Olivia De Prato: Panorama


Violinist Olivia De Prato releases her second solo album on New Focus, Panorama, exploring the multi-dimensionality of expression and identity. Composers Missy Mazzoli, Jen Shyu, Angélica Negrón, Miya Masaoka, and Samantha Fernando contribute pieces for solo violin with and without electronics that probe questions of dislocation and return.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 44:01
01Tooth and Nail
Tooth and Nail
02Jeom Jaeng Yi (Fortune Teller)
Jeom Jaeng Yi (Fortune Teller)
04Mapping a Joyful Path
Mapping a Joyful Path

Olivia De Prato’s album Panorama speaks to the personal journey we all must take. It is the journey of who we are — our identities both fundamental and created by experiences, and when we are — how we see ourselves in relationship to our past and our future. These five evocative works display her airy, rose-gold tone and her exquisite attention to detail. Her acute sensitivity to balance and timbre fosters a genuine interplay between herself and the protean, multilayered electronic sounds.

Missy Mazzoli’s Tooth and Nail for violin and electronics is inspired by the timeless music of the jaw harp. At the beginning, over a fast-moving ostinato, she lays out the motives she will explore in the piece. Aching glissandi emerge, and a sweet, long-limbed melody grows ornamentation like blossoms on a vine. It has a sense of wide-open space, ancient times, people on the move. The ostinato drives us forward, so much so that when it is overtaken by soft pools of color, we still feel its haste. Sections re-emerge, like stories re-told through time. The piece winds down gradually, gathering its breath. The ostinato is replaced by a heartbeat pace and then a slow, simple bassline. The motives from the beginning come back as memories, the story told again.

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Jeom Jaeng Yi (Fortune Teller) by Jen Shyu is composed for speaking violinist, and inspired by the writing of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, an American writer, producer, performance artist, and filmmaker. The piece is a sorrowful question, searching, forward facing, and full of emotion. Based on the rhythms of speech, the music follows winding, open-ended phrasing. The violin sings. It moves forward episodically, not only asking questions but bearing witness to Cha’s story. A deeper emotional layer is revealed as De Prato speaks the text along with the violin’s music, intensifying our perception of what we’ve heard before.

Angélica Negrón’s delicate Panorama is a coloristic tableau made from transparent, unique layers of sound. The work opens with saturated timbres, from which the violin emerges in a soft, ethereal voice. Long lines of glissandi form a sinuous melody, fragile and somehow searching. A scene changes, and the electronics take on a rhythmic, energized profile. The violin locks in with low pizzicatos and persistent pedal tones, while the electronics build tension as they double the pace. On top of all this, the vibrant-hued timbres from the beginning seep in, the rhythmic patterns reappear, and we still hear the fast pulsing edge in and out. The long violin lines from the beginning hover over, weightless. With masterful pacing the simple materials are transformed into a complex, multi-dimensioned organism.

Mapping a Joyful Path by Miya Masaoka is a virtuosic tour de force for both performer and composer. Masaoka “speaks” violin fluently, fully engaged with its repertoire of extended techniques and timbres, and De Prato effortlessly navigates this music, making disparate sounds cohere in a jaw-dropping performance. The piece is rooted in an omnipresent electronic tone — starting with a sine wave and slowly transforming into more complex colors. The violin’s music dances around this ground point, leaning hard against it with microtonal double stops, but untethered with music that is more gesturally and timbrally motivated, like an acrobat touching down to jump even higher. Every new passage is a new statement, a new angle. Stay on this joyful path, but don’t worry about the destination.

Balconies by Samantha Fernando can be played by five individual violinists, live, or by multi-tracked violin, where the soloist plays with four recorded parts, as happens here. The work starts with a held chord, where the consistency of De Prato’s tone creates a fine-grained, luminous hum — a rich possibility. Motives and lines awaken out of the suspense, transforming it from a mass of sound into a cloud of kinetic energy. We witness this blossoming effect from multiple vantages, each time to an unexpected but transient resolution that prepares for the next awakening.

– Kyle Bartlett

Engineer: Mike Tierney, Martin Klebahn (track 5)


Producer: Mike Tierney, Olivia De Prato

Recording Locations: The Bunker Studio, NYC (Track 1-3), Shiny Things Studio, NYC (Track 4), 4tune Audio, Vienna (Track 5)

Mastering: Murat Çolak

Artwork and Design: Denise Burt

Liner Notes: Victor Lowrie Tafoya

Olivia De Prato

Internationally recognized as a soloist as well as a chamber musician, Austro-Italian violinist Olivia De Prato has been described as “flamboyant ... convincing” (The New York Times) and an “enchanting violinist” (Messaggero Veneto, Italy). She has established herself as a passionate performer of contemporary and improvised music, breaking boundaries of the traditional violin repertoire and regularly performs in Europe, South America, China and the United States.

Her solo and chamber music activities include appearances at the Wien Modern Festival, la Biennale di Venezia, the Lucerne Festival,, the Ensemble Modern Festival, June in Buffalo, the Bang on a Can Festival, the Shanghai New Music Week, and Lincoln Center Festival with Steve Reich and Brad Lubman. In 2010 and 2011 she toured Europe and South Africa with Grammy-award winner Esperanza Spalding and the Chamber Music Society ensemble on violin and viola.

De Prato is a member of the new music ensemble Signal and ensemble XXI Jahundert and is the co-founder and first violinist of the Mivos Quartet founded in 2008, which focuses on the performance of contemporary string quartets.

