Nina Stern finding her way: Rose of the Compass

Nina Stern has carved a unique and staggeringly diverse career for herself as a world class recorder player and classical clarinetist. In the last three months alone, Nina has performed Weber’s clarinet concerto with the American Classical Orchestra, Monteverdi Vespers with Apollos Fire, and traditional music from the Balkans and Armenia with her own ensemble, East of the River.

She also found time to record her first solo CD (set to be released in summer 2011) of Medieval and traditional Armenian repertory, Italian estampies, traditional music from the Balkans, and Classical Arabic music. This is a deeply personal project for Nina and she spoke with me recently about the upcoming CD.

Nina Stern

“I had music from many different times and places that I loved and to which I felt deeply connected.  I wanted to make an album exploring the similarities between all this music in a way that could draw from my experiences in both traditional and historically informed performance.  None of this music was originally intended for recorder (or for the chalumeau - which I also play on the album), so each piece forced me to explore the question ‘How can I make this work with the tools I have?’

“For example, the Italian estampies are written as just one single melodic line.  I wanted to harmonize this line, and modelled my harmonization after comtemporary texts, such as Robertsbridge Codex.  I then used the decidedly modern technique of over-dubbing to complete the harmonization on the recording.

I was lucky to have some amazing musicians recording with me: Glen Velez, percussion; Ara Dinkjian, oud, and Shira Kammen, vielle and fiddle.  Glen is the leading frame drum player in the world, Ara is an extraordinary oud player and composer, and Shira has so much experience in medieval and traditional Balkan music that she was able to give an entirely different perspective to the project.  I worked hard to find different ways of orchestrating the tracks - to create interesting shapes and sounds - with Glen, Ara, and Shira giving me their input as well. I'm really excited about the results.”

Nina and Glen will be teaching together again during the second week of the 2011 Amherst Early Music Festival and also plan to publish a book of traditional tunes with percussion accompaniment.  On July 21st, they will perform a concert of music from the upcoming CD with Ara Dinkjian at the Amherst Early Music Festival on Thursday, July 21 in New London, CT.