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Love At Last

Love At Last

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Watch our interview with Lara Downes on Love at Last!

Love at Last is pianist Lara Downes’s first Pentatone album, inspired by the poem Sachki, Sachki by the Odessa-born Jewish writer Shaul Tchernichovsky. Downes presents 24 pieces, many of them in world premiere recordings, of works by living composers around the globe. Spanning generations, continents and cultures, these diverse voices are united in a stubborn belief in the possibility of humanity, brotherhood, peace, and compassion, and in the everlasting power of love.

An iconoclast and trailblazer, Lara Downes’s dynamic work as a sought-after soloist, a Billboard Chart-topping recording artist, a producer, curator, arts activist and advocate positions her as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene. She was honored as 2022 Classical Woman of the Year by Performance Today.

Hear Downes's appearance on NPR's Morning Edition, discussing Love at Last!

REVIEWS:

It's not unusual for an artist to include a message to listeners on an album; it's less common for said message to be included as a concluding audio commentary. Such a move is, however, wholly consistent with Lara Downes' character: rather than share her message through the impersonal medium of the written word, she connects with immediacy using her voice, the illusion fostered of the artist speaking directly to you. Those who've been following the pianist throughout her career are familiar with her generosity of spirit, her resolute belief in the potential of human beings, her hope for peace, and her embracing vision. One comes away from a Downes recording, Love at Last no exception, renewed and uplifted.

An activist, mentor, and trailblazer, Downes expresses her appreciation for a vast array of artists from multiple countries and eras on her Pentatone debut. In a seventy-five-minute programme recorded in Mt. Vernon, New York in September 2022, pieces by J. S. Bach and Schubert sit comfortably alongside covers of standards and world premiere recordings of works by living composers from around the globe.

The journey, while scenic, panoramic, and ever-changing, is long; things move quickly, however, when the selections are compact in length and most two to three minutes at a time. Naturally, certain pieces register more strongly than others; what's never wanting, however, is investment on her part: she commits herself fully to the project and penetrates to the essential core of each piece. The evidence is audible the moment Jaroslav Ježek's haunting “Dawn” introduces the set until Shawn E. Okpebholo's arrangement of “Amazing Grace” ends it twenty-three songs later. Along the way, hope, sorrow, and tenderness surface, with a number of pieces written during the pandemic and confronting feelings of isolation and longing.

Downes' poised renderings of Bach's stirring “Wachet Auf” (“Sleepers Awake”) and Schubert's “Frühlingsglaube” (“Believe in Spring”) exemplify her general approach: refraining from embellishing on the material gratuitously, she opts instead to focus on themes and let their poetry emerge in its fullest possible form.

Downes' humanitarian values find expression in eloquent, life-affirming material such as Debbie Friedman's “Laugh at All My Dreams,” Margaret Bonds's “I Believe: Credo No. 2,” Gabriel Kahane's “Little Love,” and Valentin Silvestrov's “Lullaby.” One of the more interesting new compositions is Sean Hickey's “Fluid” for the way it both references gender fluidity and, by incorporating rhythmic and harmonic elements from Debussy's La Mer and Joni Mitchell's “River,” water. Memorable too are pianist Mariel Mayz's elaborate re-imagining of Sammy Fain's “I'll Be Seeing You,” the popular tune known through recordings by Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday, and Dobrinka Tabakova's enchanting “Simple Prayer for Complex Times.”

Downes' positive outlook isn't a reflection of childish naïveté or an obstinate refusal to acknowledge reality: she knows the world is fraught with problems and sees like the rest of us many parts struggling with debilitating issues. Even so, she determinedly holds to her values of love and compassion. For her, “this is the hour to awake from our sleep and greet a new dawn.” Like other recordings in her esteemed discography, Love at Last shines like a light fighting to overcome darkness and symbolizes the inexhaustible power of hope and resilience.

-- Textura

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Product Description:


  • Release Date: April 21, 2023


  • UPC: 8717306260183


  • Catalog Number: PTC5187018


  • Label: Pentatone


  • Number of Discs: 1


  • Period: Baroque, 20th Century, Contemporary


  • Composer: Calliope Tsoupaki, Timo Andres, Clarice Assad, Johann Sebastian Bach, Juhi Bansal, Jimmy Lopez Bellido, Margaret Allison Bonds, Sammy Fain, Debbie Friedman, Ignaz Friedman, deVon Russel Gray, Sean Hickey, August Horn, Vijay Iyer, Jaroslav Ježek, Gabriel Kahane, Nyokabi Kariuki, Hooshyar Khayam, Mariel Mayz, Patricio Molina, Shawn E. Okpebholo, Ivan Enrique Rodriguez, Franz Schubert, Valentin Silvestrov, Jeremy Siskind, Dobrinka Tabakova, Karen Tanaka, Milad Yousufi


  • Performer: Lara Downes