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Sharing releases, present and past, to brighten your day. WXXI Classical has its eyes and ears on the latest releases from classical artists working today. When we come across a story or a release we think you might enjoy, we’ll be sharing it with you on CD Spotlight. You’ll learn more about the artists online at WXXI Classical, and you’ll hear selections from these artists on FM 91.5. CD Spotlight shares new releases by artists that you’ll want to know and some by great artists and ensembles that deserve to be in the spotlight again.

CD Spotlight: Dialogues & Meditations in orchestral music by Steven Holochwost

The Road, Konstantin Kryzhitsky, Ukrainian painter 1908
Albany records
The Road, Konstantin Kryzhitsky, Ukrainian painter 1908

Listen to this subtle conversation with the past.

My father once told me I had a gift for discovering beautifully sad music. He meant it as a compliment, but it rang like a warning, especially in 2009, when I started my role at WXXI Classical as the weekday morning host.

Honestly, who wants to hear “beautifully sad” music at sunrise?

I thought of my dad’s critique when I first heard a new recording of Steven Holochwost’s music.

I loved it.

Andrew Koehler, the conductor on this new disc, confirmed my affinity, writing of Holochwost that “his music tends toward a mode of expression that favors the quiet and reflective.”

It’s rooted in the past, but it doesn't shy away from weird, rapturous experiments in intelligent design.

For example, the opening track might catch you off guard.

Titled “Dialogues,” is it Gabrieli? Tallis? An echo of the Renaissance? Just when the brass establish an ancient mode, a marimba sashays in. Here the composer is creating both a dialogue with the past -- referring to “Nymphes des Bois,” written by Renaissance master Josquin Des Prez on the death of Johannes Ockeghem in 1497 -- and a conversation with us in 2024.

Holochwost's take on the sweet folk tune Shenandoah unfurls the melody through intimate, Mahler-esque chamber music passages, leading us further and further along as though we are following a twisting path through a leafy forest.

The composer’s Symphony in Three Movements evolved through a conscious effort on his part to expand his musical vocabulary by writing something “post-tonal.” It’s appealing, and it morphs into a familiar modality, blending themes and colors in surprising ways. Listening a few times through, I was reminded of the language of Rochester native David Diamond, a brainy, 20th century Neo-Classicist who, despite his public disdain for Romantic music, wrote some very sad and beautiful pieces indeed.

Composer Steven Holochwost is Principal and Director of Research for Youth & Families at WolfBrown.
Composer Steven Holochwost is Principal and Director of Research for Youth & Families at WolfBrown.

Steven Holochwost (pronounced “HALL-lock-quist”) is a brilliant academic with a Ph.D. in music theory and composition from Rutgers University, where he studied with Charles Wuorinen. Composing music is a passion in addition to a broader role; he’s also a developmental psychologist who works with programs designed to improve the lives of vulnerable children and youth. Specifically, he studies how poverty impacts child development, and how programs that expand educational opportunities for children can mitigate those effects.

Here's one more layer for you to consider as you listen.

This disc features the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra, recorded in Germany, under the direction of Andrew Koehler. The musicians' passion and sensitivity shine throughout, and the final work on this Albany recording, “Meditations,” is dedicated to the people of Ukraine and their struggle for sovereignty.

I hope you like this beautifully sad and wonderfully crafted music.

Brenda Tremblay has served as weekday morning host on WXXI Classical since 2009.