Sparks Vol II

Works For Orchestra

Dave Dexter composer
William C. White composer
Simon Andrews composer
Rain Worthington composer
Allen Brings composer
John A. Carollo composer
John Franek composer
Jeff Mangels composer

Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Stanislav Vavřínek, Jiří Petrdlík conductors

Release Date: March 12, 2021
Catalog #: NV6337
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century

The album SPARKS VOL. 2 couldn’t be more aptly named, as bows bend and sparks fly in this vibrant collection of pieces for string orchestra. Bound to please modernists and traditionalists alike, this eclectic collection contains pieces by Dave Dexter, William C. White, Simon Andrews, Rain Worthington, Allen Brings, John Carollo, John Franek, and Jeff Mangels. While the pool of inspiration might be diverse – ancient myths, dance, chaos, rites of passage, reflection and homesickness for a place which (may have) never existed – the pieces are united by their display of raw musical energy, an undercurrent of longing, as well as profundity in both technical and emotional terms.


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Performance Video

Dave Dexter – Hiraeth | Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Hiraeth Dave Dexter Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Stanislav Vavřínek, conductor 6:35
02 Recollected Dances, Op. 41 William C. White Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Jiří Petrdlík, conductor 5:06
03 Till Voices Wake Us Simon Andrews Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Stanislav Vavřínek, conductor 8:50
04 Within Deep Currents Rain Worthington Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Stanislav Vavřínek, conductor 6:25
05 Introduction and Roundelay Allen Brings Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Stanislav Vavřínek, conductor 5:10
06 Seeds of Doubt John A. Carollo Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Stanislav Vavřínek, conductor 6:23
07 Torso John Franek Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Stanislav Vavřínek, conductor; Pavel Doležel, solo violin; Jakub Černohorský, solo violin; Petr Benda, solo violin; Marek Blaha, solo violin 8:35
08 Reflection Jeff Mangels Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava | Jiří Petrdlík, conductor 8:19

Recorded June 2, 4-5, 11, Aug 28, and Sept 4, 2020 at Dům Kultury města Ostravy (The Ostrava House of Culture) in Ostrava, Czech Republic

Session Producer Jan Košulič

Jana Jelínková
Assistant Engineer: 5-6
Session Engineer: 2, 4, 7-8

Aleš Dvořák
Session Engineer: 1, 5-6

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Chris Robinson, Danielle Lewis, Morgan Santos, Mike Juozokas

VP, Audio Production Jeff LeRoy
Recording Sessions Director Levi Brown
Audio Director, Editing, Mixing (2-8) Lucas Paquette
International Recording Sessions Manager, Editing, Mixing (1, 3) Jan Košulič
Mastering Shaun Michaud

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Dave Dexter


Dave Dexter (b. UK, 1985) came to composing relatively late, without formal music education, by unsuccessfully entering a contest with the Liverpool Philharmonic in 2015. The rejection spurred him into a long period of self-tuition in composition, engraving, and orchestration — by the following year he had recorded his first works with string quartet, then orchestra and choir, and finally a full symphony orchestra in 2018.

William White


William White is a conductor, composer, teacher, writer, and performer based in Seattle, WA. Equally known for his original music as for his bold interpretations, White is an innovative programmer and conscientious leader in the musical community. White currently serves as music director of Orchestra Seattle and the Seattle Chamber Singers, a unique performing ensemble comprised of a chorus and orchestra that concertize as one.

Simon Andrews


Simon Andrews is an English composer who is earning a reputation as a creator of eloquent concert music that blends harmonic complexity and lyricism, introversion and broad gestures, delicate timbres and bold statements. His output ranges from large-scale orchestral works and opera to intimate chamber music, with a special delight in chamber music with solo voices. He studied at Oxford University, and the Royal Academy of Music, and gained a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Winner of the 1985 Benjamin Britten Prize, his music has been commissioned and performed to critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

Rain Worthington

Rain Worthington


Uniquely among classical composers Rain Worthington discovered her voice as a composer and learned her art autodidactically. She began intuitively composing works for solo piano and performing them from memory. Later she taught herself musical notation and compositional forms. Her writing has been described in the IAWM Journal as “a fusion of styles—ancient, medieval modality and sonorities, modernist minimalist ostinato, and classical approaches to basic ideas—to capture components of the human experience.”

Allen Brings


A native of New York City, Allen Brings received a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude from Queens College and a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University, where he was a Mosenthal Fellow and a student of Otto Luening, and a doctorate in theory and composition from Boston University, where he was a teaching fellow and a student of Gardner Read.

John A. Carollo


John A. Carollo was born in Torino, Italy and brought to the United States by his adoptive parents. When he was in grade school, he studied classical piano and sang in the church choir. While attending college in San Diego CA, he studied music and psychology. During this time, Carollo took piano lessons and began composing his first piano works. He graduated from San Diego State University being granted a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

John Franek


John Franek (b.1996) is a pianist and composer whose compositions “evoke an epic narrative” (Sonograma Magazine). Franek has had premieres of his own works performed in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, with notable premieres in locations such as in New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Vienna, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Lviv, Krasnoyarsk, Ostrava, Olomouç, Milan, Rome, Havana, Quito, and Tashkent. Among these performances, he has had his works performed by ensembles such as The Siberian State Symphony Orchestra, Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, The Moravian Philharmonic, KLKNewMusic, the Brightwork Ensemble, the Lontano Ensemble, and Trio Immersio.

