BMOP/sound, the nation's foremost label launched by an orchestra and devoted exclusively to new music recordings, announces its debut album, John Harbison: Ulysses, to be released on March 4, 2008. As the first of nine BMOP/sound albums slated for 2008, Ulysses offers listeners the first complete recording of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison's full-length ballet. Scored for full symphony orchestra, including saxophone and ondes Martenot, Harbison's ballet is soaked in abundance, variety, and sheer story-telling physicality.
Harbison (b. 1938), one of America's most prominent artistic figures, frequently includes dance forms and rhythms in his instrumental and orchestra music. After seeing Montverdi's Return of Ulysses, Harbison was determined to compose an evening-length piece for the stage in a new genre—ballet. In 1983, the New Haven, Hartford, and Albany symphonies commissioned parts of the first half of his ballet, Ulysses' Raft; and Andre Previn and the Pittsburgh Symphony commissioned and premiere the second half, Ulysses' Bow, during his Exxon-Mobil Meet the Composer residency. Though the work had several partial performances, it wasn't until October 3, 2003, that Ulysses received its first complete world premiere performance by BMOP conducted by Gil Rose in Boston's Jordan Hall. Described as "a detailed, rich, ravishing performance," Ulysses is a "first-class collection of symphonic fragments, with nothing less than orchestrational wizardry in the sheer sound of it," (The Boston Globe).
In addition to the main story-telling dance music and interludes, there are dances within the dance —the processions of great women and heroes in "The Land of Shades," or the sequence of ritual dances at the end of Ulysses' Raft. In recognition of the athletic challenge of dance, Harbison describes this music as "variations upon variations." Each act is comprised of five short scenes soaked in scenic colors, preceded by interludes which are rendered as friezes or shadow plays.
Subsequent to Ulysses, BMOP/sound will release new CDs on a monthly basis: Michael Gandolfi: Y2K Compliant; Lee Hyla: Lives of the Saints featuring Mary Nessinger (mezzo-soprano); Gunther Schuller: Journey into Jazz featuring Gunther Schuller (narrator); Charles Fussell: Wilde featuring Sanford Sylvan (baritone); Lukas Foss: The Prairie featuring The Providence Singers; Louis Andriessen: La Passione featuring Cristina Zavalloni (mezzo-soprano) and Monica Germino (violin); David Rakowski: Winged Contraption featuring Marilyn Nonken (piano); John Cage: 16 Dances; and John Harbison: Full Moon in March featuring Lorraine DiSimone (mezzo-soprano), James Maddalena (baritone), and Janna Baty (soprano). BMOP/sound recordings are distributed by Albany Music Distributors, coupled with global online distribution. An interactive BMOP website with digital download capabilities is planned for later in 2008. For more information, visit http://www.bmopsound.org.