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by Daniel Hathaway

Ravel-CD-KondonassisWhat does an artist want you to experience when you listen to her CD? Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis is very clear about that in the liner notes for her latest recording. She wants you to be transported to “somewhere you’ve never been, but of which you might have dreamed.”

That somewhere is the special world of Maurice Ravel, charmingly miniaturized in the Oberlin Music release, Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces, a world Kondonassis first discovered through an LP of his music as a child in Oklahoma.

Joined by her fellow Oberlin Conservatory faculty members Alexa Still, flute and Richard Hawkins, clarinet; Oberlin alumni Ellie Dehn, soprano and Spencer Myer, piano; and Oberlin’s most recent ensemble in residence, the Jupiter String Quartet, Kondonassis explores four of Ravel’s exotic chamber works in performances vividly captured by recording engineer Paul Eachus. Sessions were held in Oberlin’s shining new Clonick Hall studio, expertly co-produced and edited by Erica Brenner. Read the rest of this entry »


by Mike Telin

KONDONASSIS-YolandaI don’t know what it is about Ravel’s music that resonates with me so much,” says harpist Yolanda Kondonassis. “But it’s like that hopeful melancholy, yet it’s so full of energy at the same time.” On Tuesday, November 5 at 8:00 pm in Finney Chapel, the Oberlin Artist Recital Series begins its 2013-14 season with Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces, featuring some of the composer’s most sublime works: Introduction et Allegro, Cinq Mélodies Populaires Grecques, Chansons madécasses and the String Quartet in F. In addition to Kondonassis, performers include Ellie Dehn, soprano, Richard Hawkins, clarinet, Spencer Myer, piano, Alexa Still, flute and the Jupiter String Quartet.

The concert, inspired by a recent recording by the performers, all of whom have an Oberlin connection, was a project that was a long time in the making largely due to logistics, Kondonassis told us by telephone.

But I never shy away from a complicated project. I play the harp, so complication is my specialty.” She also says that this particular group of pieces is music that never gets old. “I don’t know if this combination of works has ever been recorded on one album. But I think Ravel achieves such a particular atmosphere of music in his more intimate combinations.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Kondonassis-American-Harp-CD-CoverWith sixteen recordings to her credit, one could wonder what harp music there could possibly be left to record, but once again the musical genius of Yolanda Kondonassis has prevailed with her latest release, American Harp, on the Azica Records label.

In her liner notes, Kondonassis writes, “The compositions on this album were chosen to highlight the range and dimension of the harp’s voice in American music from the middle 20th-century to present.” Indeed, the album showcases pretty much everything the harp is capable of doing — and that’s much more than merely glissandos.

The album visits eight works by such well-known composers as John Williams, Lowell Liebermann, Stephen Paulus, John Dello Joio, John Cage and Elliott Carter, as well as a ninth by the young composer/harpist Hannah Lash.

Three of the pieces are world premiere recordings. Lash’s six-minute Stark from 2008 opens strikingly with a colorful use of harmonies and melodic twists and turns — an evocative journey through the emotions of a “beautiful” nightmare. Read the rest of this entry »

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