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American Sketches
Rayo, Homage to Scarlatti, Four Spirituals

Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel

Two Preludes, Four Songs

WILLIAM BOLCOM Graceful Ghost Rag


PERCY WENRICH The Skeleton Rag

William Feasley, guitar

Catalog #S022581CD [DDD]

Program Notes

Peter Madlem works as a studio arranger and quitarist in the Los Angeles area. His American Sketches (1974) show both his affinity for incorporating folk and blues styles into a traditional Suite and his love for the landscape and oral traditions of America. His Homage to Scarlatti carries on the Segovia tradition of creating a "new" Baroque repertoire with a slightly impressionistic flavor while Rayo traces, sonically, the path of one pure ray of light as it is reflected and bounced across the Cosmos.

Spirituals are often described as the Gregorian Chant of American music. In these Four Spirituals (1976) (which are actually three spirituals and the old Shaker Hymn, Simple Gifts) Madlem interweaves the old melodies with a light counterpointe and lilting Impressionistic harmonies that form a sonic tapestry of old and new, tradition and innovation, the essence of American music.

Albert Harris was born in London and worked most of his life in Hollywood as an orchestrator, arranger and composer for several of the big Film Studios and for such pop icons as Barbra Streisand, Roberta Flack and Cher. He came to New York in 1938. He earned a Doctor of Music degree from New York College of Music and moved to Los Angeles in 1942. Albert Harris studied composition with Mary Carr Moore and Eugen Zador in Los Angeles, and conducting with Richard Lert. He is a recipient of several awards for choral pieces, songs, and an octet for French Horn from the Los Angeles Horn Club. Albert Harris has lectured for UCLA and the Santa Barbara Academy of the West. He was Assistant Musical Director for NBC from 1946-49. He has arranged and conducted many dramatic scores for television and motion pictures. Albert Harris is a member of Composers and Lyricists Guild of America, and the Board of Directors of the American Society of Music Arrangers. He won the National Composer's Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his "Concerto de California" scored for guitar and String Quartet. Among those nominating Harris was Aaron Copeland with whom Harris shares a harmonic language that, in the words of Ned Rorem, "sounds like the great outdoors".
Albert Harris was introduced to Andres Segovia in 1950 by his friend and neighbor Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He wrote his Variations and Fugue on the Theme by Handel as a result of this meeting and Segovia promptly recorded it. Written in a neo-classical style, the different variations take the form of movements from a Baroque Suite and alternate between strict Baroque counterpoint and a poignant romanticism. The theme comes from one of Handel's "Aylesford" harpsichord pieces, which Segovia himself had transcribed for solo guitar. This theme is readily apparent in all variations save the fourth which is the theme played backwards and upside down. The Tremelo sixth variation was added at Segovia's request.

Flush with the success of the Variations Harris quickly followed it with his Sonatina for Guitar (1953). The Sonatina though still quite neo-classical in nature displays more of a jazzier feel and an expanded harmony. Segovia rejected it, thus ending their collaboration but not their friendship, which took the form of a lively correspondence that continued until Segovia's death in 1987. The Sonatina was premiered in New York by Carlos Barbosa-Lima in Alice Tully Hall on March 20, 1972. The Sonatina was eventually recorded by the Brazilian Guitarist Laurindo Almeida in 1957.

George Gershwin was born in New York on September 26, 1898. Gershwin's extraordinary career began when he was 16, playing the piano in music stores to demonstrate new popular songs. It was his melodic talent and a genius for rhythmic invention that made him a genuinely important American composer. As far as worldly success was concerned, there was no period of struggle in Gershwin's life; one of his earliest songs, Swanee, written at the age of 19, became enormously popular. Possessing phenomenal energy, he produced musical comedies in close succession, using fashionable jazz formulas in original and ingenious ways. A milestone in his career was Rhapsody in Blue for Piano and Jazz Orchestra in which he applied the jazz idiom to an essentially classical form. Gershwin's death at the age of 38 was mourned as a great loss to American music.

Pianist and Postmodernist composer William Bolcom is well known for his eclectic musical tastes and blending of seemingly disparate musical idioms. He was a recipient of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for music and received commissions from the Vienna Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Koussevitsky Foundation and many others. Mr. Bolcom has been admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and he holds honorary doctorates from the San Francisco Conservatory and Albion College. Fluent in many forms and styles of composition, he is also known as one of the foremost interpreters of the music of George Gershwin. William Bolcom helped spearhead the Ragtime revival in this country both as a performer and composer of Rags.

The Graceful Ghost Rag (1971), the best known of his output in this medium, was written in memory of his father. To complement this there are two Rags from the first wave of ragtime composers: The Skeleton Rag (1911) by Percy Weinrich and Ragbag (c.1909) by Harry Lincoln. Ragtime was a unique American phenomenon that was helped greatly by the explosion of the popularity of upright and player pianos.


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