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The Strad Issue: June 2024

Description: This second volume shines a light on viola rarities

Musicians: Fábio Saggin, Jacob Adams, Sheila Browne, Alyssa Warcup, Mary Moran, Rafael Videira, Vijay Chalasani (violas) Mauren Frey, Paul Lee, Julie Nishimura (pianos) Tallā Rouge Duo

Works: Music by Behrend, de Biase Bidart, Clearfield, Esmail, Mansurian, Montgomery, Taaffe Zwilich and Toni

Catalogue number: AVS PRESENTS

It’s been ten years since the American Viola Society published its first self-produced CD, compiling American viola music from as long ago as 1906. Relaunched as AVS Presents, the label aims to release an annual CD, of which this is the first. Just what makes a composer underrepresented might be open to discussion (there’s a Pulitzer Prize winner here), but certainly none of those included can be said to be overexposed. Although there’s only space to mention selected highlights, all this music deserves to become better known.

The Brazilian Lycia de Biase Bidart obviously possessed a rare melodic gift, and of course one’s heart goes out to a piece called Viola from Heaven! This beautiful morsel from 1969, charmingly etched by Fábio Saggin and Mauren Frey, makes for an uplifting start to proceedings. Perhaps inevitably, a certain amount of elegiac music is on the bill of fare, but Jeanne Behrend’s 1944 Lamentation, written in memory of her cousin, killed in action in the Second World War, packs a tremendous emotional punch as performed by Jacob Adams and Paul Lee. Andrea Clearfield’s Convergence (2008) is a tough nut to crack, but Sheila Browne and Julie Nishimura command one’s attention in a reading of compelling authority that makes light of some unconventional writing. Curtis Institute student Alyssa Warcup shows her considerable mettle in Jessie Montgomery’s Ysaÿe-inspired Rhapsody no.1.

Each track was recorded in a different venue, making for variable but always favourable acoustics, and concise notes help put each piece into context.



Fire Pink Trio - Poetry in Motion 

- CD Review on Audiophile Audition by Steven Ritter

- CD Review on by Robert Cummings

- CD Review on by Alison Young

Winston Salem Journal - Fire Pink Trio:

- Arts Briefs: Locals performing in New York

- Best Bets: Fire Pink Trio performing at UNCSA

- Spontaneous Combustion: Musicians felt fire the first time they played together

Sheila Browne, soloist

New York Times, Weekend Arts Section

New York Women's Ensemble - Music for Life NYC

" of these days, the world will find out what a viola is. There's something about it that speaks to the human condition....its a very earthy instrument, and in our lives, we definitely need more of that as a modern people...." quote from "An Interview with Sheila Browne"

An Interview with Sheila Browne by Kathleen Crabtree



"Sheila Browne is an outstanding violist."

- Michael Tilson-Thomas



"Ms. Browne possesses a clear and compelling artistry. She is one of America's most important violists...."

- Robert Mann

Founding Member, Juilliard String Quartet



"...Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat (K. 364),... the violist Sheila Browne w[as  a] stylish soloist.... "

- New York Times

(Carnegie- Stern Hall with the NY Women's Ensemble)

"Sheila Browne... play[s] with admirable polish, tonal luster, and sensitivity... a wonderful program from beginning to end, enriching the recorded repertoire on CD with ideal renderings of seldom - heard but very worthwhile music."

- American Record Guide



"Gorgeous playing by Browne dominated the beginning moments and kept us hypnotized throughout."

- Peninsula Review

Journal of the American Viola Society/Volume 32, No. 1, Spring 2016

Poetry in Motion CD Review - read full AVS journal here (AVS members only)

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