As a guest artist, she has presented solo and chamber music masterclasses for young musicians and composers at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, UC San Diego, Princeton University, New York University, University of Nevada Las Vegas, and internationally at Universidad Eafit (Colombia), Shanghai Conservatory (China), Universidad Salvador (Brazil), Yong Siew Toh Conservatory (Singapore), and MIAM University (Turkey).

De Prato has collaborated closely with composers such as Pierre Boulez, Anthony Braxton, Chaya Czernowin, Peter Eötvös, Luca Francesconi, Beat Furrer, Dai Fujikura, Michael Gordon, Helmut Lachenman, David Lang, George Lewis, Brad Lubman, Philippe Manoury, Benedict Mason, Meredith Monk, Krystof Penderecki, Bernard Rands, Steve Reich, Ned Rothenberg, Julia Wolfe, and Georg Friedrich Haas. At the Lucerne Festival Academy 2007 she worked closely with composer Peter Eötvös on his new Violin Concerto “Seven” conducted by Pierre Boulez.

Her discography includes recordings on Tzadik, New Amsterdam Records, Sunnyside Records, New Focus Recordings, Mode, Cantaloupe, Porter Records, and Harmonia Mundi. In 2018 Olivia released her debut solo album “Streya” on New Focus recordings and one of the works was nominated for a grammy 2019.

In 2019 she received the Dwight und Ursula Mamlok Prize for ‘Interpretation of contemporary music' with the Mivos String Quartet.

Olivia De Prato studied at the University of Music and Arts in Vienna and received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from the Eastman School of Music. She received her Master of Music as a member of the first graduating class from the Contemporary Performance Program at the Manhattan School of Music.

She is currently based in Vienna and New York City.

12 Oct, 2023

New Focus releases on 2023 Grammy Ballot

New Focus releases on 2022 Grammy Ballot:Best Engineered Album/ClassicalEngineer, Ryan Streber - Eric Richards/loadbang/Ekmeles: The Consent Of Sound And Meaning - The Music Of Eric Richards Best Opera Recording Reiko Füting: Mechthild Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance; Best Contemporary Classical Composition; “And the Moses Drowned” by Mahdis Golzar KashaniRecording of the …

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I Care If You Listen

Home, identity, and self are ideas that apply to everyone navigating their way through life; each story is unique and fluid as time passes. These themes are the inspiration for the works featured on violinist Olivia De Prato‘s latest album, Panorama, released April 14 on New Focus Recordings. The album’s five compositions mindfully explore the intimate details and diverse interpretations of these guiding concepts. From direct applications to wonderfully poetic interpretations, De Prato’s natural musicality and care create a successful collaborative narrative with each composer.

In Missy Mazzoli‘s Tooth and Nail, driving electronic pulsations, quickly panning back and forth, immediately provide an immersive, spinning environment. The undulating overtones of the steady electronic rhythm evokes the sounds of the mouth harp, an instrument symbolizing commonality across cultures owing to its broad international history. De Prato gracefully transitions between Mazzoli’s aggressive rhythmic motifs and folkloric arpeggios as the electronics drift between steady rhythmic patterns and chorale-like passages. These shifting forms expand rapidly at times, but Mazzoli’s astutely anchors the piece with an unassuming glissando that passes between violin and electronics over the full duration. Intense, powerful, and spiritual, De Prato’s delicate precision in seamlessly floating above the electronic texture sets an impressive tone.

There is deep complexity in the warmth and sorrow brought forth by De Prato in the first four notes of Jen Shyu‘s Jeom Jaeng Yi (Fortune Teller), which embodies De Prato’s thoughts in the liner notes — that “time is the medium of all human life.” The work is a conversation about life and time, a deep reflection born from Shyu’s meditation on the tragically short life of writer, filmmaker, and performance artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. The hauntingly poetic work sets an excerpt from Cha’s novel Dictee, creating a beautiful sense of reverence. The violin melody is scored in rhythmic unison with the spoken text, and as the two meld, the words take on an ethereal disembodiment, as if synthesized and illuminated beyond Cha’s text, into a powerful homage to her life.

Angélica Negrón‘s Panorama approaches home and identity from her experiences traveling between Puerto Rico and New York. Throughout, the electronics oscillate between atmospheric harmonies and consistent, pinging rhythms in a clear reference to the two places she calls home. There is a tremendous yearning in De Prato’s reading of the uncertain but hopeful work. A simple, yet soaring melodic line lets De Prato ponder how each individual tone fits into the expansive chordal textures from the electronics. The bold starkness and pacing of the melodies require an understanding beyond technical prowess, and De Prato delves deep into the work to bring out its identity.

Listening to Miya Masaoka‘s Mapping a Joyful Path is like entering into a world of wonderfully subtle intricacies and nuances; every listening brings new sounds and beating patterns to life, yet it feels impossible to take it all in at once. Time seems to float, and while the music feels unsettled at times, there is also a sense of accepting that the journey to find one’s home and identity is fluid and never-ending. Every moment is fragile; a single violin note may begin resolutely, yet slowly lose its stability as the electronics waver to reveal lush beating patterns. Mapping a Joyful Path requires the listener’s openness and intention to experience every moment, and De Prato exemplifies those very qualities in her performance, carefully emphasizing each exceptional tone and texture.

