Contact: Lisa Jaehnig | (212) 315-1300

For Immediate Release


Kibbey’s debut album for the label features world premiere recordings of six solo works by composers from across the globe including Kati Agócs, Kinan Azmeh, David Bruce, Paquito d’Rivera, Du Yun, and a work by Avner Dorman featuring special guest soprano Dawn Upshaw

With this album, Kibbey showcases the harp’s expressive potential, taking the instrument to uncharted territory while revisiting its historic role as a continuo of a people, and an emblem of nations

Singles to be released:

  • Available now - David Bruce’s Caja de Música, I. Energético
  • September 15 - Paquito D’Rivera’s Bandoneon
  • September 22 - Kati Agocs’ Northern Lights, V. Aurora Rising
  • September 29 - David Bruce’s Caja de Música, III. Tempo Di Joropo

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (September 14, 2023) — Harpist Bridget Kibbey, hailed as the “Yo-Yo Ma of the harp," by Vogue, performs six solo works for harp commissioned from an international set of composers including Kinan Azmeh’s It’s About Time (Syria), Du Yun’s The Ocean Within (China), Paquito d’Rivera’s Bandoneon (Cuba), Avner Dorman's Three Butterfly Songs (Israel) featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw, Kati Agócs’ Northern Lights (Canada), and David Bruce’s Caja de Música (England), on a new recording titled Crossing the Ocean, to be released by Pentatone on Friday, October 13, 2023. 

Across time and place, the harp has long been the instrument of choice—an emblem of poets, bards, lovers, and entire nations. From King David and the Israelites to the Djelis of Mali, to O'Carolan and the Celts, the harp has long given voice to the songs and stories of a people. In Crossing the Ocean, Kibbey nods to this rich history by placing the concert harp center stage, showcasing its timeless, expressive power. In her hands, the harp evokes a myriad of sounds, from a Celtic clarsach, to a Chinese konghou, to a janeiro harp.

For these world premiere recordings, Kibbey asked an accomplished group of composer friends – most writing for the harp for the first time – to use the music they grew up hearing as a point of departure. The result is a collection of works based on cultural memories, an anthology of the composers’ surrealistic perspectives on their pasts. Kibbey has been praised by the Minneapolis Star Tribune for using her harp “as a vehicle to explore the musical traditions of any culture that’s had an ancestor of the modern harp in its history,” and with this album, Kibbey takes the concert harp to uncharted territory by merging the traditional with the vanguard of the new. 

Caja de Música: Energético (Official Music Video)

Regarding this concept for this recording, Kibbey says:

“Our origins are a source of constant supply. Oftentimes our creative output is a synthesis of these origins, and how they mix with our new surroundings and influences. Inevitably there is a beautiful merger of high art and folk art, as we honor the past while moving forward. I find this tension fascinating and rich — replete with an endless fount of soul, power and honesty, as we ask, ‘What is the rock from which I’m cut, and how does it resonate within my current surroundings?’ Through this question, each composer has opened a world in which I swim, as we dialogue about their origins and effects on their writing today. It was a delight to curate a sort of memory-and-cultural playlist via the harp, by choosing composers from diverse backgrounds and musical styles. My musical neighbors—composers and performers—continue to bless me in countless ways, by broadening my perspective on the harp and the world. This record is my first ‘love letter’ to these communities and friends.”

In David Bruce’s Caja de Música (Spanish for “music box”), the harp becomes a rhythmic instrument capable of raw and vibrant expression. “I had not long before come across the wonderful joropo music from Venezuela, which is usually written for a trio of harp, cuatro (a guitar-like instrument) and shakers, with the harp taking a central melodic role,” he says. “I knew straight away that this was another aspect of the harp I would want to try to bring to the piece.” Caja de Música’ seemed an appropriate title, “There are strong hints of joropo throughout, including a three-beats-to-a-bar time signature at the start of all three movements; but there is also something of that music box naivety here, too,” The movements become memories, synthesizing past and present in the whimsical, playful vibes of Kibbey’s harp. “Her commitment to my new piece, let alone virtuosity, from the earliest sketches to the finishing touches, has been a model that I only wish other players would follow and it is an infinitely richer piece thanks to her thoughtful contributions and suggestions during the process of our transatlantic collaborations.”

