Discography

Songs of Smaller Creatures and Other American Choral Works

Grant Park Chorus
Christopher Bell, Conductor

Featured Works

Betinis: Toward Sunshine, Toward Freedom: Songs of Smaller Creatures*
Kesselman: Buzzings: Three Pieces about Bees*
Whitacre: When David Heard
Garrop: Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy*
Tredici: Acrostic Song from Final Alice
Rorem: Seven Motets for the Church’s Year
Crabtree: Five Romantic Miniatures*
Whitace: Sleep

*World Premiere Recording

Summary

Conducted by Christopher Bell, Chicago's Grant Park Chorus is "as fine a symphony chorus as any to be found anywhere in the nation" (Chicago Tribune). Celebrating its 50th season, the chorus makes its a cappella recording debut with an all-American program of eight imaginative, moving, and sometimes whimsical works written between 1975 and 2005, including four world premieres.

Reviews

“Not many ensembles can be said to be as imaginative as the Grant Park Chorus - at least on the evidence this new recording, whose references encompass pork chops and insects.... The Grant Park choristers, led by Christopher Bell, sing everything with cohesive precision and a spectrum of vocal colours.”
— Gramophone

“…under the guidance of chorus director Christopher Bell, Smaller Creatures gives listeners the opportunity to hear the group in full exposure without the accompaniment of an orchestra. From large-scale chorus to solitary soloist, Smaller Creatures is further proof of the GPC's ability to pack a serious vocal punch.”
— Time Out Chicago

The Pulitzer Project

Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus
Carlos Kalmar, Conductor
Christopher Bell, Chorus Director

Featured Works

Schuman: A Free Song*
Copland: Appalachian Spring
Sowerby: The Canticle of the Sun*
*World Premiere Recording

Summary

The Pulitzer Prize in Music, established in 1943, is perhaps the most coveted award in American concert life. Chicago's Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus and principal conductor Carlos Kalmar present three Pulitzer Prize-winning works from the competition's earliest years: William Schuman's Secular Cantata No. 2, "A Free Song"; Aaron Copland's Suite from Appalachian Spring; and Leo Sowerby's The Canticle of the Sun for chorus and orchestra. These are the world-premiere recordings of the Schuman and Sowerby cantatas.

William Schuman's A Free Song, winner in 1943 of the first Pulitzer Prize in Music, uses excerpts from Walt Whitman's Drum Taps, a poetic record of his humanitarian visits to Washington, D.C.'s Civil War hospitals. Schuman set Whitman's vigorous, expansive verse to a fierce and concentrated musical style. In its review of the Grant Park Orchestra's 2010 concert performance, the Chicago Tribune observed, "Kalmar's account was, by turns, poignant and electric."

One of the most recognizable and beloved American orchestral works, Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring began life as a ballet score for the Martha Graham Dance Company. A favorite of many listeners is its five variations on the Shaker theme "Simple Gifts." The original ballet score, for chamber orchestra, won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize. Copland later arranged an orchestral suite, its most familiar incarnation and the one heard on this CD.

Based on St. Francis of Assisi's 13th-century hymn praising God and his creations, Sowerby's The Canticle of the Sun won the 1946 Pulitzer. Sowerby was attracted to the text because of its opportunities for musical color. The program annotator for the Canticle's 1945 world premiere at Carnegie Hall wrote, "He has made of it a panorama of all the elements of heaven and earth . . . it unfolds in a series of tonal pictures, each motivated by the phase it describes."

Symphony in Waves: Music of Aaron Jay Kernis

Grant Park Orchestra
Carlos Kalmar, conductor

Featured Works

Kernis: Newly Drawn Sky*
Kernis: Too Hot Toccata*
Kernis: Symphony in Waves

*World Premiere Recording

Summary

This recording from Carlos Kalmar and the acclaimed Grant Park Orchestra includes the first full-scale orchestral recording of Kernis's Symphony in Waves (1989). The CD also includes world-premiere recordings of Kernis' soaring soundscape, Newly Drawn Sky (2005), and the hyper-energetic virtuoso orchestral showpiece Too Hot Toccata (1996).

Royal Mezzo

Jennifer Larmore, Mezzo-Soprano
Grant Park Orchestra
Carlos Kalmar, Conductor

Featured Works

Barber: Andromache's Farwell
Berlioz: La mort de Cloptre
Ravel: shhrazade
Britten: Phaedra

Summary

World-renowned mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore sings four royal roles in a tour de force program of dramatic orchestral works.  Surging with epic emotions, Royal Mezzo showcases Ms. Larmore in symphonic portraits of commanding characters from legend, literature, and mythology.

