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Sonia Wieder-Atherton Pays Tribute to Jazz Legend Nina Simone with Little Girl Blue, a New Album from naïve; Questing French-American Cellist Joins British Actor Charlotte Rampling for “The Night Dances” at Park Avenue Armory April 22-26

Cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton continues her journey down the road less traveled with two projects showcasing her gifts for bringing together disparate influences, ideas, and genres to create thought-provoking and seamless artistic experiences. On Little Girl Blue, a new album from naïve, the questing cellist pays homage to Nina Simone, performing arrangements of some of the jazz legend’s songs – as well as songs especially associated with her – with pianist Bruno Fontaine and percussionist Laurent Kraif. The album’s U.S. release last month precedes Wieder-Atherton’s return to New York City for another of the innovative collaborative projects she has conceived. Taking its name from a poem by Sylvia Plath, “The Night Dances” brings together performances of Benjamin Britten’s Suites for Solo Cello with the haunting, confessional works of the American poet. British actor Charlotte Rampling is Wieder-Atherton’s partner for the U.S.-premiere run of this intimate yet riveting work, which will take place on April 22-26 in one of New York’s most magisterial settings: the Park Avenue Armory.

As Wieder-Artherton explains in a video preview album available here, Little Girl Blue is not only inspired by her own boundless admiration for Nina Simone’s artistry, but also by key elements of the singer’s personal biography:

“Nina’s story is that of a black girl born into a poor, very religious family. She had an astounding gift for the piano. She played Bach chorales and accompanied her mother who was a preacher. As a little girl, she dreamed of becoming a classical pianist, working very fast, six to eight hours a day. She wasn’t given a chance and started singing instead, discovering that she had an extraordinary voice. In fact, she brought all the classical music she had absorbed into her singing. So rather than turn away from something she had been denied, she invented her own language, extraordinary, but also undefinable.”

Wieder-Atherton pays tribute to Simone with a program that embraces a wide variety of repertoire – Simone’s own “Images,” “Come Ye,” and “Return Home”; the singer’s covers of such songs as Ellington’s “Hey, Buddy Bolden” and the title track by Richard Rodgers; the traditional song “Black is the Colour of my True Love’s Hair”; and “classical” works by Menotti, Brahms/Bach and Rachmaninoff (a full track list can be found below). The result is an album the Strad has called “a tribute to Nina Simone that is more than the sum of its parts and a world away from a straightforward set of cover songs.” In these “bold re-imaginings of Simone’s own radical, sometimes fierce music, … Wieder-Atherton captures the spirit of her subject: the wild mood swings in Simone’s music and her ability to fuse diverse styles.”

Sonia Wieder-Atherton comments on her upcoming performances in one of her favorite and most inspiring cities:

“New York is part of my life. I realize that more and more, my young years in New York resonate in many different ways in my projects. So, coming back is every time a strong and moving experience. Last time I came, it was to perform my Odyssey for Cello and Imaginary Choir at The Kitchen. This time, it is about Nina Simone. I would like to think that what Nina Simone has opened, has invented, and to which I tried to respond with my cello, will find a resonance in the country that saw her born. “As for ‘Night Dances,’ every time I hear Sylvia Plath’s poetry, I think that it touches something that is more or less hidden in each of us – something that Sylvia Plath draws out and expresses in words, words that are said by Charlotte Rampling and become music. And it seems to me that Britten’s Solo Cello Suites and Sylvia Plath’s poetry understand each other in a mysterious and unbelievable way.”

Little Girl Blue and “The Night Dances” are the most recent examples of the imaginative conceptual programs that set Wieder-Atherton apart – in concert and in the recording studio – as a singular, indeed visionary artist. Vita, available on a recording from naïve, pairs music by Renaissance master Claudio Monteverdi and Italian modernist Giacinto Scelsi. Chants d’est: Songs from Slavic Lands explores music of composers with cultural roots in Mitteleuropa, while Chants Juifs: Jewish Songs for Cello & Piano – also on naïve – highlights music from this ancient and vital faith.


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 High resolution photos are available here.


Little Girl Blue – tracklist 


Cello & artistic direction

Piano and musical collaboration & piano

Percussion and musical collaboration

BLACK SWANN: Gian Carlo Menotti (1946)
LITTLE GIRL BLUE: Richard Rodgers (1935)
FODDER ON MY WINGS: Nina Simone (1981)
HEY, BUDDY BOLDEN: Duke Ellington (1956)
IMAGES: Nina Simone (1964)
YOU CAN HAVE HIM: Steve Diamond & Susan Sheridan (1949)
THAT’S ALL I WANT FROM YOU: Fritz Rother (1955)
BROWN BABY: Oscar Brown, Jr. (1959)
STARS: Mindi Beth Abair & Matthew W Hager (1974)
COME YE: Nina Simone (1966)
RETURN HOME: Nina Simone (1959)

“The Night Dances”
Actor Charlotte Rampling and cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton 

Park Avenue Armory (Recital Series)
April 22 – 26, 2015


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