On December 4, 2020, First Hand Records released a single from its forthcoming album The Stradgrass Sessions: a performance by violinist Tessa Lark and bassist Edgar Meyer of the dramatic finale to Meyer’s Concert Duo for Violin and Bass. The Lark/Meyer single (FHR100S2), available on all digital channels and in a short film, is drawn from an album that explores the violin’s stylistic capabilities in multiple ways, featuring Lark in duo collaborations with Meyer, jazz pianist Jon Batiste, fiddler extraordinaire Michael Cleveland and mandolinist Sierra Hull, as well as in two compositions for solo violin including the world premier recording of STOMP, a bluegrass-inspired work by John Corigliano.
The Stradgrass Sessions was produced with support from Lark’s 2018 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, and is her second recording on the First Hand Records label (which released her critically acclaimed solo debut album, Fantasy, in 2019). The inspired term “Stradgrass,” from which the album derives its title, dates from 2015, when Lark first experienced the novelty of performing bluegrass on the 1683 ex-Gingold Stradivarius then on loan to her as a Silver Medalist in the International Violin Composition of Indianapolis. “Stradgrass” soon became something of a personal trademark, representing the synthesis of Lark’s musical styles (though she had to return the ex-Gingold Strad in 2018 and actually recorded The Stradgrass Sessions on another old Italian violin, a G.P. Maggini ca. 1600 now on loan to Lark from an anonymous donor through the Stradivari Society of Chicago). In addition to works by Meyer, Cleveland, Hull and Corigliano, the album’s wide-ranging repertoire includes the Sonata No. 5 for Solo Violin by Eugène Ysaÿe; a meditative take on Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home” (Lark/Batiste); and arrangements for violin and mandolin of three of Béla Bartók’s 44 Duets for Two Violins (Lark/Hull). The Stradgrass Sessions, scheduled for release in spring 2021, is in Lark’s words “a snapshot of the way I live in music: diversely, organically, intimately, sometimes collaboratively, sometimes solitarily, always sincerely—and anywhere, be it a concert hall or a home studio.”