Photo credit: Mark Battrell
Click on image to enlarge.
Yolanda Kondonassis and the "American Harp"
|For her 17th CD, American Harp, released June 25, 2013 the intrepid harpist YOLANDA KONDONASSIS explores the less-traveled depths of American harp repertoire:
"Among the seven composers who embrace the harp's ethereal qualities, while often stretching the instrument's capabilities, are John Williams, Norman Dello Joio, John Cage and Elliott Carter. Kondonassis, a master of subtle and vibrant expressivity, also offers world-premiere recordings of captivating music by Hannah Lash, Lowell Liebermann and Stephen Paulus." -- THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, June 9, 2013
"For the standout American harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, the harp is an instrument of great expression of American composers...Kondonassis' prodigious talents at the harp serve to bring out the depth of this music." -- THE SACRAMENTO BEE, June 23, 2013
For Kondonassis, this album is particularly close to her heart. She explains, "I've wanted to make this recording for a long time. As a player and as a listener there is a really strong resonance for me with this music. It suits my sensibility. The pieces on this album share a certain honesty, directness and reflective quality that I think is uniquely American. The pieces are harmonically fresh and the composers unafraid of moving beyond the rarefied French/European world of the harp to forge new frontiers. I hope that this recording will give listeners a taste of what is out there for the harp and will help to give these works a life beyond their premieres. Music is such a living art form - it needs light and air to breathe."
Learn more about the album in an interview with Kondonassishere, and on her (new!) Facebook page.
In the 13/14 season, Kondonassis performs the Ginastera Concerto with JoAnn Falletta and the Phoenix Symphony, the Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and appears with her duo partner, guitarist Jason Vieaux in Los Alamos and at the Soka Performing Arts Center, among other concerts.
For a beautiful introduction to this fascinating artist, please click the image above for a video portrait, made when she was awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize.
YOLANDA KONDONASSIS and Jason Vieaux "Knock on Wood"
This week harpist YOLANDA KONDONASSIS reunites with duo partner guitarist Jason Vieaux, for a concert at the State University of New York, Buffalo. The program features the artists in solo and collaborative works, and includes the world premiere of a work written especially for them, Knock on Wood, by composer Keith Fitch.
Máximo Diego Pujol: Suite Magica
Isaac Albéniz: Sevilla for solo guitar
Alan Hovhaness: Sonata for harp & guitar, Op. 374, “Spirit of Trees”
Keith Fitch: Knock on Wood for harp & guitar - world premiere
Carlos Salzedo: Chanson Dans la Nuit for solo harp
Xavier Montsalvatge: Fantasia for harp & guitar
Kondonassis explains, "Jason, Keith and I know one another because we all teach at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and this collaboration has been in the works for some time. Both Jason and I are excited to bring a new piece to the harp/guitar repertoire and look forward to the premiere. The piece explores the unique sonorities of both instruments and functions like an animated conversation between the two."
Kondonassis, long an advocate for her instrument, actively works to expand the harp's repertoire, working with composers and presenters alike to commission and fund new works. Some of her projects in development include Morpheus for Harp and Orchestra by Lauren Keiser, a new concerto from Jennifer Higdon, and a concerto by acclaimed young composer (and harpist) Hannah Lash, A Thousand Ophelias. In 2008, she performed the world premiere of Bright Sheng's Never Far Away, co-commissioned by the San Diego Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and recorded by Kondonassis with the San Diego Symphony, on Telarc Records.
Ms. Lash's concerto builds on a long-term relationship with Yolanda Kondonassis; she studied harp performance with Kondonassis at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and last year Kondonassis and the JACK Quartet performed the world premiere of Ms. Lash's Filigree in Textile at Miller Theatre in New York City, as part of the American Composers Orchestra's SONiC FESTIVAL.
