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Landmark John Psathas Album Set for Release

for immediate release – thursday 14 september 2006


landmark john psathas album set for release this month

The much-anticipated John Psathas album View From Olympus, will be released in Wellington on September 22 by New Zealand label Rattle Records.

Hailed as New Zealand’s most ambitious orchestral recording project yet, View From Olympus features three concertos performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with three internationallyacclaimed soloists.

John Psathas, who is best known as the composer of the key ceremonial music for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, is ecstatic that this recording has been completed.

“For me, this is bigger than anything I’ve done – bigger than the Olympics. These are my strongest works – my biggest statements and finally they’ll exist in the world."

The album was recorded in Wellington with renowned New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun, virtuoso Portugese percussionist Pedro Carneiro and leading US saxophonist Joshua Redman.

“This is a landmark in New Zealand recording because it demonstrates that it is possible to bring new compositions to life with the best talent in the world, at the very highest production standards – all at home here in New Zealand,” says the composer.

“View From Olympus has focused a community of music practitioners on presenting New Zealand creativity at its best,” says Rattle Records label manager Tim Gummer. “View From Olympus is no less than the definitive recording of one of the world’s greatest living composers."

Previous Psathas recordings have been for small ensembles, or solo performers. In contrast, this complex production demands of the three major orchestral works with their unique instrumentation – not mention the star playing power involved – posed a major challenge to Rattle.

“Ironically, as a small boutique label, with the help of some insightful partners, we’ve actually been able to bring far more substantial resources to this project than most bigger labels would have. Having worked with John for 10 years or so, we came to View From Olympus with a clear sense of what it would take to do justice to his music, and we weren’t going to rest until we’d got it."

And while, View From Olympus is sure to appeal to traditional classical and orchestral music fans, Rattle senses the propulsive, contemporary feel connects with a much broader audience.

“We think of this album as ‘beyond classical music’ in the sense that it speaks to a contemporary audience for whom orchestral music is simply not on the radar. Most listeners’ experience of an orchestra is via film soundtracks – but this is a soundtrack that needs no movie. It’s a sound that reminds me of just how powerful music can be on its own terms and increasingly, as we talk to a variety of music listeners who have heard this music, we‘re struck by the universality of its power to connect with people at a deep emotional level."

View From Olympus features three contemporary concertos: The title track – a double concerto for percussion, piano and orchestra; the saxophone concerto ‘Omnifenix’ and the piano concerto ‘Three Psalms’, are all performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by US born Marc Taddei, with featured soloists.

New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun and Portugese percussionist Pedro Carneiro appear on the title track: ‘View From Olympus’, originally commissioned by celebrated Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie and premiered during the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. It has since been performed in France, Germany and New Zealand and will be performed by the Auckland Philharmonia on 21 Septermber 2006 and in Greece later this year.

‘Omnifenix’ features hugely popular American saxophonist Joshua Redman, supported by New Zealand drummer Lance Philips. The saxophone concerto was premiered by 11-time Grammy Award winner Michael Brecker in 2000 in Bologna to a live audience of 8000, and broadcast live throughout Europe.

‘Omnifenix’ has since been performed in Germany, Australia and New Zealand. Much of the sax solo is improvised and John says the piece depends on “a brilliant, mature improviser who can respond to the orchestra and the drummer spontaneously yet understands a big classical music-like structure”.

Third is the newer piano concerto, ‘Three Psalms’, commissioned by the NZSO at the instigation of Michael Houstoun and, says John, is dedicated to Michael. “Michael’s playing inspired me throughout its composition and his enthusiasm for the work as it grew boosted the confidence that can be sensed in the music."

Conductor Marc Taddei says recording View From Olympus tested the NZSO, but within the orchestra there was commitment and enthusiasm for the music. “The music of John Psathas demands an unusual degree of concentration for an orchestra, but there was meaning in recording these works – a sense of ownership and pride.

“I firmly believe John Psathas has a voice unique in world art music and as such this project was born out of an imperative to bring his art to the wider music community. This release will undoubtedly open doors for John and create interest in the composers and musicians of New Zealand."

The View From Olympus CD, which comes with a bonus DVD backgrounding the music’s creation, has been three years in the making – a huge commitment for Rattle, which is known for unique recordings of jazz, contemporary composers and taonga puoro (Maori instruments) ‘world’ music. The label also produced John Psathas’ Rhythm Spike CD, which was awarded Classical Album of the Year in 2002.

John has won numerous awards and accolades over the years and was last year awarded the Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

View From Olympus, which has been produced with generous assistance from Creative New Zealand and Victoria University, will be launched on September 22 at Wellington City Council’s Mayoral Chambers prior to the NZSO’s performance of John Psathas’ new saxophone concerto ‘Zahara’ in the Michael Fowler Centre – one of four live performances of Psathas concertos by the NZSO and APO around the country in the same week.

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