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Classical 07/02/2024

Jessica Meyer Releases New Portrait Album I Long And Seek After On New Focus Recordings

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Jessica Meyer Releases New Portrait Album I Long And Seek After On New Focus Recordings
New York, NY (Top40 Charts) On Friday, March 22, 2024, composer and violist Jessica Meyer releases her second composer/performer portrait album, I long and seek after, on New Focus Recordings. Meyer constructs this new release around performances by the Lorelei Ensemble and a virtuosic collective of instrumentalists and vocalists. In this sophomore album, Meyer focuses solely on vocal music featuring poetry by female and underrepresented writers, tackling such universal themes as loneliness, desire, love, heartbreak, justice, and the courage to embark on a journey of discovering oneself.

In her program notes, Meyer writes, "My earnest work as a composer started at the age of 40, when I could no longer ignore the task of truly figuring myself out. I naturally gravitated toward art song for several reasons: the first being the ridiculous amount of hours spent watching MTV in the '80s and that subsequent imprinting on my musical sensibilities; the second being how so much of my performance career happened to be in collaboration with many amazing vocalists; and finally how thankful I am that the combination of words and music together was the only thing that could attempt to explain or express what was going on inside me as I made efforts to find out exactly who I was. Ever since I started composing, I have been dedicated to writing art songs - mostly where instruments besides the piano evocatively give sonic emotional support to vocalists. This album showcases the many collaborations I have had since 2016, and it also comes when I turn 50 this year. Instead of pining for younger days, I celebrate this with excitement - especially when I am in such awe of the wonderful artists I am fortunate enough to call my colleagues."

The album's first single, "Crazy" - a movement from the title work I long and seek after - will be released March 1 to celebrate the start of Women's History Month. Focused on the complexities and destructive patterns that sometimes spring from love, the single is accompanied by a deeply visceral music video by Danie Harris, featuring members of Lorelei Ensemble. The movement comes near the halfway point of I long and seek after, in which Anne Carson's translation of fragments by the ancient Greek poet Sappho are deployed in a female-empowered 21st Century response to Schumann's famed song cycle, Frauenliebe und Leben.

In comments on "Crazy," Meyer said: "It is fitting that it comes midway through the piece, since what it expresses is usually a realization that folks come to understand only after they reach mid-life. On the surface, this piece could be about our pining for that unrequited love - one that is so painful that we don't know what to do with ourselves. Digging a little deeper, the incessant repetition that it is often 'those we treat well, are the ones who harm me' could be a signal that choosing this type of partner indeed is a clear pattern in our relationships. Going even one step further: could this suffering indeed be something that we subconsciously recreate with every relationship we have until we figure out that we are instead the creators of our own reality? This work takes a raw look at the thoughts we have that very well may be creating the unwanted situations that we cycle through over and over and over, all while expecting different results."

Among the other works captured on the album is the opening track Space, in Chains, a set of three songs using the text of acclaimed poet Laura Kasischke. Through a series of abstract yet vivid episodes painting a surrealist portrait of everyday suburban life, Kasischke's work sets the tone for compositions addressing loss in contrasting ways.

In Welcome to the Broken Hearts Club, Meyer works from the poetry of then 17-year-old Weatherspoon, whose sophisticated verses on the glory, beauty, awkwardness, and inconvenience of love could have come from a mind decades older than the teenage poet. "In this piece," Meyer says, "I take inspiration from various song genres - from art song and opera to Broadway and pop - while painting an aural canvas that gives much room to showcase the emotional gravitas of the text."

The text for Meyer's piece Things I forgot to tell you is taken from a letter written by Anaïs Nin to fellow writer Henry Miller during a year of sexual and spiritual awakening and bouts of obsessive love, captured eloquently in Nin's journals. Meyer's composition captures the emotional ebb and flow through wide-ranging musical technique - from harmonics reminiscent of an indigenous flute, to florid and passionate sections depicting the fantasies that can blind us to reality and the true nature of those we love. Meyer's work On fire, no...after you expresses a visceral narrative expressing "that moment when you realize you have fallen in love and that breathless-passionate-yet-anxiously-fragile feeling that can overwhelm you in the early stages of such a relationship," Meyer writers in her notes. In The Last Rose, Meyer creates a setting for Thomas Moore's poem "The Last Rose of Summer" that also incorporates commentary on modern technology: how perceived connection through the internet, social media and texting can leave humans lonelier than they were before the invention of these tools.

The album closes with I long and seek after, inspired by Meyer's decades-long reflections on Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben. "While at the Aspen Music Festival many years ago, I was also an usher for many of the concerts, and it was there that I fell in love with Art Song and the Schumann cycle," Meyer shares. "As a woman in my early 20s, the text of that piece depicted all that I had come to expect from my future life, given what all the fairytales, Hollywood rom-coms, and Disney movies of my youth had told me: that one day I would meet a man who would sweep me off my feet, I would pledge myself to him, my whole life would be based around his life (and the birth of my future child or children), and that the first real pain will come when that man dies. In my 40's I wrote this piece instead, wanting to depict women having the courage to live their lives boldly, while growing older gracefully, assuredly, and proudly."

