On January 28, 2022, Pentatone will release how do I find you, a collection of words and music created in 2020, portraying the gamut of human experiences during the ongoing pandemic. Acclaimed American mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke commissioned gifted composers in their 40s and younger, offering them carte blanche to create what spoke most to them during this time. The result is an album that pulses with immediacy and authenticity.
“When cancellation after cancellation was coming in, I felt an utter loss of identity,” said Sasha Cooke. “This project provided me with a sense of purpose and hope – a way to orient myself through the haze of so much change and uncertainty. From the moment I called the first composer, it felt as if a light suddenly shone and a piece of myself was returned to me.”
While Cooke is the mezzo of choice for celebrated composers such as Mason Bates, William Bolcom, and Joby Talbot, she recognized this project as an ideal opportunity to connect with new collaborators whose work she had admired from afar. With the notable exception of Nico Muhly – Cooke created the title role in his opera Marnie – each piece featured on how do I find you is the result of a new creative partnership.
“This album was a crash course in nurturing artistic alchemy over distance,” said Cooke. “And that turns out to have its own sort of magic! Each time that a song came in, it felt like my birthday: unwrapping a package that revealed a new and surprising sound world. As I sat at the piano working through the songs, I would often find myself overwhelmed with emotion. I hope listeners also find moments that resonate with their recent lives.”
Some of the pieces are earnest, wrestling with societal challenges from racial injustice and school shootings to California wildfires. Others are abstract or wryly humorous, told through the lens of harried parents working from home, or tackling that most urgent (tongue-firmly-in-cheek) quarantine quandary: whether to order a Peloton bike. The juxtaposition of these varied works is an apt reflection of the ways in which the pandemic has required humanity to toggle between existential threats and daily life.
The songs will receive their world premiere performances in Cooke’s one-night-only Great Performers Series recital with pianist Kirill Kuzmin, who is also featured on the album, at San Francisco Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall on January 30, 2022. Cooke and Kuzmin will re-team in Baltimore for the works’ East Coast premieres on March 6, 2022, at Shriver Hall Concert Series on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus.
Featured composers include Caroline Shaw, Kamala Sankaram, Matt Boehler, Missy Mazzoli, John Glover, Rene Orth, Christopher Cerrone, Gabriel Kahane, Andrew Marshall, Huang Ruo, Timo Andres, Nico Muhly, Hilary Purrington, Lembit Beecher, Frances Pollock, Joel Thompson, and Jimmy López Bellido, with words by Caroline Shaw, Mark Campbell, Todd Boss, Royce Vavrek, Kelley Rourke, Colleen Murphy, John K. Samson, Gabriel Kahane, David Henry Hwang, Lola Ridge, Thomas Traherne, Liza Balkan, Emily Roller, and Gene Scheer. Visit hdifyalbum.com to learn more.
About Sasha Cooke
Two-time Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke is a “luminous standout” (The New York Times) whose “equal parts poise, radiance and elegant directness” have been praised by Opera News. She has sung at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, English National Opera, Seattle Opera, Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Gran Teatre del Liceu, among others. Ms. Cooke has performed with over 70 orchestras around the world and has appeared in recital at leading venues including Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall, Wigmore Hall, and the 92nd Street Y. She lives near Houston with her daughters Evelyn and Julia and her husband, baritone Kelly Markgraf.
About Kirill Kuzmin
Kirill Kuzmin is a principal coach at Houston Grand Opera and a member of the music staff at The Glimmerglass Festival. A Russian native, Mr. Kuzmin spent three years with the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, first as a young artist and then as a full-time member of the music staff. He holds degrees in piano performance from the Moscow Conservatory and in collaborative piano from the Moscow Conservatory and the University of Michigan, where he studied with renowned collaborative pianist Martin Katz. Recent recital appearances included a Schwabacher Debut Recital in San Francisco with baritone Sol Jin, as well as streamed recitals with Arturo Chacun-Cruz, Sasha Cooke, and Nicholas Phan.