Danielle Buonaiuto
Marfa Songs
An accessible, inspiring,
and eclectic album
—The Sybaritic Singer
Beautifully raw and authentic
—Sharps & Flatirons
“Each composer provides a unique vocal terrain” showcasing “Buonaiuto’s vocal agility” and “her full and warm voice”
—The WholeNote

The debut album of soprano Danielle Buonaiuto presents the premiere recordings of 19 songs from 4 emerging composers. These lovely, gorgeous songs will appeal to those who enjoy accessible melodies and traditional vocal beauty.

This excellent CD is a truly remarkable
addition to the singer/piano repertoire.
—Phyllis Bryn-Julson

The recording opens with James Young’s immediately engaging Marfa Songs. Bryn-Julson praises the “outstanding beauty of sound, sensuality, dance rhythms, and wonderful new ideas” in Cecilia Livingston’s Kalypso and Penelope, and observes that in Natalie Draper’s haunting O sea-starved, hungry sea, “the final ‘Full fathom five’ section of the Postlude is simply gorgeous.” She refers to Douglas Buchanan, composer of the immediately appealing Scots and Waters, as a “skilled composer who reveals his own distinctive voice.”

The title song cycle Marfa Songs is notable for instantly creating distinctive moods. Buonaiuto observes that Young is “able to create moods by using a particularly incisive, limited set of materials very particular to what he’s intuited from the text. Also, James works a lot in pop music, where you say what you need to say in a short amount of time.” Surprisingly, the song cycle was originally composed for soprano and drum set, and Young created the highly idiomatic piano version specifically for this CD.

The sizzlingly, virtuosic “Heathen” from Marfa Songs opens the CD like a shot out of a cannon. Regarding “this death-defying tour de force,” Bryn-Julson notes, “The ease with which pianist John Wilson and Buonaiuto bring across the meaning of the songs belies their difficulty and makes them all the more thrilling to listen to. The piano writing is simply out of this world and the vocal writing is handled with apparent ease by the soprano. It is thrilling to hear how they carry it off seemingly without difficulty.”

Regarding Cecilia Livingston’s two works, Bryn-Julson remarks, “Kalypso was a truly moving experience for me, and I was completely taken with the setting of Duncan McFarlane’s poem. For Penelope, Livingston wrote her own poem. In both works, I again heard outstanding beauty of sound and welcome surprises, [as well as] sensuality, dance rhythms, and wonderful new ideas.”

Buonaiuto adds, “Cecilia with Penelope and Kalypso is drawing on modern forms and modern sensibilities to tell these age-old stories. I have always been very connected to these powerful tropes that I see repeated over history, and how our perception of them evolves over time. These narratives were sidelined in previous eras, and giving them a forefront is more compelling these days to audiences. And certainly to me.”

Natalie Draper’s O sea-starved, hungry sea was originally written for a Pierrot Ensemble, and the composer created a new piano version for this release. Bryn-Julson remarks:

“There are tone-painting techniques which invoke the sense of the sea, letting us ‘see’ the waves and desolate shores. The piano links the songs quite effectively through preludes or postludes, providing a strong connection for the cycle. The final ‘Full fathom five’ section of the Postlude is simply gorgeous.”

Regarding Douglas Buchanan’s Scots and Waters, Buonaiuto comments she was drawn to “the way Doug treats landscape through his music, even painting it into the music in ‘Loch Lomond,’ where the traveler who was going farther and farther away from home and the harmony shifts from key to key correspondingly.” Bryn-Julson adds:

“The Scottish texts … are set with Scottish ‘snaps,’ drones, and ornaments that reflect perfectly the country and its musical traditions. A skilled composer, Buchanan does not imitate, however, and reveals his own distinctive voice. I loved the simplicity of ‘Loch Lomond,’ with its bareness of sound and surprising key changes throughout.”

The high quality sound results from high-resolution recording at the New World Center (home of the New World Symphony), with mastering by Grammy-winner Silas Brown.

