The shear breadth and diversity of artists gathered for this benefit project, Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams, is a tribute to the affection Victoria Williams' peers had for her. It conveniently also makes for heady listening for any fan of contemporary music. The hard, brittle edges of Soul Asylum ("Summer of Drugs") and Buffalo Tom ("Merry Go Round") stand shoulder to shoulder with the country-folk of Lucinda Williams ("Main Road") and Maria McKee (an inspired and riveting "Opelousas (Sweet Relief)"). Sweet Relief offers a unique opportunity to introduce yourself to an enduring songwriter while savoring some of the day's most intriguing musicians. How sweet it is!
Recorded at the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, 17-19 December 2016 (Martinů – live) and on 24 August 2017 (Novák). Bohuslav Martinů and Jan Novák shared similar fates – both of them left their country and wandered around the world. The two composers also had a relationship as a teacher and pupil. Novák referred to his studies with Martinů in New York in 1947 as having had a major impact on his development as a music creator and human. Martinů’s influence is palpable in Novák’s Philharmonic Dances (Choreae Philharmonicae, 1956), three symphonic fantasies that provide wide scope for showcasing the virtuosity of both the soloists and the groups of instruments. The present recording of the work (the very first made in a studio) helps us to pay off our great debt to Novák, an artist who gave preference to being a “free exile” against having to breathe the oppressive air in his homeland, reigned over by a dictatorial regime.
The opera Otello by Giuseppe Verdi and Arrigo Boito not only represents the outstanding result of an intensely fruitful creative collaboration between composer and librettist, but also one of the most important core works ever in the opera repertoire. An outstandingly crafted literary foundation and a dramatic story, in which three extremely different people - with characters ranging from profoundly evil, madly jealous and distrustful, to enamoured of death - take an emotional roller-coaster ride. A ride ending in death for all three. This drama is supported by music that, despite its magic of its refined tones, never brushes aside the greatest priority of the Italian opera: the human voice. In Otello, Verdi succeeded in creating his own path leading to "music-drama as a 'Gesamtkunstwerk,' as a perfect synthesis between action and music."