Love at Last / Lara Downes

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Watch our interview with Lara Downes on Love at Last!

Love at Last is pianist Lara Downes’s first Pentatone album, inspired by the poem Sachki, Sachki by the Odessa-born Jewish writer Shaul Tchernichovsky. Downes presents 24 pieces, many of them in world premiere recordings, of works by living composers around the globe. Spanning generations, continents and cultures, these diverse voices are united in a stubborn belief in the possibility of humanity, brotherhood, peace, and compassion, and in the everlasting power of love.

An iconoclast and trailblazer, Lara Downes’s dynamic work as a sought-after soloist, a Billboard Chart-topping recording artist, a producer, curator, arts activist and advocate positions her as a cultural visionary on the national arts scene. She was honored as 2022 Classical Woman of the Year by Performance Today.

Hear Downes's appearance on NPR's Morning Edition, discussing Love at Last!


It's not unusual for an artist to include a message to listeners on an album; it's less common for said message to be included as a concluding audio commentary. Such a move is, however, wholly consistent with Lara Downes' character: rather than share her message through the impersonal medium of the written word, she connects with immediacy using her voice, the illusion fostered of the artist speaking directly to you. Those who've been following the pianist throughout her career are familiar with her generosity of spirit, her resolute belief in the potential of human beings, her hope for peace, and her embracing vision. One comes away from a Downes recording, Love at Last no exception, renewed and uplifted.

An activist, mentor, and trailblazer, Downes expresses her appreciation for a vast array of artists from multiple countries and eras on her Pentatone debut. In a seventy-five-minute programme recorded in Mt. Vernon, New York in September 2022, pieces by J. S. Bach and Schubert sit comfortably alongside covers of standards and world premiere recordings of works by living composers from around the globe.

The journey, while scenic, panoramic, and ever-changing, is long; things move quickly, however, when the selections are compact in length and most two to three minutes at a time. Naturally, certain pieces register more strongly than others; what's never wanting, however, is investment on her part: she commits herself fully to the project and penetrates to the essential core of each piece. The evidence is audible the moment Jaroslav Ježek's haunting “Dawn” introduces the set until Shawn E. Okpebholo's arrangement of “Amazing Grace” ends it twenty-three songs later. Along the way, hope, sorrow, and tenderness surface, with a number of pieces written during the pandemic and confronting feelings of isolation and longing.

Downes' poised renderings of Bach's stirring “Wachet Auf” (“Sleepers Awake”) and Schubert's “Frühlingsglaube” (“Believe in Spring”) exemplify her general approach: refraining from embellishing on the material gratuitously, she opts instead to focus on themes and let their poetry emerge in its fullest possible form.

Downes' humanitarian values find expression in eloquent, life-affirming material such as Debbie Friedman's “Laugh at All My Dreams,” Margaret Bonds's “I Believe: Credo No. 2,” Gabriel Kahane's “Little Love,” and Valentin Silvestrov's “Lullaby.” One of the more interesting new compositions is Sean Hickey's “Fluid” for the way it both references gender fluidity and, by incorporating rhythmic and harmonic elements from Debussy's La Mer and Joni Mitchell's “River,” water. Memorable too are pianist Mariel Mayz's elaborate re-imagining of Sammy Fain's “I'll Be Seeing You,” the popular tune known through recordings by Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday, and Dobrinka Tabakova's enchanting “Simple Prayer for Complex Times.”

Downes' positive outlook isn't a reflection of childish naïveté or an obstinate refusal to acknowledge reality: she knows the world is fraught with problems and sees like the rest of us many parts struggling with debilitating issues. Even so, she determinedly holds to her values of love and compassion. For her, “this is the hour to awake from our sleep and greet a new dawn.” Like other recordings in her esteemed discography, Love at Last shines like a light fighting to overcome darkness and symbolizes the inexhaustible power of hope and resilience.

-- Textura

Product Description:

  • Release Date: April 21, 2023

  • Catalog Number: PTC5187018

  • UPC: 8717306260183

  • Label: Pentatone

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Baroque, 20th Century, Contemporary

  • Composer: Calliope Tsoupaki, Timo Andres, Clarice Assad, Johann Sebastian Bach, Juhi Bansal, Jimmy Lopez Bellido, Margaret Allison Bonds, Sammy Fain, Debbie Friedman, Ignaz Friedman, deVon Russel Gray, Sean Hickey, August Horn, Vijay Iyer, Jaroslav Ježek, Gabriel Kahane, Nyokabi Kariuki, Hooshyar Khayam, Mariel Mayz, Patricio Molina, Shawn E. Okpebholo, Ivan Enrique Rodriguez, Franz Schubert, Valentin Silvestrov, Jeremy Siskind, Dobrinka Tabakova, Karen Tanaka, Milad Yousufi

  • Performer: Lara Downes


  1. Svítá

    Composer: Jaroslav Ježek

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  2. Schübler Chorales, BWV 645-650: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  3. Laugh at All My Dreams

    Composer: Debbie Friedman

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  4. Credo: Especially do I Believe in the Negro Race

    Composer: Margaret Bonds

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  5. A World of Change

    Composer: Clarice Assad

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  6. Little Love

    Composer: Gabriel Kahane

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  7. Frühlingsglaube, Op. 20, No. 2, D. 686

    Composer: Franz Schubert

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  8. Tree Of Life

    Composer: Iván Enrique Rodríguez

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  9. Our Planet Earth: No. 15. Earth

    Composer: Karen Tanaka

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  10. It Only Ever Rains in November

    Composer: Nyokabi Kariūki

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  11. Even This Laughter; Even Your Tears

    Composer: deVon Russel Gray

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  12. By Loving You

    Composer: Jimmy López Bellido

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  13. Fluid

    Composer: Sean Hickey

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  14. Meeting Point

    Composer: Calliope Tsoupaki

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  15. Parting Friends

    Composer: Timo Andres

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  16. I'll Be Seeing You

    Composer: Sammy Fain

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  17. Simple Prayer for Complex Times

    Composer: Dobrinka Tabakova

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  18. Blessing

    Composer: Patricio Molina

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  19. Crown thy Good

    Composer: Vijay Iyer

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  20. Healer

    Composer: Milad Yousufi

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  21. Travels: No. 1. Mirror The Stars

    Composer: Juhi Bansal

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  22. Bright Night

    Composer: Hooshyar Khayam

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  23. Pieces (4), Op. 2/1. Lullaby: Moderato

    Composer: Silvestrov, Valentin

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  24. Amazing Grace

    Composer: Traditional

    Performer: Lara Downes (PIano)

  25. Audio Commentary

    Performer: Lara Downes