America Again

America Again

9.99 13.99

Artist: Lara Downes

Composers: Various

Format: 1 CD

DSL-92207

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The American dream is, perhaps by definition, an impossible one. But where would we be without it? This beautiful, impossible dream, of liberty and justice, of a better life in a better place, inspires us, time and again, to achieve the impossible—to journey into the vast unknown, to cross oceans, deserts, and mountains on a wing and a prayer. The Dream brought us here in the first place. The Dream carried the pioneers across miles of wilderness, and called multitudes over oceans and through the gates of Ellis Island. The Dream moved millions of black Americans to migrate north in search of “the warmth of other suns”. The Dream inspired Dr. King to speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and rouse a generation to change. The Dream comes down to us from our parents, and we pass it along to our children. We hold onto the dream; still and again and despite everything, that America will be America again.

Langston Hughes wrote his poem in 1938. It was a different time, and America was a different place. The country was overwhelmed by the decade of depression that had crushed so many American dreams, and threatened by the gathering clouds of the war in Europe. It was a time when circumstances of birth and color of skin posed still-unchallenged restrictions to the liberty and justice that are at the heart of the American promise; divisions between races and religions ran straight down the middle of American life. Martin Luther King was a 10-year-old boy in 1938. His dream, and the dramatic changes it would bring to American history, was still to come.

America was a country divided, troubled, struggling and searching. But still, the dreamers dreamed their dream.

Today, as I write these words, we are living again in troubled times. For too many Americans, circumstance and skin color still keep the promise out of reach, the dream deferred. The hard-won rights and long-sought justice for which our parents and grandparents fought are too easily slipping away. The rifts and rivalries that divide us as a nation seem to run deeper than ever. But still, we dreamers keep dreaming our dream.

This music is a tribute to the generations of Americans who dream the impossible: black and white, men and women, immigrants and pioneers. It tells the story of their journeys, their loves and longings, their hardships and their hopes. American music is made of everything we are, coming from so many different people and places, expressing so many different dreams.

I hope this music carries you wherever you chase your dreams—across the sea, over the river, down lonesome roads, even over the rainbow. You can hear in this very American music, born of very American dreams, a promise: that if we keep dreaming, maybe, someday, even our wildest dream will come true.

laradownes.com


Track List

Morton Gould
1. American Caprice 5:03

Lou Harrison
New York Waltzes
2. I. Waltz in C 0:46
3. II. Hesitation Waltz 1:08
4. III. Waltz in A 1:19

Traditional
5. Shenandoah 3:57

Amy Beach
6. From Blackbird Hills 3:50

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
7. Deep River 5:16

Dan Visconti
8. Nocturne from Lonesome Roads 1:51

Ernest Bloch
9. At Sea 4:19

George Gershwin
10. I Loves You, Porgy 4:19

Angélica Negrón
11. Sueno Recurrente 2:46

Leonard Bernstein
12. Anniversary for Stephen Sondheim 1:22

David Sanford
13. Promise 2:40

Howard Hanson
14. Slumber Song 2:34

Scott Joplin
15. Gladiolis Rag 3:43

Irving Berlin
16. Blue Skies 3:23

Florence Price
17. Fantasie Negre 7:09

Aaron Copland
18. Sentimental Melody 1:35

Duke Ellington
19. Melancholia 3:01

Roy Harris
20. Li’l Boy Named David 3:16

Harold Arlen
21. Over the Rainbow 3:02


Total time: 66:31
Release date: October 28, 2016
UPC: 053479220721


Quotes & Reviews

Downes' keen music choices and her thoughtful performances evoke a brilliantly curated art exhibit.

On display here—with all its regret, hope and pride—is America.

Tom Huizenga, NPR First Listen

a graceful and deeply felt effort…

Allan Cronin, New Music Buff

In performances of consummate artistry, Downes gives us concise but feeling interpretations of songs and short pieces by many of America’s greatest composers. The sources come from the mingled worlds of popular music, jazz, and what we call “modern classical” music but is better thought of as artistically sophisticated concert music that can also, as in these instances, have popular appeal…

It’s fitting that this hope-tinged album, coming out in a political season rocked by nativist outcry, nods towards these African-American women who achieved great artistic heights in spite of daunting barriers.