The final work, Balconies, by Samantha Fernando, asks us to consider distance and perspective; what do we hear when we focus closely on details, in contrast to stepping back and listening to the whole? The multi-track violin work creates a cohesive, singular sound dimension, as if “viewing” the work from afar, while the use of jagged, scratchy, and overpressured textural complexities reveal gritty details. De Prato’s intuitive sense keeps her inside the electronic texture, now and again breaking free, which adds depth to the piece’s concept.

On Panorama, De Prato successfully finds the most vulnerable aspects of each work to create a much larger portrait of being human. Some of the composers celebrate their cultural identity while others highlight larger commonalities. De Prato’s curation of the album creates a panoramic view of coexistence, weaving multiple viewpoints into a cohesive throughline while identifying what is genuinely embedded inside each work.

— Kevin Baldwin, 5.16.2023


The Wire

The New Focus label has repeatedly shed valuable light on the relationship between musically ambitious composers and those committed instrumentalists who enable their work to reach audiences. On Panorama, Austro-Italian violinist Olivia De Prato provides that vital bridge of communication for five distinctive compositional voices. The diversity of their personal and cultural perspectives, and of their approaches to writing music, calls for an extensive range of techniques and voicings. Jen Shyu's emotionally charged solo emulates the articulated flow of poetry. Samantha Fernando's Balconies calls for multitracking to trace a vibrant lattice of crossing and intersecting lines. The violin enters into expressive dialogue with electronics to realise not only Missy Mazzoli's jaw harp-inspired piece, but also Angelica Negron's dancing and questing Panorama and Miya Masaoka's mapping of a personal route to a sense of joy. De Prato meets the challenges set and opportunities offered with resourceful brilliance.

— Julian Cowley, 4.13.2023


Percorsi Musicali

English translation via Google Translate, Italian original below

On the evaluation of the expressive elements of music, an essential step was taken by Leonardo Meyer when he insinuated that listening to music had two courses, one subjective, initial, free from reason and often at the mercy of a psychological background, the other, more objective, temporally successive, cognitive in nature and considerably determined by the listener's knowledge. Many of the considerations on musical meanings, their levels of communication and the references to concepts, images or experiences that the musician has traveled in his life can be based on the second life of listening; the expression becomes a sort of transfer of human relationships, thoughts and expectations that feed on a topic.

I think this concept can be applied very well to the way of making music of the violinist Olivia De Prato, Austro-Italian origins, stable stay in New York and an international recognition that comes from a conscious interpretation of the contemporary repertoire, balanced between the experimental paths implemented in America in the last fifty years and the European ones of the same period: stainless reference of the Mivos Quartet, De Prato has interpreted the Concerto for Violin and orchestra by Alban Berg, has passed through the classic filter that jazz improvisers have lavished after having known the qualitative of downtown New York (Zorn in primis, and then Pavone, Cymerman, Rothenberg), has entered the perspective of a modernity of musical composition that has no boundaries, often challenges the idiosyncrasy of academic contexts or finds a solid income in the reasons for a minimalist feeling. On this last aspect, a particular favor towards authors such as Steve Reich is evident, on which De Prato intervened by playing in the parallel projects of the Signal Ensemble and the Brad Lubman sextets: Reich's experience is now being repeated with the Mivos Quartet and focuses on his string quartets, collected in a valuable CD for Deutsche Grammophon which includes the famous Different Trains, the Triple Quartet and the WTC 9.11; given that in-depth and repeated listening is necessary with respect to the interpretative standards put in place by the Kronos Quartet, it must be said that De Prato and Mivos seem to place an emphasis on the instruments, on their melodious intertwining, with respect to a formal balance between instrumental parts and electronic. These are very subtle differences, which the ear discovers by comparing the versions, which realize the idea of a classical act which has a direct relevance, that is, it goes towards the listener's consciousness filling it with harmony and in doing so it builds in a short time a gain in beauty and greater vital presence of the artists on the pieces: in short, he conceives an autonomous "breath".

De Prato's skill can be sipped above all in her solo career. In 2018, the violinist released Streya, a CD of 6 compositions channeled into the need without prejudice to research the possible adaptive realities of the instrument: Streya exploits a musical conception that somewhat mediates between the objectivity of the constructive oppositions of contemporary European music in formal and substantial terms and the communicative function that derives from the mental organizations lavished on music in the Anglo-Saxon world by twenty-first century composition. Behind the emphasis of the composition there is still an expressive judgment to underline as well as very precise psychological arguments to identify and which are also found in I, A.M., the new CD for the New World R. label, a work that provides a mature continuum with Streya but has a greater thrust on the relationship with electronics and female identity: with I, A.M. it is a question of verifying some settings of the composition, such as the granular and spectral reorganization on the fragments of the instrument (automatic writing mumbles of the late hour by Natacha Diels), the possible complications of a score to be instructed on the "net" as an effect of an emulation of the undergrowth of the vegetable world (Mycorrhiza I by Katharine Young), or to find new expressive expedients on the sound stratifications worked on continuous soundscapes or on multiphony (may you dream of rainbows in magical lands by Ha-Yang King on the one hand, Fire in the dark by Jen Baker), on the complexities of an orbital relationship based on an underlying creative vision and made possible by exclusive manipulations of a theremin (the noch unbenannt by Pamelia Stickney, true specialist and innovator of the theremin).