I am totally impressed with not only the quality of the compositions, but also with the talents of the two artists.
—Phyllis Bryn-Julson

About Danielle Buonaiuto

Soprano Danielle Buonaiuto’s performances have been praised for their “terrific clarity and color” (Baltimore Sun), her “entrancing and fluid” singing (DC Metro Theatre Arts), and her “ethereal vocals” that reveal “exquisite vocal technique and luscious colors” (OperaWire). Since making her symphonic debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2011, she has appeared with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the orchestras of the Caramoor Festival, Peninsula Music Festival, and Lucerne Festival Academy. Buonaiuto has premiered over sixty songs as well as roles in six operas. She has received grants from the Brooklyn Arts Council, New Music USA, and the Peabody Conservatory, and has held fellowships at the Lucerne Festival, Bang on a Can at Mass MOCA, and Avaloch Farm Music Institute.

About John Wilson

Pianist John Wilson has been hailed as a “marvelous musical mad scientist” (Music Critics Association of North America) and for his “virtuosity” (Miami Herald) and “inventiveness” (San Diego Tribune). He won First Prize in 2019 in both the International Respighi Competition and the American Prize Competition, as well as being awarded “Best Performance of an American Work” at the 2017 Liszt-Garrison International Piano Competition. Wilson has performed U.S. and world premieres of solo works by Michael Tilson Thomas, duo works by Timo Andres and Judith Lang Zaimont, and ensemble works by Steve Reich, Reinbert de Leeuw, and HK Gruber. He has also played duo recitals with Joshua Bell, Michael Barenboim, Johannes Moser, and Audra McDonald.

Composer Biographies

James Young

James Young (b. 1984) has “seemingly no limit to his intensity” (I Care if You Listen). His music has been performed or presented by ETHEL, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Talujon Percussion Quartet, the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the University of Louisville Symphony, Third Practice, Sonar, and Amsterdam’s Trompo. Young has participated in a number of festivals and conferences, including the Bang on a Can New Music Festival, where he studied with David Lang, Julia Wolf, and Michael Gordon; at June in Buffalo with Brian Ferneyhough and Augusta Read Thomas; Northwestern University’s NUNC; and the BGSU New Music Festival. Young received his masters from the University of Louisville and his DMA in Composition at the Peabody Conservatory.

Cecilia Livingston

With music described as “haunting” and “eerily beautiful” (Tapestry Opera), composer Cecilia Livingston (b. 1984) specializes in music for voice. With her “vast and curious creative mind” (WholeNote), she won the Canadian Music Centre’s Toronto Emerging Composer Award, the Mécénat Musica Prix 3 Femmes, and was also a winner in the SOCAN Foundation Awards. Her music has been heard at Nuit Blanche, the 21C Music Festival, World Choir Games, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Livingston is composer-in-residence at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre, and a National Councillor of the Canadian League of Composers. She studied with Steve Reich at Bang on a Can’s Summer Music Festival (as a Composition Fellow), and holds a doctorate in composition from the University of Toronto.

Natalie Draper

Natalie Draper (b. 1985) has been praised for her “individual and strong voice” (Fanfare). Her works have been performed at Roulette Intermedium, UC Davis, the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Canadian Opera Company. Draper’s Timelapse Variations garnered positive reviews in Baltimore Magazine (“dissonant melodies that build into a unified spiral”), The Baltimore Sun (a “tense, darkly colorful churn”), and Fanfare (“polyrhythm bolstering gorgeous pantonal harmonies and shards of chromatic counterpoint”). Draper has been a resident at the Ucross Foundation, a composition fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, and a resident at the I-Park Foundation. She has been featured by GAMMA-UT, MusicX, SEAMUS, the Fromm Scholarship ensemble, and SONAR New Music Ensemble. Draper is an assistant music theory and composition professor at Syracuse University.

Douglas Buchanan

Douglas Buchanan (b. 1984) unites a “sense of creative imperative” (The Philadelphia Inquirer) with the “ability to get under the skin of [the music’s] core material” (The Scotsman). Recognized for “clear, personal music,” his works are “filled with terrific orchestral color and weight, not to mention feeling” (Baltimore Sun). Buchanan has received grants and awards from The Arts Community Alliance, New Music USA, the Symphony in C Young Composers Award, the Sackler Prize, the Macht Prize, and the American Prize. He completed his doctorate at the Peabody Conservatory under the tutelage of Michael Hersch. Additional study includes masterclasses with Christopher Rouse, Christopher Theofanidis, and Karel Husa. Buchanan teaches composition at Dickinson College and is on the music theory and musicology faculty at the Peabody Conservatory.