Katie Agócs Northern Lights draws on her remembrances of Canadian folk songs and sounds: a peal of Montreal church bells in the “Carillion” prelude; À la claire fontaine, a French-Canadian song about lost love; “I’s the B’ye,” an irrepressible Newfoundland jig; and the Huron Carol (“’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”) from Ontario, in which the Wise Men’s gifts take the form of furs harvested by Native peoples. The perpetual-motion “Aurora Rising” accumulates resonance over the entire range of the harp, with special attention to the instrument’s extreme registers, to evoke the Northern Lights. Agócs notes: “Since I spent my first nineteen years in Canada and many of its folk songs are as familiar to me as breathing, choosing and working with its songs presented a special challenge. I needed to cast aside my own associations, to hear them in a new light and to ‘mine’ the musical material for its own intrinsic beauty. The result is a sort of ‘found object’ approach to the songs.

Avner Dorman’s Three Butterfly Songs, featuring McArthur Genius soprano Dawn Upshaw, reflects the tension and interplay of different cultures in his music, particularly between the future-oriented focus of her life in America, and the long history of her Israeli/Jewish heritage. Dorman notes: “Growing up in Israel, I was exposed to various musical influences, from the traditional music of my Jewish heritage to the Western classical music I studied as a young composer. These influences have always been a part of my musical language. And in Three Butterfly Songs, I sought to synthesize these elements. The texts, each from a different source and context, allowed me to explore different facets of my musical identity. These texts required a wide range of vocal colors and techniques, and Dawn was able to bring them all to life with her incredible artistry.”

Kibbey met Dawn Upshaw in 2005 while recording and then touring Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre and Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs with Upshaw and The Andalucian Dogs, a group of musicians from across the globe assembled to perform the works on the recording. Kibbey says, “Dawn Upshaw was one of the first artists I encountered who not only sang the classical canon with the utmost brilliance, but acted as a muse for countless composers to tell their stories. It was only fitting to include her, as one of my favorite collaborators, on this album. This experience also allowed me the opportunity to improvise within many new-to-me musical traditions.”

Kinan Azmeh’s It’s About Time, is, as the title suggests, about the ever-shifting nature of time, captured in collaboration with Kibbey. He says: “When I sit down to compose I think of people first and instruments last. I am more interested in getting to know the soul of the performer and to celebrate it using the instrument, which is merely a facilitator to help the composer and the performer join forces in the wonderful act of self-expression. Azmeh notes: “This collaboration becomes particularly exciting when the technical abilities and obstacles of the instrument are never mentioned, which was my case working on this piece with Bridget.”

When Kibbey asked Paquito D’Rivera to adapt some of his music for the instrument she plays with such passion, he says, “I immediately thought of Bandoneon, an Argentine milonga originally composed for clarinet and piano that recreates the nostalgic sound of the exotic instrument that, in the opinion of many, represents the very soul of the tango. (Just try to imagine Astor Piazzolla playing the harp instead of his legendary bandoneon at a very dark tango joint in old Buenos Aires and you might get the image).”

Du Yun’s The Ocean Within was inspired by two poems. One, written by Takashi Murakami, evokes the ocean as the keeper of time: “I open my gaze and saw nothing. I close my eyes and sit still. / Should you look closer, you will see how old that feeling is, how loud the sound is. As old as the world, as loud as the ocean.” A second, Du Yun’s own, takes the moment to the cosmos: “the lamp enclosed in a glass / the glass a brilliant star.” The work pairs Du Yun’s through-composed moments and open improvisation moments from Bridget.

About Bridget Kibbey

Called the "Yo-Yo Ma of the harp," by Vogue’s Corey Seymour, harpist Bridget Kibbey “…makes it seem as though the instrument had been waiting all its life to explode with the energetic figures and gorgeous colors she was getting from it.” (The New York Times)

With the harp as her muse, Kibbey is in demand for her virtuosic and soulful performances that showcase the expressive potential of the instrument—excavating centuries of music as a soloist and alongside today’s top performing artists—from the French Belle Époque to the Baroque, to Persian Modes, to Latin Jazz traditions and beyond.

