Clancy Newman and Natalie Zhu have shared countless stages. They met in Philadelphia in 1998, and have collaborated often since then – Newman as a cellist and composer, and Zhu as a pianist and artistic director of the Kingston Chamber Music Festival (KCMF). They are now embarking on a new sort of stage: They signed a recording contract with Albany Records. The company aims to release their duo album for cello and piano on August 1, 2023. “We shared our recording with them and they loved it,” Zhu says of how this contract came to fruition. “The music pitched itself.”
The American Sound
“Our album will be titled From Method to Madness: the American Sound,” Newman says. “Natalie and I believe that the four works included paint a picture of American music at its best: sometimes passionate, other times humorous; sometimes classical and other times jazzy; sometimes methodical and other times pure madness!” Zhu adds that the selections highlight their unique dynamic as a pair. “We have similar musical instincts and technical abilities, so our collaboration always feels effortless,” she says.
A Little Bit of Everything
The recording also features new compositions from Newman. “Along with fresh new takes on two standard works (Barber Sonata and Foss Capriccio), the album also contains two premiere recordings,” he says. “One is a piece I wrote called From Method to Madness. The other is a four-movement sonata by Kenji Bunch called Broken Music, commissioned by the Naumburg Foundation for me to premiere in my Alice Tully Hall recital after I won their cello competition.” Zhu notes that her two favorite pieces on the album are Barber Sonata and Kenji Bunch’s Broken Music. “Both pieces brought out the power of music and humanity,” she says.
From Virtual Recitals to the Album
While the covid-19 pandemic changed the lives of chamber musicians by canceling in-person rehearsals and concerts, it also provided an opportunity to get creative. In this case, it provided the foundation for From Method to Madness: the American Sound. “At the height of the pandemic, I programmed these repertoires for KCMF’s virtual recital in 2020, which led to this wonderful opportunity,” Zhu says. “I wanted to show the power of music and humanity during the pandemic. As an artist, and also the leader of an art organization, I believe it was my responsibility to bring hope and love to others. My hope was that this music will help us in developing empathy, trust and compassion for others during those challenging moments.”