BIS Records Releases Gity Razaz's The Strange Highway
BIS Records Releases Gity Razaz - The Strange Highway
Artwork based on “Age of Transmutation” by Daniel Martin Diaz
Release date: August 5, 2022
New York, NY – On August 5, 2022, BIS Records will release composer Gity Razaz’s debut album The Strange Highway. The New York Times describes Razaz’s work as “ravishing and engulfing,” and this album features music she has composed over the last fifteen years recorded by the All-American Cello Band from the Cello Biennale Amsterdam, violinist Francesca dePasquale and pianist Scott Cuellar, cellist Inbal Segev, violist Katharina Kang Litton, and Metropolis Ensemble conducted by Andrew Cyr.
Razaz, who was born in Tehran, Iran in 1986 and now lives in New York, is a composer whose music is deeply influenced by the constantly changing, at times tumultuous, realities of the world, including her identity and personal journey as an immigrant. This process of what Razaz describes as “uprooting and rebuilding” occupies much of her work, resulting in music that is emotionally charged and dramatic, while still maintaining mystery and lyricism. Her compositions are her means of responding to a hyperactive, disconnected world and offering transformation to listeners.
As Joanna Wyld puts it in the album’s liner notes, “The relationship between the grounded and the ephemeral inhabits much of Gity Razaz’s music, in which there is often a tension between physical and metaphysical themes. A glance at Razaz’s choice of titles for her works reveals an otherworldly, poetic sensibility: Spellbound, sighs, prayers and haikus. Yet this is by no means purely cerebral music; it is often anchored by the visceral, as with the punchy rhythms and earthy colors of The Strange Highway for cello octet.”
Razaz’s piece for cello octet for which the album is named – The Strange Highway – was premiered and recorded live for Dutch radio at the third Cello Biennale Amsterdam by the All-American Cello Band (Julie Albers, Jake Braun, Denise Djokic, Paul Dwyer, Ken Olsen, David Requiro, Seaunn Thorsteinsdottir, and Sarina Zhang). The piece takes its inspiration from the eponymous poem by Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño and its subtle but potent sense of desolation and vulnerability.
Duo, performed by the “scintillating” (Musical America) violinist Francesca dePasquale and pianist Scott Cuellar, is an exploration in two movements of the expressive possibilities available from fragmenting and transforming a single melody.
The shimmering, tour-de-force Legend of Sigh – an immersive piece written for solo cello and electronics and performed by cellist Inbal Segev known for her “thrillingly projected, vibrato-rich playing” (Washington Post) – retells an Azerbaijani folktale where women travel through numerous lives, and explores themes of birth, transformation, and death.
Spellbound for solo viola – recorded by Katharina Kang Litton, who has been praised by The Strad for her “beautifully focused sound” – hints at a connection to Persian music with an original melody that evokes the lyricism of traditional Persian music. Razaz describes the piece as having, “the intimate quality of a reminiscing soliloquy.”
The final work on the album is a live recording at Greenwich Village’s (Le) Poisson Rouge of the chamber orchestra piece Metamorphosis of Narcissus performed by Metropolis Ensemble, the “vibrant collective” (The New York Times) under the direction of Grammy-nominated conductor Andrew Cyr. Inspired by the painting of the same name by Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, the piece depicts the myth of Narcissus who became so transfixed staring lovingly at his own reflection that he melted away, leaving behind only the gold and white flower that bears his name.
About Gity Razaz:
Gity Razaz’s music ranges from concert solo pieces to large symphonic works. Recent programming highlights include a 2021 commission from BBC Symphony Orchestra for the prestigious Last Night of the Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall and from San Diego Symphony and the League of American Orchestras. Other commissions include an upcoming concerto for world-renowned flutist Sharon Bezaly and the United Strings of Europe, and a full-length ballet for Ballet Moscow, which has received regular performances ever since its 2017 world premiere in Moscow. She was the composer-in-residence for the inaugural season of Brooklyn’s ground-breaking National Sawdust and Chautauqua Opera Company in 2017. Her first short opera was commissioned by Washington National Opera and premiered at the Kennedy Center. Her music for cello and electronics was included in the opening of Seattle Symphony’s Octave 9 in March 2019.
Razaz's music has also been commissioned and performed by Chamber Music America, Seattle Symphony, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Israeli Chamber Project, former cellist of the Kronos Quartet Jeffrey Zeigler, violinist Jennifer Koh, New York Choreographic Institute, and American Composers Orchestra, among others.
Razaz’s compositions have earned numerous national and international awards, such as the American Academy of Arts and Letters's Andrew Imbrie Award that “is given to a composer of demonstrated artistic merit in mid-career,” Jerome Foundation award, multiple ASCAP awards, two Juilliard’s Palmer Dixon Award for the outstanding composition of the year, to name a few. Razaz was also offered the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.
Gity Razaz attended The Juilliard School on full scholarship and received her Bachelor and Master of Music in Composition under the tutelage of Samuel Adler, Robert Beaser and John Corigliano.
The Strange Highway | Music by Gity Razaz
BIS Records | Release date: August 5, 2022
1. The Strange Highway for cello octet (2011) [10:08]
All-American Cello Band
Julie Albers, Jake Braun, Denise Djokic, Paul Dwyer, Ken Olsen, David Requiro, Seaunn Thorsteinsdottir, Sarina Zhang
2-3. Duo for violin and piano (2007) [10:11]
Francesca dePasquale, violin & Scott Cuellar, piano
4-5. Legend of Sigh for cello, pre-recorded cello & electronics (2015) [19:07]
Inbal Segev, cello
6. Spellbound for solo viola (2020) [6:49]
Katharina Kang Litton, viola
7. Metamorphosis of Narcissus for chamber orchestra and fixed electronics (2011) [8:13]
Metropolis Ensemble - Andrew Cyr, conductor
Total Time: 54:54