In all this good things there is not only to be considered a "hand" that improvises or turns on the uncomfortable lines of a violin, but also an artist with her own personality, with a sensitive approach to the world around her: rehashing the sounds with electronics and with its convergent situationism means grasping the complexity of today's expression, something that prides itself on having to explore a lofty dimension of music and sounds where it is possible to include the meanings of a luminous saturation, to be able bring together apparently irreconcilable dimensions. The role of a violinist, in the sense just mentioned, is not at all simple in reality, because it involves combining differentiated elements whose possible relationships and adaptations we do not fully know in such advanced pieces of classical composition: in addition to the skill of the violinist that innate logic of the Deleuzian sense is necessary which also allows access to that second life of which I spoke at the beginning of this review article. De Prato's ability is to be able to provide in all the pieces of I, A.M. the exact stimuli to trigger the right direction of listening, even when it comes to a few notes, a sostenuto or a largo; the lively exchanges between her violin and Zosha Di Castri's elaborations on piano and electronics in The Dream Feed I, are sonic bridges that open up dreamy perspectives and loving breadth on what women feel as a social and evaluative injustice, i.e. motherhood, the union with work and the consideration of limits imposed in creativity. The Dream Feed I is a pivotal piece for De Prato, a selective whirlwind of consciousness, with music that overwhelms the wrong sensations and contains a view without afflictions, with light field recordings that recall that whining of children before falling asleep which is almost a source of reconciliation with the world.

De Prato's journey in probing emotional realities with a specific contemporary angle can also be found in Panorama, another recently released CD for New Focus. The work takes its cue from the composition of the same name by the composer Angélica Negron and delves into the expressive possibilities of language and ultimately into the construction of an identity; if the music follows coordinates that are proper to the means of movement of the score, then it is possible to recognize the author, her thought and her way of expressing herself. For the Negron piece, De Prato has
also made a very inviting video (see here) where he walks the subway and the streets of New York with his violin, occasionally open to play, visits the Italian neighborhoods participating in the feast of San Gennaro and then collects photos and postcards of the era capable of reminding him of Italy; the mood of her violin is almost conclusive to the topics, passing from color to the reprehensive scan of the events and also the soundtrack that accompanies the piece is nothing more than a sneaky beep of memory.

An even more direct reference in linguistic themes is found by De Prato in Jeom Jaeng Yi by Jen Shyu, a composer, improviser and excellent American jazz singer, who brings her a text by a South Korean writer who investigated language and its rhythms: here the violin does nothing but replace a singing approach, particular melodic lines that reveal the possibilities of creating a language identity through unstable expressions. A personalized language can also be found in Missy Mazzoli's Tooth and Nail, a piece for violin, piano and fixed sounds which is the result of the creativity of the American composer placed in the Jewish harp of Uzbekistan, a phraseological union contracted to post- minimalist of the violin (I seem to hear Lang in some moments) and the ornamental twist of the Asian instrument.

The discourse, on the other hand, also develops coherently with Miya Masaoka's Mapping a Joyful Path, an eloquent island of a communication between an expansive violin with many small approaches in the forms of sub-areas and a sinewave that looks to Lucier, as well as in Balconies by Samantha Fernando, an excellent place to feed on luminous beams of harmonics determined by the multiplication of violinists (in this case De Prato plays against the 4 violinists replaced by the corresponding multitrack channels) and by an unexpected, vibrant pizzicato.

Everything contributes to the formation of an overall state of being that is not imbued with melancholy, it is instead the reasoned feeling of having had multiple opportunities in life that can be recomposed without regrets, almost trusting the words of Marvin Gaye when he ruled that "wherever I lay my hat that's my home".

Italian original

Sulla valutazione degli elementi espressivi della musica un passo essenziale è stato fatto da Leonardo Meyer allorché egli ha insinuato che l’ascolto musicale avesse due corsi, uno soggettivo, iniziale, svincolato dalla ragione e spesso in balia di uno sfondo psicologico, l’altro, più oggettivo, temporalmente successivo, di natura cognitiva e considerevolmente determinato dalle conoscenze dell’ascoltatore. Sulla seconda vita dell’ascolto si possono fondare in maniera corretta molte delle considerazioni sui significati musicali, sui loro livelli di comunicazione e i riferimenti a concetti, immagini o esperienze che il musicista ha percorso nella sua esistenza; l’espressione diventa una sorta di transfer delle relazioni umane, dei pensieri e delle aspettative che si nutrono su un argomento.

Penso che questo concetto si possa applicare molto bene al modo di far musica della violinista Olivia De Prato, origini austro-italiane, permanenza stabile a New York e un riconoscimento internazionale che arriva da una consapevole interpretazione del repertorio contemporaneo, bilanciato tra i percorsi sperimentali attuati in America negli ultimi cinquanta anni e quelli europei dello stesso periodo: riferimento inossidabile del Mivos Quartet, De Prato ha interpretato il Concerto per Violino ed orchestra di Alban Berg, è passata nel filtro classico che gli improvvisatori jazz hanno profuso dopo aver conosciuto le doti qualititative del downtown newyorchese (Zorn in primis, e poi Pavone, Cymerman, Rothenberg), è entrata nell’ottica di una modernità della composizione musicale che non ha confini, sfida spesso l’idiosincrasia dei contesti accademici o trova un solido introito nelle ragioni di un sentiment minimalista. Su quest’ultimo aspetto è evidente un particolare favore verso autori come Steve Reich, su cui De Prato è intervenuta suonando nei progetti paralleli del Signal Ensemble e dei sestetti di Brad Lubman: l’esperienza di Reich ora si ripete con il Mivos Quartet e si concentra sui suoi string quartets, raccolti in un pregiato CD per Deutsche Grammophon che comprende la celebre Different Trains, il Triple Quartet e il WTC 9.11; posto che è necessario un approfondito e ripetuto ascolto rispetto agli standard interpretativi messi in campo dal Kronos Quartet, va detto che De Prato e il Mivos sembrano porre un accento sugli strumenti, sul loro melodioso intreccio, rispetto ad un equilibrio formale tra parti strumentali e parti elettroniche. Si tratta di differenze sottilissime, che l’orecchio scopre mettendo a confronto le versioni, che realizzano l’idea di un atto classico che ha una rilevanza diretta, cioè va verso la coscienza dell’ascoltatore riempiendolo di armonia e così facendo costruisce in poco tempo un guadagno di bellezza e di maggiore presenza vitale degli artisti sui pezzi: in breve, ne concepisce un “respiro” autonomo.

