Uncommon Voices

Women Composers From Eastern Europe

Maria Szymanowska composer
Zara Levina composer
Grażyna Bacewicz composer
Dora Pejacevic composer
Bojana Petrovic Aleksova composer

Natasha Stojanovska composer & pianist

Release Date: July 22, 2022
Catalog #: NV6440
Format: Digital
21st Century
Solo Instrumental
Piano

UNCOMMON VOICES from Natasha Stojanovska explores the music of female composers from Eastern Europe. This collections of piano works includes the music of Croatia, North Macedonia, the former Soviet Union, and other Eastern European countries, combined with elements of the western musical tradition. The album includes two of Stojanovska’s compositions, Phantasy No. 1 and Phantasy No. 2. The former borrows metrical patterns found in Macedonian folk music; along with elements of tonality and atonality, the piece examines the uncertain boundary between the Macedonian and American cultures. The album also features the works of contemporary composers like Bojana Petrovic Aleksova, as well as historical composers like Maria Szymanowska. Stojanovska is especially proud to bring the music of Szymanowska to the attention of modern listeners; while Szymanowska’s music is not performed as often today, her compositions—including the enchanting Nocturne in B-flat major—likely inspired Frederic Chopin. UNCOMMON VOICES offers a long overdue celebration of female composers from Eastern Europe, as interpreted by the capable hands of Natasha Stojanovska.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Nocturne in B flat major Maria Szymanowska Natasha Stojanovska, piano 5:23
02 Piano Sonata Zara Levina Natasha Stojanovska, piano 8:09
03 Sonata No. 2: Maestoso Grażyna Bacewicz Natasha Stojanovska, piano 6:39
04 Sonata No. 2: Largo Grażyna Bacewicz Natasha Stojanovska, piano 7:28
05 Sonata No. 2: Toccata. Vivo Grażyna Bacewicz Natasha Stojanovska, piano 3:53
06 Sonata No.2 in A flat Major Dora Pejacevic Natasha Stojanovska, piano 13:07
07 4 Pieces for Piano: Number 1 Bojana Petrovic Aleksova Natasha Stojanovska, piano 2:20
08 4 Pieces for Piano: Preludium Bojana Petrovic Aleksova Natasha Stojanovska, piano 1:39
09 4 Pieces for Piano: Pathetic Bojana Petrovic Aleksova Natasha Stojanovska, piano 3:08
10 4 Pieces for Piano: Dream Bojana Petrovic Aleksova Natasha Stojanovska, piano 4:20
11 Phantasy No. 2 Natasha Stojanovska Natasha Stojanovska, piano 7:37
12 Phantasy No. 1 Natasha Stojanovska Natasha Stojanovska, piano 7:12

Recorded January 8-10, 2020 at the Louise E. Addicott and Yatish J. Joshi Performance Hall in South Bend IN
Recording Session Producers Carmen Helena Tellez, Howard Eckdahl
Recording Session Engineers Dan Nichols, Mark Alletag
Liner Notes by Dr. Harlow Robinson
Cover Photo Amber Hoffman

This album is dedicated to Georgina Joshi.

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Chris Robinson

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

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

Artist Information

Natasha Stojanovska

Composer, Pianist

North Macedonian pianist and composer Natasha Stojanovska has received numerous prestigious prizes and honors, including the American Prize. Having left her native country to continue her education in the United States, she was selected to be a member of the studios of Roberta Rust at Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music and Alexander Toradze at Indiana University. Stojanovska continued on to pursue a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University with James Giles.

Learn More

Maria Szymanowska

Composer

Maria Szymanowska (1789-1831) was one of the first virtuoso pianists of the nineteenth century, composing around 100 pieces for the piano and 20 songs; the mother of three children; and a prominent figure in the musical and cultural life both of her native country Poland and of Russia. She began her musical education in Warsaw, and by 1810 began touring as a pianist throughout Europe. Her later years were spent in St. Petersburg, where she taught piano, composed, and hosted a famous salon frequented by literary and musical luminaries. Szymanowska is credited with helping to create the Polish national musical style, by incorporating folk dances and songs into classical compositions. Musicologists consider that her music had a major influence on Frederic Chopin, 21 years her junior.