Yolanda Kondonassis' 2012/13 season also includes performances of the Ginastera Harp Concerto with the York, El Paso and Austin symphony orchestras, and a solo recital program, "Conversations from the Harp" at El Paso Pro Musica and at the Museum of Music Making in Carlsbad, California.
Collaborations, recordings & a book from YOLANDA KONDONASSIS
As anyone who has met YOLANDA KONDONASSIS
can attest, the Grammy-nominated harpist is a veritable fount of energetic creativity. Her spring season is brimming with varied events, and provides a great snapshot of her exceptional artistry.
Recent highlights include:
-- Masterclasses, outreach, and a performance of the Ginastera Harp Concerto in Brazil, with the Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais and Music Director Fabio Mechetti. (We have heard nothing but rapturous feedback from the orchestra!) See details of the performance here
-- The release of her 16th recording Solo Harp: The Best of Yolanda Kondonassis
on Azica records. Celebrating 20 years of recording, The Best of Yolanda Kondonassis
features some of her favorite works and interpretations including pieces by Bach, Gershwin, Hasselmans, Pierné, Saint-Saëns, Salzedo, and Satie.
for a video preview of the album, with a candid interview with Kondonassis.
-- On April 22 -- Earth Day -- the widespread release of Kondonassis' first children’s book, Our House is Round: A Kid’s Book About Why Protecting Our Earth Matters
, by Skyhorse Publishing. According to Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund, “it is the perfect children’s introduction to environmental issues. It’s a must for every school and family library.”
-- The first of a series of collaborations with guitarist Jason Vieaux, with an April concert in Cleveland, featuring solo and duo works by Hovhaness, Montsalvatge, Mozart, Salzedo, Gershwin and others:
"Is it possible for harp and guitar, together or alone, to have a potent impact? Kondonassis and Vieaux proved without doubt Sunday at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Tremont that penetrating artistry has little to do with volume or overt virtuosity...Kondonassis and Vieaux deserve to be termed magicians for the way they shaped phrases with natural fluidity, grace and, when required, fiery drama. Their program of duo and solo pieces, presented by Arts Renaissance Tremont, was a joy from top to bottom."
- Donald Rosenberg, THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER
, April 23, 2012
Yolanda Kondonassis and Jason Vieaux tour with new and traditional music for harp and guitar.
Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and guitarist Jason Vieaux*, two truly groundbreaking musicians of our time, join forces for a sublime concert experience of traditional and new music.
"…sheer luminescence at the harp." AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE
“…among the elite of today’s classical guitarists.” GRAMOPHONE
Maximo Diego Pujol: Suite Magica
Keith Fitch: New Work for Harp and Guitar
Granados, Albeniz et al: Spanish Miniatures for Guitar and Harp
(arranged by the artists)
Alan Hovhaness: Sonata for Harp and Guitar: “Spirit of Trees”
J.S. Bach: Guitar Solo
Carlos Salzedo: Chanson dans la nuit for Solo Harp
Xavier Montsalvatge: Fantasia
(program subject to change)
Watch video of each artist at the acclaimed NPR Tiny Desk Concert series:
Yolanda's Tiny Desk Concert (in which she plays the Salzedo Chanson dans la nuit!)
Jason's Tiny Desk Concert (which he starts off with a solo Bach prelude!) (September 2011)
YOLANDA KONDONASSIS plays an NPR Tiny Desk
"Among today's concert harpists, Yolanda Kondonassis stands head and shoulders above the rest. What distinguishes her is her phenomenal technical prowess and radiant musicality..." - THE DESERET MORNING NEWS (January 2011)
After a Dumbarton Oaks concert this season , harpist YOLANDA KONDONASSIS stopped by NPR's offices in Washington, D.C. to play a Tiny Desk concert (yes, that's producer Bob Boilen's desk she's playing behind...)
Click here for video, or click here to listen to audio-only.*audio-only may load more quickly than the video...
