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Azrieli Music Prizes 2022 Laureates Releases “New Jewish Music, Vol. 4”

Released on Analekta, the album includes world-premiere recordings of works by the 2022 Azrieli Music Prizes laureates 

 

Established in 2014, the biennial Azrieli Music Prizes (AMP) has become the top competition for music composition in Canada and one of the largest in the world.

This new album features the world-premiere recordings of three prize-winning works by the 2022 Azrieli Music Prizes Laureates Iman Habibi (2022 Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music), Aharon Harlap (2022 Azrieli Prize for Jewish Music), and Rita Ueda (2022 Azrieli Commission for Canadian Music). 

To purchase and listen to the album, click here.

The three works were recorded with the Orchestre Métropolitain with conductor and artistic partner Nicolas Ellis.

A song cycle for voice and orchestra based on 14th-century Judeo-Persian poetry by Shahin Shirazi, Habibi’s Shāhīn-nāmeh for voice and orchestra was written especially for Persian vocalist and setar player Sepideh Raissadat — who plays on this recording. 

Further, the work explores the connection between Persian heritage and Jewish culture, finding inspiration in Shirazi’s Ardashir-nāmah (The Book of Ardashir).

“This piece incorporates a Persian traditional singing style in the solo part against a backdrop of Western classical instruments,” Habibi explains. “The result is an exciting, fresh sound and a marriage of many different cultural and musical languages. It is my hope that this new work can bring much-deserved attention to this little-known poetry but also show the close affinity that has existed historically between Persians and Jews dating back to sixth century B.C.”

The second track on the album is Harlap’s Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord, a cycle of five psalms for soprano and orchestra, which features soprano Sharon Azrieli as the soloist.

“Through the ages, the Psalms have been a source of solace and comfort to the Jewish people,” Harlap said. “I chose five that deal with the belief in God’s strength to overcome all adversity and to protect us in times of need. The words of the Psalms have been my inspiration throughout. Here, they are sung by the soprano soloist in the original Hebrew.” 

Completing the album is Ueda’s Birds Calling...from the Canada in You, for shō, suona/sheng, and orchestra, which features Naomi Sato on the shō and Zhongxi Wu on the suona/sheng. 

Incorporating birdsongs from among the 450 different bird species found in Canada, Ueda’s piece includes Japanese, Chinese, and Western musical traditions. Through the piece, the composer contemplates: “What does it mean to migrate and settle on land already rich in history?”

“Growing up in Canada, I have always felt that traditional Western birdsong works do not sound like any birds I know,” Ueda said. “Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony, Respighi’s The Birds, and Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques, to name a few, are pieces by composers I deeply respect, but none of them sound like birds in our Canadian soundscape. Many of the iconic Canadian birds are not songbirds. I decided to accept the diversity of our bird species to include birds that squawk, screech, hoot, drum, and squeal, as well as those that sing and chirp.”

 

“New Jewish Music, Vol. 4” is part of the prize package each AMP laureate receives, alongside a cash award of $50,000 CAD, a gala world premiere, and two subsequent international performances (total package value of $200,000 CAD). 

Additionally, AMP will present the European premieres of the three featured pieces at London’s Cadogan Hall on October 15, 2023

This album marks seven years of collaboration between Analekta records and AMP — highlighted by a 2022 JUNO Award for “New Jewish Music, Vol. 3.” 

On November 2, 2023, the Azrieli Foundation will announce the four 2024 AMP Laureates, including the inaugural laureate of the Azrieli Commission for International Music. 

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