Samuel Barber’s haunting Andromache’s Farewell depicts the anguish of a Trojan queen forced to give up her son after the Greeks conquered her city. The bold harmonies and orchestral colors of Hector Berlioz’s La mort de Cloptre (The Death of Cleopatra) shocked the French musical establishment. Maurice Ravel’s dreamy and sensuous song cycle Shhrazade was inspired by the storytelling queen of The Arabian Nights. And Benjamin Britten’s graphic Phaedra recounts a mythic tale of lust and guilt in ancient Athens.

“Jennifer Larmore delivers it all with her trademark dramatic intensity and “faultless technique” (BBC Music), matched by the “exuberance, commitment and edge” (The New York Times) of the Grant Park Orchestra under Carlos Kalmar.

American Orchestral Works

Grant Park Orchestra
Carlos Kalmar, Conductor

Featured Works

Kolb: All in Good Time*
Kernis: Sarabanda in Memoriam*
Hersch: Ashes of Memory*
Corigliano: Midsummer Fanfare*
Harbison: Partita for Orchestra*

*World Premiere Recording

Reviews

“[Carlos] Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra perform... with exuberance, commitment and edge.”
The New York Times

“Conductor Carlos Kalmar and the orchestra give five premiere recordings of Americans’ works on this disc. The brightest light among them is John Corigliano’s Midsummer Fanfare, a GPMF commission for the opening of the Pritzker Pavillion. From the scratchy and wayward beginning to the thrilling theme’s brassy perorations, it shows just what the orchestra can do. Such heroic (and loud) unison passages from the trumpets, horns and trombones bear witness to the orchestra’s strength and Kalmar’s work ethic.”
Time Out Chicago

“For the last couple of years Cedille Records producer James Ginsburg has been devising worthwhile American projects for Kalmar and his ensemble, and this new CD is their latest, holding first recordings of six recent American symphonic scores. It is a winner.”
Chicago Tribune

Portraits

Jennifer Koh, Violin
Grant Park Orchestra
Carlos Kalmar, Conductor

Featured Works

Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1
Martinu: Violin Concerto No. 2
Bark: Two Portraits

Reviews

“…the complete program is as coherent and well thought-out as the performances are outstanding.”
— ClassicsToday.com

“Cast in a long single movement, Koh's iridescent shading of hues and dynamics brings a sweet plangent tone to Szymanowski's rhapsodic lyricism and mercurial caprice, with Kalmar drawing ripe, rich–textured playing from the excellent Grant Park Orchestra.”
South Florida Sun–Sentinel

Robert Kurka: Symphonic Works

Grant Park Orchestra
Carlos Kalmar, Conductor

Featured Works

Kurka: Julius Caesar, Symphonic Epilogue after Shakespeare*
Kurka: Symphony No. 2
Kurka: Music for Orchestra*
Kurka: Serenade for Small Orchestra

*World Premiere Recording

Nominated for a 2004 GRAMMY Award and winner of a 2004 Classical Internet Award


Reviews

“I have no hesitation in acclaiming this disc as one of the most important and rewarding releases of 2004.”
— ClassicsToday.com

“Listeners given to wondering why nobody is writing American music like American composers used to write will welcome this enjoyable collection of orchestral music by the lamented Robert Kurka.”
Chicago Tribune

American Works for Organ and Orchestra

David Schrader, Organ
Grant Park Orchestra
Carlos Kalmar, Conductor

Featured Works

Barber: Toccata Festiva for Organ and Orchestra
Piston: Prelude and Allegro for Organ and Strings
Sowerby: Concertpiece for Organ and Orchestra
Colgrass: Snow Walker for Organ and Orchestra

About

American Works for Organ and Orchestra offers a sonic extravaganza of neglected masterpieces by noted American composers. Here are four works that showcase the spectacular sonority of full organ combined with large symphonic ensemble.

Making its recording debut is the magnificent Casavant Frres organ in Chicago's Orchestra Hall, with acclaimed organist David Schrader at the keyboards. Chicago's esteemed Grant Park Orchestra, now in its seventh decade, makes its own commercial recording debut, with principal conductor Carlos Kalmar at the helm.

Independence Eve At Grant Park

Independence Eve at Grant Park, Cedille Records

Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus
David Loebel, Conductor
Elizabeth Norman, Soprano

Summary

A festive patriotic recording featuring music of Copland, Gershwin, Schuman, Sousa, Tchaikovsky, and more.