The Dumbarton Oaks concert was a collaboration with her colleagues from the 2009 Grammy-nominated disc, Air: flutist Joshua Smith and violist Cynthia Phelps, playing works by Toru Takemitsu, Debussy, Arnold Bax and others. Hear a performance/conversation with American Public Media's Fred Child about "Air" here.
And for a wonderful season program from Yolanda and those same exemplary collaborators, click here to hear "A Harpist's Christmas", featuring some lesser-known Christmas carols and songs, also hosted by Fred Child.
Yolanda's upcoming dates include Debussy's Danse sacrée et profane and Ginastera's Harp Concerto with the Lansing and Baton Rouge symphony orchestras. Recent orchestral dates include the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto at Bravo! Vail Valley, with Eugenia Zuckerman, Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony; the Erie Philharmonic, and Spokane and Kalamazoo symphony orchestras, among others.
AND, click here to check out more information and repertoire selections on Yolanda's newly redesigned website!
Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis at Symphony Space, Earth Day book release
YOLANDA KONDONASSIS joins guitarist David Leisner April 29 at New York City's Symphony Space for a performance of works by Alan Hovhaness and Xavier Montsalvatge. Click here for information and a listening clip of the Hovhaness work, Spirit of Trees. This spring Kondonassis also performed Hovhaness's Harp Concerto and Debussy's Danses sacrée et profane with the Kalamazoo Symphony.
Further afield, Kondonassis celebrated this month's fortieth anniversary of Earth Day with the publication of a children's book, "Our House is Round: A Kid's Book About Why Protecting the Earth Matters". Written by Kondonassis and featuring beautiful hand-painted illustrations by Daphne Knox, the book seeks to educate children on the "Why" of Earth-saving actions.
It's only one of the environmental efforts Kondonassis has made in recent years, from donating a portion of royalties of her recent Emmy-nominated album, Air,
to the Environmental Defense Fund, to creating Earth at Heart, a non-profit foundation dedicated to teaching Earth literacy through the arts. Click here
to learn more about the book and Yolanda's outreach.
2009 GRAMMY Nomination for "Best Chamber Music Performance"
Several years ago, trailblazing harpist and mother Yolanda Kondonassis found herself yearning to do something tangible to help secure a safe future for her daughter. She gathered her friends, violist Cynthia Phelps and flutist Joshua Smith and the string orchestra, Oberlin 21, led by Bridget-Michaele Reisch, and put together Air (her fourteenth album on Telarc). A portion of the album’s proceeds go to the Environmental Defense Fund. (January 2010)
Air pairs the luminous compositions of Claude Debussy and Toro Takemistu, and it is Takemitsu’s work, And Then I Knew ‘Twas Wind, that received the Grammy nomination. Inspired in part by Emily Dickinson’s “Like rain it sounded till it curved / And then I knew ‘twas wind / It walked as wet as any wave / But swept as dry as sand”, the work focuses on the subject of wind, in the natural world, and in the soul.
Click here for a wonderful American Public Media feature on the album, to hear Yolanda, Cynthia Phelps and Joshua Smith speak with Fred Child and perform selections (including And Then I Knew 'Twas Wind) live in the studio, and visit Yolanda's website, www.yolandaharp.com, to learn more.
Yolanda Kondonassis plays Bright Sheng Concerto
Harpist YOLANDA KONDONASSIS began the month with more performances of Bright Sheng’s Never Far Away, with the Grand Rapids Symphony. She premiered the work last fall with the San Diego Symphony, and has since performed it with Leonard Slatkin and the Dallas Symphony:
"The piece is in three movements and 23 minutes long, counting a couple of minutes to prepare the harp for the finale’s special effect: strips of yellow envelope paper woven through the strings to produce a banjolike twang. The strips are removed gradually as the movement progresses. The title alludes to Sheng’s enduring identification with his native Chinese culture, and it is typical of his East-meets-West musical melanges. The first two movements are based on traditional Chinese tunes. Kondonassis, who is a brilliant and expressive player, did her part with great flair." ~ SCOTT CANTRELL, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jan. 25, 2009.