Zara Levina

Composer

Zara Levina (1906-1976), a Soviet pianist and composer, graduated from the Odessa Conservatory and later the Moscow Conservatory, where she studied composition with the distinguished Soviet composer Nikolai Miaskovsky. She began performing as a pianist in 1926. Perhaps best known for her many songs (romansy), she composed in a wide variety of genres, and was particularly interested in music for children.

Grażyna Bacewicz

Composer

Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969), a violinist and composer, was one of the leading figures in twentieth century Polish music. After graduating from Warsaw Conservatory, she continued her studies in composition at the Paris Conservatory with Nadia Boulanger. As a violinist, she toured throughout Europe, and taught violin and composition in the Lodz and Warsaw Conservatories. She also mastered the piano, and performed her own Piano Sonata No.2. In Communist Poland after World War II, she was active in the Union of Polish Composers. Her large body of work includes symphonies, concerti (seven for violin and orchestra), seven string quartets and numerous pieces for chamber ensemble and solo instruments.

Dora Pejacevic

Composer

Dora Pejacevic (1885-1923) was born in Budapest, the daughter of a Croatian nobleman and a Hungarian baroness. She studied music in Budapest, Zagreb, Dresden, and Munich (where she died), but was largely self-taught. One of the most important figures in the history of Croatian music, she composed 58 works in various genres, and, as her biographer Koraljka Kos has written, “set new standards of professionalism for Croatian music.” Living at the family palace in Croatia, but traveling frequently to the major European capitals, she was deeply involved in the intellectual life of her time, and had a special enthusiasm for the music of Wagner.

Bojana Petrovic Aleksova

Composer

Bojana Petrovic Aleksova is one of the leading representatives of Macedonian contemporary music. Born in Skopje (Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) in 1985, she graduated in Composition Studies from the Faculty of Music there, where she is currently pursuing graduate study in Musicology and Harmonic Analysis. As a composer and vocalist, she collaborated with director Srgian Janicijevic on the play Dracula and an animated film for Skopje Remixed. She has also worked on orchestration for films. Her compositions include works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestra, and chorus, and have been performed in Macedonia and abroad.

Notes

Thank you to Yatish and Joan Joshi, who are my primary donors that made my album possible. I am deeply grateful for their support. Also, thank you to everyone who hosted the “Stojanovska Salon Series” to help fund this album: Yatish and Joan Joshi, Bernard and Sally Dobroski, Jana and Bary Hass, Emery and John Silva, Unitarian Church of South Bend, and Jim and Paula Keifer. Thank you to all my friends for their generosity, including (smaller donors): Carmen-Helena Tellez, Esther Kossoff, Diane Gibbs, Gary and Carol Gisler, Jimmy Shen, and Lucida Chiang. Special thanks to my producer Carmen-Helena Tellez for directly inspiring, advising, motivating, encouraging, and supporting me in the process of creating this album. Without her, this project will not have been possible. Thank you to Rick Bolton for supporting me and helping me create high-quality sound and video files. Your hard work helped me get the project started and funded. Thank you also to my production team— they are best on the planet. Much gratitude to my host parents, Lois and Dan Holm, for hosting me during the recording session.

This album is dedicated to Georgina Joshi.

Her family has said of her, “Georgina always put others before herself. She always believed that each day would be the best day yet and she always gave 110% effort to even the smallest tasks.” Here is a short 3-minute link to the documentary’s trailer that was made about Georgina and the tragic plane crash. The documentary was created by her father Yatish (who, together with his wife, is the primary donor for the album). youtu.be/ngqmeo1I2WA

— Natasha Stojanovska

Szymanowska’s enchanting Nocturne in B-flat major has become her most famous and frequently performed composition. When this piece was composed is not precisely known, and it was published only after her death in 1852. Szymanowska composed some of the earliest examples of piano nocturnes, a form later perfected by Chopin, who wrote 21 of them. Constructed in A-B-A form, with a short contrasting middle section, this one presents a series of variations on a charming lyrical melody in a rippling 12/8 meter over simply-harmonized broken chords. Szymanowska enlivens the texture with delicate embellishments—ingenious mirroring scale passages, grace notes, and trills.