La bravura di De Prato può essere centellinata soprattutto nel suo percorso solistico. Nel 2018, la violinista pubblicò Streya, un CD di 6 composizioni incanalate nell’esigenza senza pregiudiziali di una ricerca delle possibili realtà adattive dello strumento: Streya sfrutta una concezione musicale che un pò media tra l’oggettività delle opposizioni costruttive della musica contemporanea europea in termini formali e sostanziali e la funzione comunicativa che deriva dalle organizzazioni mentali profuse in musica nel mondo anglossassone dalla composizione del ventunesimo secolo. Dietro l’enfasi della composizione c’è ancora un giudizio espressivo da sottolineare nonché argomenti di natura psicologica ben precisi da individuare e che si ritrovano anche in I, A.M., nuovo CD per l’etichetta New World R., un lavoro che fornisce un maturo continuum con Streya ma possiede una maggiore spinta sulla relazione con l’elettronica e l’identità femminile: con I, A.M. si tratta di verificare alcune impostazioni del comporre, come la riorganizzazione granulare e spettrale sui frammenti dello strumento (automatic writing mumbles of the late hour di Natacha Diels), le possibili complicazioni di una partitura da istruire in “rete” come effetto di un’emulazione del sottobosco del mondo vegetale (la Mycorrhiza I di Katharine Young), oppure di trovare nuovi espedienti espressivi sulle stratificazioni sonore lavorate su soundscapes continui o sulla multifonia (may you dream of rainbows in magical lands di Ha-Yang King da una parte, Fire in the dark di Jen Baker), sulle complessità di una relazione di tipo orbitale fondata su una visuale creativa soggiacente e resa possibile da esclusive manipolazioni di un theremin (la noch unbenannt di Pamelia Stickney, vera specialista ed innovatrice del theremin).

In tutto questo ben di Dio non c’è solo da considerare una “mano” che improvvisa o gira su linee poco confortanti di un violino, ma anche un’artista con la sua personalità, con l’approccio sensitivo del mondo che la circonda: rimasticare i suoni con l’elettronica e con il suo situazionismo convergente significa afferrare la complessità dell’espressione odierna, qualcosa che si vanta di dover sondare una dimensione altera della musica e dei suoni dove poter far rientrare i significati di una saturazione luminosa, di poter far convivere dimensioni apparentemente inconciliabili. Il ruolo di un violinista, nel senso ora accennato, non è per nulla semplice in realtà, perché si tratta di coniugare elementi differenziati di cui non conosciamo fino in fondo le possibili relazioni e adattamenti in pezzi di composizione classica così avanzati: oltre alla perizia del violinista è necessaria quell’innata logica del senso deleuziana che permette di accedere anche a quella seconda vita di cui parlavo all’inizio di questo articolo recensivo. L’abilità di De Prato è quella di riuscire a fornire in tutti i pezzi di I, A.M. gli stimoli esatti per far scattare la giusta direzione dell’ascolto, anche quando si tratta di poche note, di un sostenuto o di un largo; gli scambi vivaci tra il suo violino e le elaborazioni di Zosha Di Castri a pianoforte ed elettronica in The Dream Feed I, sono ponti di sonicità che aprono prospettive sognanti e ampiezze amorevoli su ciò che le donne sentono come un’ingiustizia sociale e valutativa, ossia la maternità, il connubio con il lavoro e la considerazione di limiti imposti nella creatività. The Dream Feed I è un brano cardine per De Prato, un turbine selettivo della coscienza, con la musica che travolge le sensazioni sbagliate e contiene una visuale senza afflizioni, con lievi field recordings che ricordano quel piagnucolio dei bambini prima di addomentarsi che è quasi una fonte di riconciliazione con il mondo.

Il viaggio di De Prato nel sondare le realtà emotive con un’angolatura contemporanea specifica si ritrova anche in Panorama, altro CD per New Focus appena pubblicato. Il lavoro prende spunto dall’omonima composizione della compositrice Angélica Negron ed si addentra nelle possibilità espressive del linguaggio e in definitiva nella costruzione di un’identità; se la musica segue delle coordinate che sono proprie dei mezzi di movimentazione della partitura, allora è possibile riconoscere l’autore, il suo pensiero e il suo modo di esprimersi. Per il pezzo della Negron, De Prato ha realizzato anche un video molto invitante (vedi qui) dove cammina per le metro e le strade di New York con il suo violino, ogni tanto aperto per suonare, visita i quartieri italiani partecipando alla festa di S. Gennaro e poi raccoglie foto e cartoline dell’epoca in grado di ricordargli l’Italia; l’umore del suo violino è quasi concludente agli argomenti, passando dal colore alla scansione reprensiva degli eventi ed anche la soundtrack che accompagna il pezzo non è altro che un beep subdolo del ricordo.

