Chicago Sinfonietta & Mei-Ann Chen – “Project W – Works By Diverse Women Composers” – [Cedille Records]
This 2019 album of classical works is based on the highlights of Chicago Sinfonietta’s 30th season (2017-2018) [Mei-Ann Chen, conductor and musical director], which featured the works of American women composers. Most of the compositions on Project W were newly commissioned by the orchestra, from Jennifer Higdon, Clarice Assad, Jessie Montgomery, and Reena Esmail. The album starts with a performance of Dance in the Canebreaks, written by pioneering African-American composer Florence B. Price. Dances, consisting of 3 jaunty pieces, is sweet and fun, reminiscent of Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess”, but with its own flair. “Sin fronteras” by Clarice Assad & “Coincident Dances” by Jessie Montgomery (part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble) sound like traditional classical music. Reena Esmail’s “Charukeshi bandish” has traditional classical Indian arrangements along with vocals, while her “#metoo” is skittish and tense. The album ends with Jennifer Higdon’s 5-movement piece, Dance Card, which alternates between high-energy pieces (no. 1, 3 & 5) and slower, sweeter pieces (no. 2 & 4). This album won’t fit on all shows, but certain pieces can work around the edges of international, blues, drone and ambient sets. Check it out.