Kibbey recently made her solo NPR Tiny Desk Debut, is a winner of a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, a Salon de Virtuosi Sony Recording Grant, the only harpist to win a place in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Bowers Program, Premiere Prix at the Journées de les Harpes Competition in Arles, France, among others. She has commissioned and toured new harp concerti by composers Vivian Fung and Brazilian-born João Luiz Rezende; and in the 2025-26 season she initiates a new project premiering concertos by composers Clarice Assad and Samuel Torres with a consortium of orchestras. She has toured and recorded with luminaries such as Placido Domingo, Dawn Upshaw, Kathleen Battle, and Gustavo Santaolalla for Sony Classical and Deutsche Grammophon; and, her own debut album, Love is Come Again, was named one of the Top Ten Releases by Time Out New York. Last season, she toured Bach keyboard transcriptions with the Dover Quartet and recitals with duo partner violinist Alexi Kenney, and launched Persia to Iberia, tracking sounds of the Islamic Golden Era alongside Persian singer Mahsa Vahdat, kora-player Yacouba Sissoko, and percussionist John Hadfield. This season, she performs solo recitals in Washington, DC, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York; tours solo and chamber music French masterworks with the Calidore Quartet presented by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and launches her newest project Leyenda, which has Kibbey tracking sounds and modes across five centuries and three continents, landing in today’s Nuevo Latino scene of New York City, alongside Latin-Grammy winning percussionist Samuel Torres and NY Gypsy All-Star Clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski. Ms. Kibbey's solo performances have been broadcast on NPR Music’s Tiny Desk, Performance Today, WQXR, WNYC's Soundcheck, WETA’s Front Row Washington, WRTI’s Crossover, and on television in A&E's Breakfast with the Arts. She has been profiled in Vogue, Time Out New York, The Harp Column, and MUSO Magazine.

She appears frequently as soloist and chamber musician at festivals and series across the globe, including Schloss Elmau, Pelotas Festival, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart, La Jolla Music Society, International Festival d’Avesnois, Aspen Music Festival, Bravo! Vail, Performances Santa Fe, Spoleto, Big Ears Knoxville, Chamber Music Northwest, Bridgehampton, Savannah Music Festival, and Music@Menlo, among others. Kibbey has appeared as concerto soloist with orchestras in the United States, Europe, South America, and Middle East.

About Pentatone

One of the leading classical music labels in the world, Pentatone presents a diverse range of world-class artists, and is dedicated to premium quality productions captured in exceptional sound. The Label works together with today and tomorrow’s leading artists to provide timeless recordings of core, fringe, and lesser-known repertoire, with Pentatone’s uncompromising attention to the best possible quality in artistry, design and recording technology. Pentatone was awarded “Label of the Year” in 2019 by Gramophone and in 2020 by the International Classical Music Awards.



Press download link:  Dropbox / Pentatone B2B press kit

Bridget Kibbey, Harp

David Bruce

Caja de Música

1. I. Energético

2. II. Nocturnal, Seductive

3. III. Tempo Di Joropo

Kati Agócs

Northern Lights

4. I. Prelude: Carillon (Church Bells, Montreal)

5. II. Á La Claire Fontaine (Quebec)

6. III. I’ S The B’ Ye (Newfoundland)

7. IV. Huron Carol - Twas the Moon of Wintertime (Ontario)

8. V. Aurora Rising

Avner Dorman

Three Butterfly Songs 

Featuring Dawn Upshaw, soprano

9. No. 1, Blue Butterfly Day

10. No. 2, Anosia Plexippus

11. No. 3, The Butterfly Counts Not Months, But Moments

Kinan Azmeh

12. It's About Time

Paquito D'Rivera

13. Bandoneon

Du Yun

14. The Ocean Within


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Lisa Jaehnig | 

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