Un riferimento ancor più diretto nei temi linguistici De Prato lo trova in Jeom Jaeng Yi di Jen Shyu, una compositrice, improvvisatrice e bravissima cantante americana di jazz, che le porta in dote un testo di una scrittrice sudcoreana che indagava sul linguaggio e i suoi ritmi: qui il violino non fa altro che sostituire un approccio del canto, linee melodiche particolari che rivelano le possibilità di creare un’identità del linguaggio tramite espressioni instabili. Una lingua personalizzata può trovarsi anche in Tooth and Nail di Missy Mazzoli, un pezzo per violino, pianoforte e fixed sounds che è il risultato della creatività della compositrice americana riposta nell’arpa ebraica dell’Uzbekistan, un connubio fraseologico appaltato all’espressività post-minimalista del violino (mi pare di sentire Lang in alcuni momenti) e al tiro ornamentale dello strumento asiatico.

Il discorso, d’altronde, si sviluppa coerente anche con Mapping a Joyful Path di Miya Masaoka, isola eloquente di una comunicazione tra un violino espansivo con tanti piccoli approcci in forme di sub-aree e una sinewave che guarda a Lucier, così come in Balconies di Samantha Fernando, ottimo posto per cibarsi di luminose raggiere di armonicità determinate dalla moltiplicazione dei violinisti (in questo caso De Prato suona contro i 4 violinisti sostituiti dai corrispondenti canali multitraccia) e da un’inaspettato, vibrante pizzicato.

Tutto contribuisce alla formazione di uno stato complessivo dell’essere che non è intriso di malinconia, è invece laragionata sensazione di aver avuto nella vita opportunità molteplici che possono essere ricomposte senza rimpianti, fidandosi quasi delle parole di Marvin Gaye allorché sentenziava che “wherever I lay my hat that’s my home”.

— Ettore Garzia, 5.21.2023


Sequenza 21

Violinist Olivia de Prato has established herself as a staunch advocate of new music. In addition to her work with Mivos Quartet, she is a talented soloist. On her second solo release for New Focus Recordings, Panorama, she undertakes a recital disc of female composers. A number of the pieces include electronics, fleshing out the solo texture in diverting fashion.

The album opens with Missy Mazzoli’s violin plus electronics piece Tooth and Nail (2010). The original version was written for violist Nadia Sirota; this is a transcription for violin. The piece begins with string sounds in the electronics accompanying the live violin. De Prato digs into the vigorous passagework, executing arpeggiations and glissandos with incisiveness. As the piece progresses the electronics add a lower register to the piece, ending the piece. This is probably my favorite of Mazzoli’s instrumental works.

Jeom Jaeng Yi (Fortune Teller) by Jen Shyu is inspired by American polyartist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, including some of her poetry as a spoken word component. The gestures in the solo part are based on speech rhythms. Speaking isn’t constant but de Prato makes clear the connections between violin and voice. There is a mournful cast to the piece: someone’s fortune was disappointing.

The title track, for violin and electronics by Angelic Negrón, employs a bath of ambient synths and supple legato phrasing from de Prato, often with glissandos, that employs sumptuous high notes. Mallet samples and piano press the music forward, with repeating passages and pizzicato in the violin responding to the post-minimal electronics. Gradually the music picks up speed, with regularly articulated synth chords and oscillations in the violin. The texture becomes fuller, with a return of synth ostinatos, and once again upper register violin glissandos soar over the top of the varied palette of electronic sounds. The coda features a two note oscillation and clouds of chords accompanying the violin’s final melodic strands.

Mapping a Joyful Path, by Miya Masaoka, employs pitch bends in places in the synth parts. Mostly, however, the electronics part consists of sustained sine tones that are varied in register, with overtones skirting in and out of the texture. De Prato plays with varying bow pressure, aggressive repeated notes, microtones in double stops, and Eastern sliding tone to interpret a multifaceted and fetching piece. It finishes with a held altissimo note in the violin and the drones receding.

The recording concludes with Balconies by British composer Samantha Fernando. The piece can be played by five live violinists or one with a pre-recorded part. It begins with an arpeggiated flourish and overlapping ostinatos. After another iteration of the opening arpeggio, the texture thickens in the second section, moving from the triadic opening to secundal chords articulated with repeating notes. Soft pizzicatos interrupt the chordal texture, and the arpeggio announces a third section, this one supplying more spacing, but no less complicated harmonies. Melodic fragments are taken up, breaking up the verticals for a time. Melody and richly constructed chords then interact. The original gesture is reconfigured as chords in the alto register, followed by a coda of pizzicatos. Balconies is an arresting piece on recording. I would love to hear de Prato and four friends playing it live.

Once again, Olivia de Prato has presented a program of fascinating musical discoveries. Panorama supports female composers with advocacy and skill. Recommended.

