Exciting News! A new CD, Paris<>Los Angeles has been released today. This is Pastimes’ first blog on a CD release and this one is spectacular. But first a little explanation.
You see, it is a rare treat to write an Art + Music Scene blog, immersing myself and my readers in my two favorite subjects, Art and Music, all in one story.
The CD’s clever cover art caught my eye. Rather than the typical photograph of composers or performers, it was a painting of an urban scene. I was intrigued.
As if a lightbulb went off in my head, an Art + Music Scene blog started to take shape. I would interview Ambroise about the CD for my piano students and learn more about the artwork and its creator for my art students. Luckily, when I presented my idea to Ambroise, he was enthusiastically on board.
I’m pleased to present to my students and readers, the remarkable story behind the newly released CD entitled Paris<>Los Angeles and the artwork it inspired.
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LW: As an art teacher with a background in graphic and fine art, your CD’s clever artwork caught my attention. May I ask who the artist is?
LW: How would you describe the CD cover art?
AA: I think it’s wonderful. It’s quite unusual for a classical CD cover to have such vibrant colors, but I think it works perfectly. She not only captured the essence of the album but really gave it a life before we even open the box! You can see a typical street of downtown Los Angeles with the portraits of two of the three composers featured on CD who spent time in L.A. (Darius Milhaud and Eric Zeisl). A reproduction of a picture of Mozart and his mother with the Eiffel Tower in the background represents his E Minor Sonata K. 304 composed partly in Paris, while his mother was dying.
LW: Very clever design. I love the palette and style, too. That’s very touching about Mozart’s composition honoring his mother. For my art students, may I ask how you found this artist? Was she commissioned by the label Editions Hortus?
AA: Well, I didn’t have to look far… She is my sister-in-law! She is a wonderful artist and was drawn to the project.
How marvelous to have a family member contribute to your project!
I have a surprise treat for my students and readers – an interview with the artist herself, Professor Laurence Cathala!
LW: Thank you again for graciously offering to contribute to my school’s blog on Ambroise Aubrun’s and Steven Vanhauwaert’s imminent CD release.
LC: Thank you, it’s a pleasure!
LW: When I learned you were the artist of the CD cover, I perused your website and was pleased to discover your work in a variety of media including colored pencils, gouache, cut-out images and silver photographs. May I ask, what mediums were used to create the CD cover art?
LC: For this work I used gouache on paper. I wanted this flat and kind of naive “painterly” sensation because the idea was to have two different “levels” of painting: the work in itself and the painted walls and garage doors which are represented in the picture. The whole thing is based on a sort of pop painting gesture — which is kind of rare for a visual of a classical music CD cover. We found it could be original and humorous.
LW: Indeed. You definitely accomplished that. As we all know, ideas don’t appear out of thin air. How did you come up with the clever CD cover design and color palette?
LC: It is true that “ideas don’t appear out of thin air”. For a design work like a CD cover, everything comes with a discussion about the project, the music, the composers, the title….We talked with Ambroise, especially about the fact that Eric Zeisl and Darius Milhaud came from Europe to L.A. The musical project was based on those different links between Vienna, Paris, and Los Angeles, interesting connections through people, time and space.
I asked Ambroise to send me pictures of downtown L.A. because I was interested in the wall paintings you can find on buildings there. It is quite famous. I’ve never been to L.A., but I have traveled several times in North America and I could imagine the feeling of it. I also watched this great Agnes Varda documentary movie from 1981 called “Mur Murs” where she investigates about the wall paintings in L.A. Actually, I got the idea watching it.
I wanted something colorful with a blue sky, also to create a “time machine” contrast with the two black and white portraits of Darius Milhaud and Eric Zeisl on garage doors — directly copied from old black and white photographs, as the Mozart evocation is made from a famous 1780 painting representing him with his family, by Austrian painter Johann Nepomuk della Croce.
LW: Wow! What an incredible process. I love how you tied together all of the elements. Thank you for sharing this. Now I will have to investigate film maker Agnes Varda and her eclectic films. I can sense a future Art History blog forming in my head. By the way, did the label Edition Hortus provide guidelines for the artwork? If so, what were their stipulations?
LC: No, it was a very free process for the drawing, we just made this one shot. But I didn’t do all the design (inside libretto, text composing and typography, titles, printing process…). For that I offered to ask a graphic designer I work with, Gabriela Simon Flores, and she did a very fine job. She’s from Ecuador but she’s studying graphic design in France. I like very much the whole design she made, how she emphasized the drawing, how she layed out texts and images. I know that for this part of the work Hortus had a look on it. That’s the thing with publishing and that’s why I am very fond of all publishing practices: it is deeply a collective process (author / musician / engineer / artist / graphic designer / editor…) — actually it is a very good way to find high quality. I’m happy to be part of it because the music, the sound and the playing of Ambroise and Steven are just superb. Now you just have to listen to it (it is online but if you can you may also listen with a good old cd player… :). Enjoy.
LW: What a fantastic inside look into the collaborative process behind the artwork for this CD. I pre-ordered the CD after listening to two of the pieces featured on the famous “En Pistes” radio broadcast on France Musique. I will enjoy discussing your collaborative process with my art students and sharing the beautiful music with my piano students.
And now back to our interview with Ambroise.
