THE GORGEOUS NOTHINGS is composer Ingrid Stölzel’s first full album on Navona Records, although she has also been featured on three compilation albums released by the label. Haunting and lyrical throughout, the album explores themes of beauty, being, journey and transformation. The album’s eleven tracks, some inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and some created by Stölzel’s own native curiosity, engage the listener intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.
The album’s title composition takes as its inspiration Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings and weaves together five paper fragments into a beautiful song cycle. Soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson performs against a backdrop of flute, oboe and piano, evoking a sense of both the poet’s and the composer’s creative spirits.
In here there, performed by Navona violinist Véronique Mathieu and pianist Ellen Sommer, Stölzel plays with the subtlety of perspective. The interplay between piano and violin creates a sense of the instruments both attracting and resisting each other, much like the emotion one feels when torn between two places.
In Soul Journey – Three Whitman Songs, Stölzel brings together three poems by Walt Whitman into a song cycle, which creates a journey of the soul from awakening to awareness to transcendence. These striking lyrical interpretations from Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” are soulfully interpreted by mezzo-soprano Phyllis Pancella and Ellen Sommer on piano.
With Eyes Open takes as its source material Stölzel’s earlier composition, “with both eyes.” Here, allowing herself to fully open to the idea of possibility, Stölzel takes the 2008 composition, originally written for flute, guitar, vibraphone and piano, and transforms it into a subtle and serene piece written for alto saxophone and piano.
The album concludes with The Road is All, which takes as its inspiration a quote from a 19th century historian which translates to “The end is nothing; the road is all.” Each instrument – violin, cello and piano – travels on its own journey throughout the piece, sometimes solo and at other times converging, embracing the twists and turns, the unpredictability that is life, and the simple enjoyment of a moment in passing time.
Ingrid Stölzel has been hailed as “a composer of considerable gifts” who is “musically confident and bold” by NPR’s classical music critic. Her music has been described as “tender and beautiful” and as creating a “haunting feeling of lyrical reflection and suspension in time memory.” Stölzel’s compositions have been performed in concert halls and at festivals worldwide including the Kennedy Center, Seoul Arts Center, Thailand International Composition Festival and the Festival of New American Music, among others. Her music has been awarded and recognized in numerous national and international competitions.