— Christian Carey, 4.21.2023



Panorama—an apt title choice for this second solo release by Olivia De Prato, co-founder and first violinist of the Mivos Quartet (the first, Streya, appeared in 2018). The word not only alludes to the range of perspectives offered by the five composers and the emotional and stylistic terrain explored on the album, it also applies to the dramatic sonic expansion the deployment of electronics adds to the project. Yes, it is a solo violin recording, but it often sounds as if De Prato is accompanied by others. During Angélica Negron's 2012 titular work, for example, there are moments where the violin sounds as if it's joined by organ, the material itself sometimes calling to mind, oddly enough, Philip Glass's early release North Star. Jen Shyu's Jeom Jaeng Yi (Fortune Teller) (2011), on the other hand, features violin sans electronics, though having the performer voice text in unison with the violin nevertheless constitutes an expansion. Whereas three settings augment violin with electronics, Samantha Fernando's Balconies (2023) features five parts created by the solo performer using multi-tracking, though it can also be performed by an ensemble of five violinists.

Initiating Panorama is a piece by one of today's most compelling composers, Missy Mazzoli, whose Tooth and Nail (2010) was inspired by jaw harp music, written for violist Nadia Sirota, and arranged for De Prato's violin in 2018. Atop a rapid and insistent ostinato, De Prato layers the work's primary themes, embellishing them with glissandos and her luminous, singing tone as they emerge. Electronics enable the violin to blossom into an ever-mutating backdrop for the solo part to acrobatically soar over. It's impossible to not be mesmerized by the violinist's virtuosity as she navigates her way through the ten-minute piece. The mournfulness of its closing moments carries over into Jeom Jaeng Yi, which Shyu created as an homage to the American writer, performance artist, and filmmaker Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, born in South Korea and tragically raped and killed in New York City at the age of thirty-one and only a week after the 1982 publication of her work Dictee. The words De Prato utters as she plays are, in fact, from Dictee and augment the restlessly searching and lyrically expressive violin part with undeniable poignancy.

The writing of Negrón's Panorama originated out of the composer's failed attempts at obtaining clear and reliable views of different situations and contexts, something she's experienced first-hand as someone born and raised in Puerto Rico but currently living in New York. Attempting to establish identity when connected to two places naturally invites longing, confusion, and an intense desire for belonging, feelings no doubt shared by countless others who've emigrated to America. The piece opens peacefully in a state of quiet, ethereal rapture out of which the solo violin emerges, the gesture like eyes opening in wonder. Lustrous electronic textures radiate behind the violin to convey an impression of joyful embrace and appreciation. String plucks blend with percolating organ-like tones in a Glass-like dance that sparkles resplendently for nine minutes.

A different sound world is generated in Miya Masaoka's Mapping a Joyful Path (2022) when sine waves are incorporated into the compositional fabric. After beginning with an array of microtonal hues, De Prato drapes swooping gestures and querulous phrases across the pulsating thrum. Masaoka's own description, that De Prato's playing "in tandem with the sine waves delineate for me a sense of belonging, and yet also a kind of dance and flow with our day-to-day lives,” articulates especially well the feelings of exploration and self-examination communicated by the performance. In contrast to Masaoka's meditation, Fernando's Balconies, commissioned by the violinist for the album and inspired by a 1960 painting by Agnes Martin displaying ink-drawn horizontal lines, exudes unbounded energy in the multiplication of its violin parts. A keening, rustic quality informs the violin's attack, making for a presentation that's rawer than others on the release. Verging in places on ecstatic, Balconies pushes the emotional temperature up higher too. In getting so caught up in the composer's works, it's possible to lose sight of the artist rendering them into physical form. Don't: De Prato invests each performance with commitment, craft, care, sensitivity, and intensity, and it's her playing that is in the final analysis the release's primary drawing card. Neither too short nor excessively long, the forty-four-minute release is smartly timed too.

— Ron Schepper, 5.27.2023


The Strad

Despite its overarching title, there’s little in musical terms to connect the five highly contrasting recent works by women composers on this rewarding disc from Austro-Italian violinist Olivia de Prato. What brings them all together, however, is de Prato’s bold, confident playing across the pieces’ diverse styles and demands, and her ability to delve deeply into each one and convey its themes and arguments with insight and technical panache.

That comes across most clearly in the gritty but darkly lyrical Jeom Jaeng Yi by US composer and vocalist Jen Shyu, based on the speech rhythms of a novel by South Korean writer Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, lines from which de Prato intones intermittently alongside her playing. Her bright, expressive playing stands out beautifully against the iridescent washes of electronics in Missy Mazzoli’s jaw harp-inspired Tooth and Nail, and de Prato remains buoyant and sharply defined even among the microtones and extended techniques in Miya Masaoka’s Mapping a Joyful Path.

The disc’s two most successful tracks are also those most clearly indebted to minimalism. De Prato floats a rich, slow-moving melodic line over the top of nimble, pulsing electronics in the witty Panorama by Puerto Rican-born Angélica Negrón; and British composer Samantha Fernando’s Balconies pits the violinist against four pre-recorded versions of herself in closely related, sometimes overlapping material, a persuasively argued creation that de Prato delivers with expressive flair. It’s a satisfying survey of recent music for solo violin, with and without electronics, captured in close, warm sound.

— David Kettle, 7.14.2023


An Earful

This wonderful violinist continues the quest she began on Streya, here gathering five works by composers familiar (Missy Mazzoli, Angelica Negron) and less so (Jen Shyu, Miya Masaoka, Samantha Fernando) who each seek to put their stamp on music for solo violin, sometimes with electronics. From Tooth And Nail, the spiky, probing Mazzoli work that opens the album, to Fernando’s rich and pensive Balconies for five violin tracks, which ends it, Panorama delivers you to the heart of the instrument’s expressive possibilities. Negron’s glassy and elegant title track is especially sublime, with de Prato lending each glissandi an extraordinary emotional depth.