– Harlow Robinson

Levina wrote the first of her two piano sonatas, the Piano Sonata No.1, in 1925, at the tender age of 19. Composed in a single movement that lasts only about eight minutes, this dreamy, romantic, highly compressed piece shows a strong influence of Sergei Rachmaninoff. Levina greatly admired Rachmaninoff, despite the fact that he had emigrated from Russia in 1917 and was already considered a suspicious “emigre” by Soviet authorities. In spirit and harmonic language, the Sonata looks backward, not towards the modernist experimentation occurring in Soviet music in the mid-1920s. An ominous, descending three-note motif dominates the texture from beginning to end, in dense, cascading chordal transformations, creating an atmosphere of pathos and youthful passion.

– Harlow Robinson

Structured in three movements, the muscular Sonata No.2 (1953) demands enormous virtuosity and energy from the soloist. Crashing dissonances fill the dark, moody, and explosive first movement, which moves by association rather than development, in what one critic has called a “flurry of ideas.” By contrast, the reflective second movement sounds more influenced by French composers like Ravel, but progresses from a tranquil opening to a series of insistent octaves reminiscent of Prokofiev. The technically demanding toccata presents an oberek, a Polish triple-time dance, treating it in a jagged modernist fashion in the spirit of Bartok, whose music Bacewicz is known to have admired.

– Harlow Robinson

The Piano Sonata No.2, Op.57, was composed in 1921, not long before Pejacevic’s death. Like Levina’s First Sonata, it unfolds in a single movement lasting about 10 minutes, and has been described as a “sonata-fantasy,” in the style of Franz Liszt. The piece opens dramatically, with the energetic galloping main subject (allegro con fuoco) in octaves in the left hand, in dotted quarter notes, in the tonic key. A second impressionistic subject in C-sharp minor provides emotional and sonic contrast. An extended development section follows, with the main subject dominant until an ingenious final fugato section based on the second subject, leading to a short coda.

– Harlow Robinson

Four Pieces for Piano consists of four different character pieces, played together. Each represents a different emotional and personal aspect of the composer. The last three feature an explosive culmination expressing inner rage and an attitude of resistance. The first piece, a symbolic opening for the set, represents an individual’s dominant heroic character. Its culmination represents the more lyrical, vulnerable aspect of the personality of an individual who appears to be strong.

– Harlow Robinson

Both of these pieces are early works, composed soon after Stojanovska’s arrival in the United States. Structurally, they are in a free rhapsodic form, with innovative combinations of sonorities and colors. Both feature melodic and rhythmic patterns found in traditional Macedonian rural and urban music—“starogradska muzika.”

The metrical pattern of Phantasy No.1, 7/8 divided into 3+2+2, is typical of Macedonian folk music. So is the spirit of the melodic line of the main subject, in E-flat minor with augmented seconds, unpredictable accents, expressive trills, and a driving rhythmic pulse. The uncertain boundary between atonality and tonality reflects the relationship between the cultures of Macedonia and America. With rapid passages covering the keyboard, tremolos and hammering marcatos, the piece is a showcase for virtuosic piano technique. The ad libitum cantable con dolore section expresses the composer’s grief over leaving home, then falls into dreamy spacious textures, before reviving in a dense and stormy conclusion.

Stojanovska dedicated the Phantasy No. 2 to her sister, Marina, a concert pianist. It expresses deep feelings of nostalgia and homesickness for all she left behind. But the composer balances these emotions with hope for the future, heard in dynamic rhythmic combinations and pianistic flourishes.

The opening section presents grand octaves in flowing, traditional tonal harmonies, with numerous parallel thirds and sixths in the right hand. The intense and melancholy main subject modulates from B-flat major to C major, then develops in C minor, the key of the following two sections. Rhythmic and virtuosic passages lead to a dance-like section with echoes of folk material. Falling arpeggios dissolve into a more peaceful coda.

– Harlow Robinson