Jeff Mangels


Jeff Mangels is a composer known for writing expressive, evocative music. His body of work includes a piano concerto and works for orchestra, winds, brass, strings, chorus, voice, percussion, chamber groups, electronics, electric guitar, and piano. His symphonic poem, The Trial, was recorded on volume 11 of the "Masterworks of the New Era" CD series (ERM Media). His Sonata for Piano, “Scenes from the Night,” received recognition by Lowell Liebermann and Chen Yi and he received the Linda Betts Frazier Award for outstanding composer (James Madison University).

Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava


The Janáček Philharmonic is a world-class symphony orchestra based in Ostrava, Czech Republic and an emerging figure on the international performance scene. With over 100 top-level musicians, the orchestra aims to introduce unique, quality repertoire while showcasing their own recognizable sound.

Jiří Petrdlík


Jiří Petrdlík (b. 1977) is appreciated as one of the most respectable conductors of his generation. He studied piano, trombone, and conducting — 1995–2000 at Prague Conservatory, and 2000–2005 at Academy of Performing Arts Prague — with Hynek Farkač, Miroslav Košler, Miriam Němcová, Radomil Eliška, and Tomáš Koutník, and took part in the masterclasses of the New York Philharmonic Principal Conductor Kurt Masur and the BBC Philharmonic Principal Conductor Jiří Bělohlávek. Petrdlík also successfully took part in several competitions, including the Donatella Flick Conductor Competition in London.

Stanislav Vavřínek


Stanislav Vavřínek is one of the most prominent Czech conductors and has been Chief Conductor of the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice since 2018. Having graduated from the Conservatory in Brno where he studied flute and conducting, he continued his education at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Subsequently, he also took master classes with Roberto Benzi in Switzerland, culminating with a concert in which he conducted the Biel Philharmonic Orchestra.


“Hiraeth” is a Welsh word for homesickness – not only for a home you’ve left, but a home you cannot return to or never existed at all. Having moved house shortly before I began composing the work, and being prone to crippling nostalgia for places not just months but decades in my past, this concept of extreme homesickness immediately caught my attention. Thus Hiraeth became a tone poem for my old homes and haunts, trees and rivers – places I’ve walked and never will again.

Compositionally, Hiraeth is centred round a five-note theme first established (0.45) after the work’s ominous, divided low strings opening. At first played without harmonic support, bass and cello divisi are introduced before the theme’s darker four-note variant is introduced (1.12), both joining for the piece’s crescendo (4.38). A second, more romantic and mournful theme acts as a counter to the bitter triumph of the first, played initially by violas and cellos (1.52) and returned to later with double bass, cello and finally unison violin octaves (3.46). The piece closes as it opens, ending with a flourishing if slightly dissonant swell.

A highly tonal piece, the orchestration is appropriately traditional – themes often played in unison across octaves between either cellos and violas, or violins I & II, with the other sections providing harmonic support. To achieve the wide, lush sound I love in string music, these supporting sections are generally divided; tremolo is often used for texture in quieter moments, and themes are passed between sections to be explored and evolved.

— Dave Dexter

Recollected Dances was composed from September – October 2018 and premiered on 2 January, 2019 in Mānoa, Hawaii by the Hawaii All-State Orchestra under the direction of Joseph Stepec. The composer conducted the continental US premiere in Macon, GA on 2 March, 2019, and the work has since been performed by several orchestras in the United States. This performance marks the European premiere.

The “Recollected” of the title refers to both meanings of the word: the main theme of the piece was originally composed for the score of a film titled Mulligan (2012), and thus has been reused in this work. However, “recollected” also refers to the fact that the composer means to evoke the memory of bygone days.

Formally, the piece is a suite of short, interconnected dances. It is one of the rare works for string orchestra that devotes an extended soli melody to the contrabass section.

— William C. White

If you venture outside around dusk in late April or early May near a pond in the Massachusetts countryside, you are likely to hear a remarkable chorus. It is produced by male eastern American toads as they try to attract a mate, and consists of a series of long, high-pitched trills, each of which can last up to twenty seconds. Each animal produces a different note from its neighbour, but as a group they seem to limit themselves to three or four pitches, resulting in a magical, otherworldly, multi-layered counterpoint. One evening I was transfixed such an ethereal recital, and its sound-world became the starting point for Till voices wake us, taking the form of high, pianissimo string harmonics.

