AUDIO Nicholas Phillips, piano Impressions • Blue Griffin Recording BGR 409 • Purchase recording YEAR COMPOSED 2015 COMMISSIONER Wisconsin Music Teachers Association and MTNA ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES I began hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado when I was in my early twenties. RMNP is home to some of the most gorgeous mountains in North America, encompassing 265,000 acres of wilderness, flora, and fauna. Among the park’s numerous summits is Longs Peak, a mountain that is 14,259 feet high (the highest in the region). From my earliest days of hiking, I was drawn to Longs Peak, as well as to a jagged stretch of rock formations that link Longs Peak to Pagoda Mountain (which stands at 13,497 feet). These formations are called the Keyboard of the Winds, as their thin, spindly peaks loosely suggest the splintered keys of an old, broken piano.
One summer, I made the ascent to Pagoda Mountain using a route that took me along the right side of the Keyboard of the Winds. My hiking partner and I started up the trail in the pre-dawn hours, and the weather was stormy. Dawn had broken by the time we reached the base of the Keyboard, but its peaks were still surrounded by clouds. As we climbed higher and higher, the Keyboard’s thin spires became visible, along with the top of Pagoda Mountain. We reached the summit of Pagoda, admired the view (what we could see through the clouds), and made our descent.
My piece is a tribute to the Keyboard of the Winds. The fast, whirling gestures depict swirling clouds, and the musical high points represent a hiker reaching the peaks of the Keyboard. I have contrasted these sections with quiet, introspective material; these embody the hiker quietly surveying the grandeur and beauty of the valley below (on a cloudless day), as well as the soaring pinnacles of Longs Peak and Pagoda Mountain overhead. -S.G.
COMMISSIONER Utah Arts Festival commissioned the original sextet.
ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES In 2014, I enjoyed a wonderful residence at the Ucross Foundation in Clearmont, Wyoming. Ucross is an artist colony that gives writers, composers, and visual artists the gift of time, space, and support to follow their artistic pursuits; we are provided with studio space, housing, and meals so that we can work continuously on our projects. I have been in residence at numerous artist colonies; however, nothing in my previous experiences prepared me for living in such isolated, wild country. Ucross is situated on a 20,000-acre cattle ranch at nearly 4,000 feet in elevation with fewer than 150 people living within the town. But what Clearmont lacks in population, it makes up for abundantly and spectacularly in wilderness and wildlife. I composed the sextet Postcards from Wyoming to portray three glimpses of what I found to be the most striking aspects of my residence. The Solitude of Stars, the third and final movement of the original sextet, was inspired by the stunning nightly display of the heavens above. Without city lights dimming the night sky, countless stars shone brightly over the vast expanse of the prairie. In 2020, I arranged the solo piano edition for my husband, Joseph Francavilla.
VIDEO Jonathan Hannau, piano YEAR COMPOSED 2007 COMMISSIONER Nicola Melville ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES Carlos Gardel (1890-1935) was the most famous Argentine tango singer of his time. He had already an established performing career when in 1917 he began experimenting with the tango, which was at that time simply an instrumental form. He created the “tango-canciones.” or tango songs, in which he fashioned text to music. Audiences went wild over this new development of the tango, and Gardel spent much of the rest of his career composing and performing tango-canciones. Typically, subject matter of these songs consisted of mournful, longing ballads of love. Gardel’s life was tragically cut short in a plane crash when he was at the height of his career; his untimely death catapulted him to the status of legend in Buenos Aires and beyond.
Tango Gardel is a tribute to Carlos. Amid dramatic flourishes, you hear Carlos’s voice, represented by a singing solo played mid-range on the piano as the music rapidly migrates through moments of rage, loneliness, and tenderness. -S.G.
VIDEO Svetozar Ivanov, piano Leslie Smucker, animation YEAR COMPOSED 2003 ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES I feel a great affinity for the music of Buenos Aires based on a trip that I took to Argentina in 1999. In Teeny Tango, I wanted to encapsulate the immense drama of the tango genre within a very compact (and short) form. This piece was written for and premiered by Amy Briggs. -S.G.