The work will be recorded and released by Telarc. This spring Kondonassis also performed the Ginastera Harp Concerto with the Lexington Philharmonic and the Elgin Symphony:
"Yolanda Kondonassis was splendid, making a brittle aggressiveness as palatable as the delicacy of her soft phrase shaping." ~ THE LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, FEB.16, 2009. (April 2009)
A new Telarc recording and a world premiere harp concerto for YOLANDA KONDONASSIS
This month the renowned harpist YOLANDA KONDONASSIS joins the San Diego Symphony for the world premiere of Never Far Away, Bright Sheng's new harp concerto, written for Ms. Kondonassis. In this premiere season, she performs the work with co-commissioners San Diego, Dallas, and Grand Rapids symphony orchestras, and records the work for release by Telarc in fall 2009. Click here for a recent interview with Yolanda and Bright Sheng where they discuss the process of creating the work.
October also sees the release of her latest Telarc disc, Air, featuring works by Debussy and Takemitsu. This comparison of parallel work by the Impressionist composers also acknowledges the environmental aspects of the works – a portion of the proceeds will be directed towards the Environmental Defense Fund. Listen for the upcoming profile on APM's Performance Today, and click here to learn more about the disc. (October 2008)
YOLANDA KONDONASSIS performs recitals, chamber concerts and releases a new album
Harpist YOLANDA KONDONASSIS kicked off a busy November with a recital at the lovely Spivey Hall in Georgia. This week she heads north to judge the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal's 68th annual Standard Life Competition - a trip topped off by a chamber concert at which she'll perform Ravel's Allegro and Introduction with members of the OSM.
Next up, Ms. Kondonassis and the ROSSETTI STRING QUARTET join forces at the Philharmonic Society of Orange County for the first of several 07/08 concerts, in which they'll perform works by Handel, Mahler, Debussy and more.
This month also sees the release of Ms. Kondonassis' new album, Salzedo's Harp, featuring the music of harp virtuoso and pedagogue Carlos Salzedo.
Ms. Kondonassis discusses the album's program and development in a YouTube feature: click here to watch. (November 2007)
Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis inaugurates our Colbert Artist Interview series
giving a personal perspective on performance
In this interview, Ms. Kondonassis discusses her extensive discography on Telarc, (her latest release this summer; Breathe; the relaxing harp,) the Ginastera Harp Concerto and the role of communication in performance. This season Ms. Kondonassis publishes her third book, The Yolanda Kondonassis Holiday Collection (pub. Carl Fischer,) plays chamber music at the Peabody Conservatory and continues working on a Harp Concerto commission with renowned composer Bright Sheng for 08/09 season. (August 2006)
Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis joins the Colbert roster in 2005/06.
Hailed by the New York Times as a
harpist with "powerful playing and musicianly energy," Yolanda Kondonassis is
recognized as one of the world's foremost harpists. As an exclusive Telarc
recording artist, her ten critically acclaimed recordings have sold over
100,000 copies worldwide. This season, Ms. Kondonassis appears with the
Memphis Symphony and in recital throught the U.S., including engagaments at
the Maine Center for the Arts, the International Harp Recital Series in Salt
Lake City, the Western Reserve Concert Series, Oberlin College, The Cleveland
Institute of Music, and at the Richmond and Staunton, VA Music Festivals.
Recent engagements have included appearances with the Buffalo Philharmonic and
the Phoenix Symphony, after which the Arizona Republic declared her harpistic
talents to be on a comparable level with star baseball pitcher Randy Johnson -
Yolanda is truly a harpist even a jock can appreciate!
Yolanda's other current and upcoming
activities include a Harp Concerto commissioning project with composer Bright
Sheng, writing best-selling books and music publications for Carl Fischer, and
holding head teaching positions at The Cleveland Institute of Music and
Oberlin Conservatory. (October 2005)