The Classical Music is What Matters

workClassical music doesn’t usually receive notoriety in pop culture. It doesn’t make money on a grand scale like pop music. But for UW-Milwaukee music professors, Tanya Kruse Ruck and Elena Abend, the music itself is what really matters.

Kruse Ruck and Abend are recording an album for voice and piano, using music from three female composers. The recording is expected to be finished this summer at Remote Planet Recording in Milwaukee and released later this year by Albany Records of New York. The duo is excited to collaborate and do something new.

“It started from a desire Tanya and I had to work together,” Abend said.

Research of the compositions began over a year ago in preparation for the recording. The goal was to present songs that were obscure and in some cases never recorded before. According to Kruse Ruck, five of the songs will be world premieres that have no previous recordings. She says the discovery of the pieces has been really fun. She found one piece of music through an antique shop based in Germany.

The music professors are enjoying putting their own marks on the tunes, while still allowing the songs to remain true to the original composers’ ideas. One of the composers has even volunteered to help guide Kruse Ruck and Abend interpret the music. After granting permission to use her songs, Lori Laitman offered coaching for the project. This generous offer makes the experience even more rewarding for Kruse Ruck.

“We’re hoping to take what the composer has, and bring it to life,” Kruse Ruck said. “We want to make sure the music gets a quality recording.”

The CD will have songs in Italian, English and Spanish. The Spanish language is an especially integral part of the album. Composer Modesta Bor was from Venezuela, and Abend was also born in the South American country. In addition, three of the 10 featured pieces from composer Elsa Respighi are written in Spanish. Turning the compositions into audible tracks is exactly the kind of challenge Abend enjoys.

“Learning these songs that I didn’t know existed was very rewarding for me,” Abend said.

Kruse Ruck and Abend have performed together in the past and individually have a long list of musical achievements. Kruse Ruck has a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She has sung with the Milwaukee Symphony and was president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

Abend holds a Master of Music from the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. She has performed at many historic locations, including Carnegie Hall and Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater. The respect between the two musicians is abundantly clear. They have become good friends.

“Elena brings a level of virtuosity to the table,” Kruse Ruck said.

Coming up with enough money to fund the project has been a challenge. The musicians are grateful for the grant money they received from the university, but additional help was necessary to finish the album. To help with expenses, they utilized the crowd funding website, Kickstarter. The $2,500 fundraising goal was met just before the March 26 deadline.

Looking forward, the duo will continue rehearsing and working in the studio. In addition to their many other individual endeavors, they will be performing together live at the Peck School Recital Hall on Wednesday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m., as part of the Chamber Music Milwaukee – Faculty Artists Series. The event is free and open to the public. Expect to hear music from the upcoming album.