— Jeremy Shatan, 7.17.2023



When contemporary composers approach the prospect of writing for unaccompanied violin, they initially decide to follow in the footsteps of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin or not. The “or not” can head off in unexpected directions once the foundation of Bach’s music (dances, counterpoint, melody) isn’t in play. The five women composers presented in this recital by Olivia De Prato employ evocative titles, and we are told that the overarching themes are “dislocation and return,” but each work is musically abstract. Only one of them, strictly speaking, is for solo violin. Three pieces are accompanied by electronics; the fifth is for multi-tracked violin.

The added variety in these soundscapes benefits a general listener who might be frightened off by the austerity of contemporary music for a violinist holding the stage alone. In the event, these are ingeniously and skillfully crafted scores, averaging from seven to nine minutes, and they hold appeal beyond the circle of dedicated New Music followers.

Missy Mazzoli’s cleverly named Tooth and Nail refers to the jaw harp, whose sound inspired the work. Mazzoli writes, “Jaw harp players pluck a metal or bamboo reed between their teeth, creating overtones and melodies by changing the shape of their mouth.” The timbre is buzzy and twangy, and in the U.S. the jaw harp is associated with folk music and the Deep South. Enough of these associations come through to make Tooth and Nail the most familiar-sounding work on the program, and it displays Mazzoli’s typical effervescence and good humor. The electronics begin as a sustained fast beat that evolves into long, sustained tones, while the violin plays continuous passagework not completely unlike bluegrass.

Jen Shyu’s Jeom Jaeng Yi (Fortune Teller) is the sole work for unaccompanied violin, but with a difference. The contour of its melodic line follows the speech pattern of a poem by the South Korean-born Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and the violinist recites the verse in parallel with the notes that conform to it. Cha died in New York in 1982 at the age of 31, the victim of a tragic rape-murder. Shyu’s homage to her memory has occasional hints of Asian melodies; its mood isn’t dark or sad, although there are some drooping slides. The music, like the poem that is printed with it, remains more abstract than emotional, yet its language is very accessible

The album’s title work, Panorama by Angélica Negrón, is more indirect in its personal import, being inspired “by failed attempts at having a wide and unbroken view of a situation.” Negrón goes on, “The piece explores confusion and longing within a series of cyclical events focused around the experience of going back and forth between places I call home.” Those places are Puerto Rico and New York, a familiar bi-location. I can’t say that I found any of the declared themes in the music, which uses a bright, upbeat pulsing electronic tapestry to cocoon the violin. The effect is restless but seems gentler than a serious dislocation of self might indicate.

Much more experimental is Miya Masaoka’s use of electronics in Mapping a Joyful Path, which begins with a low hum against which the violin part is agitated in its jagged motion. We aren’t at the extremes of an electronic sound world by any means, and the violin’s diverse, gestures are more familiar than alien. The fact that Masaoka associates this piece with a happy family reunion in Japan has little bearing on the woozy sine waves and fragmented violin line that the listener experiences.

New Music often employs multi-tracking of solo instruments to achieve an overlapping ensemble effect, as we hear in Balconies by Samantha Fernando. The intent is to explore changing perspective, which Fernando describes as “the difference between a panoramic view from a vantage point and scrutinizing the detail within that scene close-up.” The title Balconies refers to a painting by Agnes Martin from 1960, and the music was commissioned by De Prato for this album. Martin, the most minimal of painters, restricted herself to girds of horizontal and vertical lines, and Fernando cites a parallel for listeners who can focus on the horizontal stream of sounds in Balconies or sense the whole. In practice we get five multi-tracked violin parts that weave in and out, creating a skein of notes that varies from the lyrical to the raucous, with varying intensity.

De Prato is described in her bio from New Focus as Austro-Italian, a member of several New Music ensembles in New York, and the co-founder and first violin of the Mivos Quartet. She plays everything here with imagination, displaying a lovely tone when it is called for as well as a panoply of New Music sounds. Everything is done with poise and the kind of presence that draws the listener in. I haven’t touched upon the portentous side of the booklet notes, but each composer, fortunately for us, offers clear descriptions of her work. The recorded sound is impeccable, and altogether this unique album is a model of its kind.

— Huntley Dent, 7.27.2023


Take Effect Reviews

The violinist Olivia De Prato returns with a sophomore solo album, where she explores the vision of the composers Missy Mazzoli, Jen Shyu, Angélica Negrón, Miya Masaoaka, and Samantha Fernando across the 5 very multi-faceted and eloquent pieces.

Mazzoli’s “Tooth And Nail” leads the listen with a mysterious quivering, as De Prato’s precise strings and Mazzoli’s hypnotic electronics mesh with much intrigue, and “Jeom Jaeng Yi (Fortune Teller)”, by Shyu, follows with just the expressive and emotive violin emitting much beauty and grace.

The title track, by Negrón, lands in the middle, and is full of dreamy ambience thanks to the glowing electronics from Negrón and the stirring strings, while “Masaoka’s “Mapping A Joyful Path” buzzes with a nearly mechanical presence via Masaoka’s sound manipulation amid tonally distinct violin. The final track, Fernando’s “Balconies”, then has De Prato blurring her instrument in the radiant and hypnotic exit that’s quite soothing.

A listen that truly takes into account the personal journey we each embark on, De Prato’s strong attention to tone, timbre and mood is certainly much appreciated on this absorbing experience.

— Tom Haugen, 11.09.2023

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