil for the Sibelius: it is bright, rhythmically buoyant, basically optimistic in outlook, setting off the dark and introspective violence of the Sibelius – which gets a cracking performance here, both from [Adele Anthony] and the orchestra, with a freshness and a directness that makes you forget that you’ve listened to it countless times before.”
Finnish Music Quarterly (Sept 2011)
 
As for the Edwards concerto, Anthony’s interpretation comes endorsed by the composer himself, who “is extremely happy with the performance…and recommends it most highly,” and a recent concert review posits Edwards as “arguably the most original, most recognizable of all Australian composers” and Anthony as his “eloquent, deeply committed soloist” (Advertiser, Australia).
 
The recording owes its success in part to Anthony’s long and intimate association with the two works. The Australian-American violinist was just 13 when she performed Sibelius’s concerto to become the youngest winner in the history of Australia’s prestigious ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Instrumental and Vocal Competition. After a more recent account of the work, with the Nova Scotia Symphony in May 2011, the Chronicle Herald observed that her rhythm was “as sharp as a skyscraper,” while “her consistently full, even, warm tone [was] impeccably tuned and maintained across every register, every range, and every dynamic level.”
 
As Anthony explains, Edwards’s Maninyas (1988), is both closely identified with her native country, and a work she has come to know over a long period:
 
“Even though the two concertos come from opposite ends of the world, they’re both tied to my roots in Adelaide. I played the Sibelius with the Adelaide Symphony when I won the national competition there so long ago! It’s great to perform it there again with a fresh new perspective. And with the Edwards, there’s the Australian connection, and it’s also a piece that’s particularly dear to me, as I learned it many years ago. I was fortunate to record it with the Adelaide Symphony, my hometown orchestra, so it definitely connects to my hometown and country. And I love it regardless of being Australian. It’s a piece I was always attracted to, and I hope people hearing it for the first time will be able to appreciate it as much as I do!”
 
As Maninyas reveals, Ross Edwards (b. 1943) – whose oboe concerto, Bird Spirit Dreaming, was recently performed by the New York Philharmonic – has created a unique sound world, chiefly by developing two distinct musical styles in response to his natural environment. The first, featuring isolated sounds that evoke traditional Asian music in their intensity, has come to be known as his “sacred” style, as employed in the concerto’s central movement, which comprises a cadenza and a slow, serenely elegiac chorale. By contrast, the second – his “maninya” (chant song) style – is characterized by the abstraction of insect and bird sounds, lively tempi and rhythms, angular pentatonic melodies, and simple drone-like harmonies, as found in the concerto’s outer movements.
 
The Sibelius and Edwards concertos make for an inspired coupling on the disc. As Anthony remarks, “Both pieces are nationalistic – the Sibelius sounds uniquely Finnish and the Edwards sounds uniquely Australian. Each composer has a distinctive sound that portrays his native country.”
 
Since her triumph at Denmark’s 1996 Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition Adele Anthony has enjoyed an acclaimed and expanding international career with a schedule that includes both solo appearances and chamber music performances around the world. She has played concertos with the orchestras in Houston, San Diego, Seattle, and Indianapolis; with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the NDR Orchestra Hannover, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; and with all six symphony orchestras in her native Australia. Her recent recitals included the complete works of Bach for solo violin. She also performs regularly in duo recital with her husband, the eminent American-Israeli violinist Gil Shaham. In 2008 they collaborated in concerts in the United States and Spain marking the centenary of the death of Spanish violinist and composer Pablo de Sarasate. The concert in New York’s Lincoln Center was broadcast nationally on PBS. Most recently she joined Shaham and other friends and colleagues for a series of Brahms chamber concerts at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.
 
Anthony’s discography includes two releases with the International Sejong Soloists: Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Naxos, 2006), and Sejong plays Ewazen (Albany Records, 2003). Her recording of the Philip Glass Violin Concerto with Takuo Yuasa and the Ulster Orchestra, also on Naxos, came out in 2000, following an earlier all-Schubert album from the same label. She has also recorded Arvo Pärt’s Tabula rasa with Gil Shaham, Neeme Järvi, and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon, 1999), the Nielsen Violin Concerto with Dorrit Matson and the New York Scandia Symphony (Centaur, 2000), and a Sarasate recording with Gil Shaham (Canary Classics, 2009).
 
The new disc marks an exciting departure for Canary Classics, which was founded in 2004 by Adele Anthony’s husband, Gil Shaham. To date, Shaham himself has performed on all titles in the catalogue, and although these number among them many collaborative projects –including an album of Sarasate’s virtuoso violin works with Anthony – her new release will be the first solo project on the label from an artist other than Shaham. “We’ve been so lucky with Canary,” he explains. “When we started, it was a bit of a gamble, but I felt I was young enough to take the risk, and just established enough to feel good about doing it. And now, nine titles later, I’m thrilled that Canary can expand – we’re still a small family business, but we’re growing!”
 
Adele Anthony
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Arvo Volmer, conductor
 
Ross Edwards: Maninyas, Violin Concerto
Sibelius: Violin Concerto
 
Catalogue no. CC09
U.S. release: September 2011