Jon Sobel, Blogcritics Magazine

To these ears, Downes is the consummate musician, a pianist who blends taste, technique, and feeling into a total package. Throughout this encompassing portrait, she demonstrates a sensitivity of touch and command of tempo and dynamics that distinguish her from others; she moves from the intensity of high drama to the hush of romantic intimacy with ease, and further to that, possesses a natural feel for when to hew to a theme and elaborate upon it.

Ron Schepper, Textura

After much debating I came to the conclusion that Lara Downes released the finest work of the month. This solo piano masterpiece was some of the most virtuosic, inspiring, and uplifting music I’ve listened to all year. 

…This is a must own recording, can’t recommend it enough…

Edwin Garcia, The Jazz Loop

Downes’s playing is evocative and resonant, like the country whose character she conjures so ably. Listen, and hear America singing.

David Weininger, The Boston Globe

Highly recommended. ★★★★½

…the album embodies the striking ability of Lara Downes to knit very unfamiliar music into recitals that seem so natural and persuasive as to be almost inevitable.

…She brings a consistent tone to widely varied music, and the sound from the Sono Luminus studio is superb. But the truly cutting-edge program is the biggest attraction here.

James Manheim, AllMusic

Lara Downes does a marvelous job making of this music a pianistic triumph. To her we must tip our collective hats in appreciation. For the music wears wonderfully well in her hands.

Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

Without getting political, without raising her voice, without drawing unwanted attention, Downes here manages to make one of the strongest and most enduring political statements of the year: in this country, one’s racial, cultural, religious, or ethnic background(s) shouldn’t matter. Only one’s humanity should. Granted, that’s a lesson that hasn’t been fully internalized by any nation yet. Maybe four years of scudding across the abyss will help change the situation on these shores for the better. Even if it doesn’t, America Again envisions this ideal and reminds us that the United States’ greatness lies in its openness and diversity, not conformity and homogeneity. It’s a timely warning, framed on this album with penetrating beauty.

Jonathan Blumhofer, The ArtsFuse

A Year Of Listening Desperately: 10 Classical Albums That Saved 2016

Lara Downes' powerful album America Again isn't so much an escape as a revealing look in the mirror. In a year that provided heated debates on what defines America, Downes reminds us just who we are, a nation of diverse voices and experiences.

Tom Huizenga, Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical

Although this CD was released a couple of weeks before The Election, it couldn’t convey a more necessary post-election message.

B. A. Nilsson, Words and Music

America Again is a CD to play again, and again.

Lou Fancher, San Francisco Classical Voice

It takes an exceptional and elastic pianist to do justice to arrangements by stellar predecessors, and Downes proves more than up to the job in Art Tatum’s sophisticated version of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ and Nina Simone’s impassioned take on Gershwin’s ‘I loves you, Porgy’.

Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone (January 2017)

To say that Lara Downes plays the piano is the same as saying Claude Monet painted landscapes…American pianist Lara Downes creates poetic musical sketches of times, places, and people that transcend mere notes and draw us into a world of nuanced sounds and feelings. She forces us to see and hear old tunes in a new light.

John J. Puccio, Classical Candor

A Year Of Listening Desperately: 10 Classical Albums That Saved 2016
Lara Downes’ powerful album America Again isn’t so much an escape as a revealing look in the mirror. In a year that provided heated debates on what defines America, Downes reminds us just who we are, a nation of diverse voices and experiences.
— Tom Huizenga, Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical
It takes an exceptional and elastic pianist to do justice to arrangements by stellar predecessors, and Downes proves more than up to the job in Art Tatum’s sophisticated version of Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ and Nina Simone’s impassioned take on Gershwin’s ‘I loves you, Porgy’.
— Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone

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