LW: A CD of this magnitude and originality doesn’t just suddenly appear. What is the story of how it came about? Why these composers? Why these particular works? How does the title represent your choices? Why now? Details, please.
AA: The inspiration to record this program was born in 2011 when my doctorate research at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) led me to discover the music of Eric Zeisl. This album depicts the friendship between Eric Zeisl and Darius Milhaud and their mutual admiration for each other’s work, and revisits Mozart’s Sonata in E minor K. 304 which fascinated Zeisl. It’s therefore been a project I have had in mind for years. I am grateful to the Edition Hortus for trusting us with it.
LW: This is your second recording collaboration with pianist Steven Vanhauwaert. Why was he your choice for this project?
AA: Steven is a great friend and wonderful artist. I feel very lucky to play with him every time. I have a chance to, and I love recording with him. We get each other musically, we like the same type of sounds, same type of repertoire and the whole process is really pure joy.
LW: I hear that joy when I listen to recordings of you and Steven playing, and watching you two play at the Unbound Chamber Music Festival in Mammoth last summer. There are many labels out there. Why Editions Hortus?
AA: Edition Hortus is a label who is not scared of releasing repertoire that is not so often recorded. They have recorded hundreds of albums with some of the greatest artists whom I admire, so when the opportunity came to record my first CD with them, I was of course thrilled. Our first experience with them was nothing but fantastic and we hope to record again with them as many times as possible.
LW: Good to know. Discovering lesser known works and composers is a passion of mine inspired by CSUN Professor Emeritus Charles Fierro back when he was conducting master classes. It is a pleasure to share my discoveries with my students and commend Editions Hortus for their efforts. I will peruse their library and look forward to sharing my findings with my students.
I have one more surprise treat for my students and readers – an interview with the CEO of Editions Hortus, Monsieur Didier Maes!!
LW: Thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedule to contribute to our blog. May I begin by asking how and when did Editions Hortus become acquainted with violinist Ambroise Auburn and pianist Steven Vanhauwaert?
DM: The violinist Guillaume Sutre has introduced to us Ambroise Auburn and Steven Vanhauwaert in 2013. Professor of a string quartet class at the Paris City Conservatory for ten years, since 2008 he has held the position of Professor of Violin and director of string chamber music at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. With Steven, Mr. Sutre has recorded the CD, Pensées intimes/Intimate Thoughts in our collection, The Musicians and the Great War. Then Steven recorded a solo album, Dispersion (vol. 19), preceding Romance de guerre which he recorded with Ambroise (vol. 26).
LW: Thank you for the introductions. I enjoyed reading your stunning collection, The Musicians and the Great War is an homage in 36 volumes to make heard works written during the period between 1914 and 1918 in countries affected by WWI. It is quite an accomplishment to have produced forty hours of recording (nearly 5 hours of new music) with the talent of thirty artists and French and foreign orchestras. How wonderful that these lesser known composers and their works will not be lost. The CDs performed by Ambroise and Steven gave me chills. These composers do indeed deserve to be heard and for listeners to experience the emotions from their music.
The Paris<>Los Angeles CD honors the works by composers Eric Zeisl, Darius Milhaud and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Will this CD be part of a new Hortus collection or a stand-alone work?
DM: Paris<>Los Angeles is a stand alone work. Nevertheless, Hortus will continue to follow and support Ambroise and Steven for their new projects.
LW: Good to know. That’s wonderful news. For my students and readers who might not be familiar with Editions Hortus, may I ask what is the label’s guiding philosophy in choosing its repertoire and musicians?
DM: Hortus is specialized in sacred music and poetry. Hortus endeavors to acquaint the public with the choir and organ repertoire from the 19th century to contemporary creation in sacred music and works inspired by literature. Hortus edited the collection Musicians and the Great War in 36 volumes, with support from the Ministry of War and the Mission Centenary.
LW: How wonderful to find a label dedicated to preserving and making available such beautiful music for our culture now and in the future. Bravo to you and your team. One last question. Is there a way my students and readers may keep apprised of upcoming releases by Editions Hortus?
LW: Thank you so much and thank you again for your gracious time in providing this insight into the newly released CD and your wonderful label.
And now back to our interview with Ambroise.
LW: With concert halls closed, would you happen to be planning a live stream event of some of these remarkable works? Maybe a YouTube video or a series?
AA: We don’t have a live stream planned at the moment, but we will be sharing short videos with audio clips from the CD soon.
LW: Ooh, I look forward to experiencing and sharing those short videos and audio clips when they are available. Once concert halls open again, do you plan to perform these works live? If so, how may my students, readers and I be kept in the loop?
AA. Certainly! We hope to play this program as much as possible, we will share updates on our websites and social media platforms.
Awesome! I hope some of your live performances will be close by so I may bring family, friends and students. I’ll be sure to bring my copy of your CD with for your and Steven’s autographs. 🙂
It was such fun interviewing you, Ambroise. I wish you and Steven great success with your CD. Thank you for filling our culture with beautiful inspiring and meaningful music.
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Enjoy on Spotify!
To order the Paris<>Los Angeles CD on the Editions Hortus site, click the link.
To learn more about these fabulous musicians and their recordings and videos visit their websites and social media platforms.
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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except for major holidays.
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