The sound conjured up resonances of all kinds of myths: the will o’ the wisp calling to the weary traveller, the Erlkönig, Slavic rusalki, Greek sirens, and, of course, mermaids luring boats on to the rocks, to name but a few. These non-corporeal voices have had a strong pull on the human imagination for millennia. It was only when I was jogged out of the reverie into which the toads’ calls had led me that the title of the piece came to me.

Lovers of T. S. Eliot will doubtless recognise in Till voices wake us the near quotation of the last three lines of Prufrock:

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

For Eliot, the mermaids represent the world of the imagination, in contrast to the socially stifling life of 1920s London, and it seems to me that the drowning he refers to is not literal death, but its opposite, to being torn from our inner creative spaces (where we truly live) to return, perhaps unwillingly, to the mundane. Till human voices inhabits the liminal space between the two ‘worlds’ and is a sequence of dream-like events open to many narratives.

Or, to use another Eliot near-quotation, it tries to depict “that place where three dreams cross.”

— Simon Andrews

Within Deep Currents conveys some of the feelings I have had during this epic time of a global pandemic – a sense of immersion within a flow of time and a feeling of being slowly pulled along by underlying currents, as dynamic forces exert their influences through an interplay of divergent energies.

— Rain Worthington

“Within Deep Currents was so rich and complex. It certainly touched the mood and anxious lines of influence flowing about me today. And that rise at the end — Rain, it sounded like you took us up and onto a bluff overlooking the crisis, so we could regain ourselves for the next chapter.” – Christopher S. Johnson, Award-winning film editor

She has the ability to state her compositional case to us directly, as it were, in absolutely concrete if mystical terms. She somehow makes clear to us how we experience the transitional, impermanent and ever shifting quality of a later modernist world. – Grego Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

There is a deep interiority to this music, which seems directly in touch with a private dreamworld that the composer makes universal. … Worthington has an instantly recognizable sound, an austere sensuality not quite like anyone else, …a composer of considerable imagination, emotional expressiveness, and poetic sensibility—one who needs to be heard more widely. – Jack Sullivan, American Record Guide

The Introduction and Roundelay for strings was completed in October 2001, and composed with the abilities of a better-than-average youth orchestra in mind. As such, I did not allow myself the free use of the kinds of demanding instrumental techniques that I would normally have expected of professional musicians. I did, however, confront these youthful players with a range of expression that they are unlikely to encounter in the new music of their time. The character of the music is at times playful, perhaps even naive (one can’t always be sure if it is intended to be “serious” or not), but elsewhere it demands a kind of intensity not ordinarily experienced by such performers. The lively opening theme of the Roundelay gives way briefly to a more sustained section which seems in subsequent measures to contend with the earlier, more active, theme. After a brief pause, it appears that the opening theme has gained the upper hand because it reintroduces itself in an even faster tempo to conclude the piece on a light, Puckish, note, that indeed may prompt us to ask just how serious was all this after all. 

— Allen Brings

This music is a nod to Beethoven, whose huge bust sits on the right side of my desk where I compose music.
As I was composing these thoughts came to me:
Don’t let doubt kill your aspirations.
Don’t let others define your reality.
Planting seeds of doubt can be tools of control.
You can embrace chaos.
Outsiders create realities that embrace creativity and alienation.
Don’t let fear overrule your decision making.
These aphorisms were the guiding principles that led to the composition, Seeds of Doubt. Its intensity is matched by the seeds of doubt others plant to get you to behave in a manner that goes against your better judgement. Beware.

— John A. Carollo

TORSO is a piece centered around sculpting the reaction of the human upper body to anxiety and uncertainty in sound. In this vein I have separated the string orchestra roughly into groups that focus around one of the vital sounds of the upper body: Heartbeat, Breath, and Stomach.

Taken from my own exposure to and personal experiences with these symptoms of anxiety, TORSO demonstrates the journey from uncertainty to calmness within the context of the upper part of the body. Derived from the goal of somatic therapy, the he piece expresses as much of an anxiety episode (no matter how long or short), remaining symptoms and the journey back to a place of power and calmness within your own body.

— John Franek

Anticipation, anxiety, trials and tribulations, and ultimately, reflection, are what one experiences in any rite of passage. This work was inspired by the sense of euphoric calm that comes when one knows the difficult obstacles are behind and the end of a journey is near and attainable. Reflecting upon all that has transpired along the way, one is filled with an inner peace as they approach and reach their aspiration.

Completed in 2019, REFLECTION, is an arrangement for string orchestra of the third movement of String Quartet No. 2, “The Rite of Passage” which I composed as a tone poem of sorts in three movements (I. Anticipation, II. Passage, and III. Reflection) – each movement representing part of the journey within a rite of passage. The third movement is quite conducive to string orchestra, which led to this arrangement – ala how Samuel Barber arranged the second movement of his String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11 (i.e., Adagio for Strings).

Ethereal harmonics, rich chords, lyrical melodies, subtle articulations, and warm dynamic contrasts are featured in this work, along with a persistent pulse that drives its energy. With the addition of double bass in this arrangement, the low C is utilized to help emphasize the epic drama of this work.

— Jeff Mangels

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