I Long and seek after Tracklist:
Jessica Meyer - Space, in Chains
1. Space, in Chains [3:33]
2. Rain [2:56]
3. O elegant giant [2:49] - Melissa Wimbish, soprano Jessica Meyer, viola Jessica Meyer - Welcome to the Broken Hearts Club
4. I. The way we are in the world [3:19]
5. II. For Better Love [4:56]
6. III. It's nice, and it hurts [3:49] - Chabrelle Williams, soprano Johnna Wu, violin Kobi Malkin, violin Jessica Meyer, viola Caleb van der Swaagh, cello
7. Jessica Meyer - Things I forgot to tell you [4:44] - Emily Marvosh, contralto Jessica Meyer, viola Jessica Meyer - On fire... no, after you
8. I. On fire [3:26]
9. II. No [3:30] [3:31]
10. III. After You [2:38] - Kayleigh Butcher, mezzo-soprano Jessica Meyer, viola Dan Schlosberg, piano
11. Jessica Meyer - The Last Rose [5:33] - Sarah Brailey, soprano Caleb van der Swaagh, cello Jessica Meyer - I long and seek after
12. I. Many and beautiful things [2:25]
13. II. Desire took delight [1:02]
14. III. I long and seek after [2:44]
15. IV. Crazy [2:31]
16.V. What is just [2:59]
17. VI. Someone will remember [4:04] - Lorelei Ensemble Beth Willer, Artistic Director

With playing that is "fierce and lyrical" and works that are "other-worldly" (The Strad) and "evocative" (The New York Times), Jessica Meyer is an award-winning violist and composer whose passionate musicianship radiates accessibility and emotional clarity. As a solo performer, she is internationally renowned for creating a virtuosic orchestral experience through a combination of viola, voice, and loop station, and recently gave the premiere of her long awaited viola concerto during the 2022-2023 season in New York City.

Since the start of her composition career in 2014, at age 40, Meyer's compositions have viscerally explored the wide palette of colors available to each instrument while combining techniques inspired by her experiences as a contemporary and period instrumentalist. Meyer's first composer/performer portrait album, Ring Out (Bright Shiny Things, 2019) debuted at #1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical Chart. Her second album, I long and seek after - adapting powerful works of poetry by female and underrepresented writers - is due in spring 2024. In fall 2023, Meyer was appointed to the Viola and Chamber Music faculty of the Manhattan School of Music.

Highlights of Meyer's 2023-2024 season include four world premieres, among them: In the Path of Totality, written in honor of the April 2024 total eclipse, commissioned and premiered by fivebyfive in the Rochester Museum and Science Center Planetarium; and with a gift for burning, commissioned and premiered by the Brooklyn Art Song Society during its New Voices Festival 2024: Departures III. A third world premiere work, Sisters of Charity, was commissioned by the Bronx Arts Ensemble in honor of the recent decision by the nuns resident at the College of Mount Saint Vincent to wind down their 200-year-old order. A new work commissioned by the National Organists Guild for trombone and organ - Strong Arms to Hold Back the Dark - will also make its world premiere. In addition, the 2023-2024 season brings the New York premieres of two works: A Passage Between Earth and Sky, performed by NOVUS NY, and Avenue of the Giants, performed by the Dorian Wind Quintet. "The President's Own" United States Marine Band also premiered the full symphonic band version of Meyer's work Go BIG or Go Home at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago.

During the 2022-2023 season, "The President's Own" United States Marine Band performed an extensive Northeast tour of Meyer's first symphonic band work, Press On. Other season highlights included Meyer's performance as viola soloist in the world premiere of her own work, GAEA: Concerto for Amplified Viola and Chamber Orchestra, at Columbia University's Miller Theatre. The season also brought world premieres of Spirits and Sinew by Hub New Music, Avenue of the Giants by the Dorian Wind Quintet and Because I Will Not Despair by In Mulieribus and the Portland Youth Philharmonic.

Meyer's compositions have been premiered by acclaimed vocal ensembles Roomful of Teeth and Vox Clamantis, the American Brass Quintet, PUBLIQuartet, Sybarite 5, NOVUS NY of Trinity Wall Street, cellist Amanda Gookin, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and the Lorelei Ensemble. She has also undertaken key collaborations with The Juilliard School and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which commissioned her work A Far Cry. She has received multiple commissioning awards from Chamber Music America and the New York State Council on the Arts. Meyer's orchestral works have been performed by the Phoenix, North Carolina, Charlotte, and Vermont Symphonies, by the Nu Deco Ensemble in Miami, at Tanglewood, and around the United States through Carnegie Hall's nationwide Link Up program.

Drawing from wide-ranging influences including Bach, Brahms, Delta blues, Flamenco, Indian Raga, and Appalachian fiddling, Meyer's solo music written for loop pedal takes audience members on a journey through joy, anxiety, anger, bliss, torment, loneliness and passion. Her solo shows have been featured at iconic venues including BAMcafé in NYC; the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; and Sunset/Sunside in Paris.

Meyer is also known as an inspirational educator. Her workshops have been hosted by The Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute of Music, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and numerous other institutions including major universities.

Meyer received her BM and MM in Viola Performance from The Juilliard School. She lives with her husband, clarinetist Benjamin Fingland, their teenage son, and their black cat Ninji in the Bronx.

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