Joseph Fennimore: Selected Piano Music



About the music:


 A set of three pieces, Armistice (1977) was named for the intermission between the two world wars. Each movement is a musical postcard from one of the belligerents. Two movements are recorded here. Sans Souci is France whose culture no matter how progressive in some endeavors seems to be based on the notion that one of life's deepest joys is found in remembering pleasure. March is the young Soviet Union where revolution swept away the old order replacing it with a merciless and impracticable communist vision of a new society.



Variations on a Theme of Beethoven (1966) takes its theme from the opening measures of the final movement of that master's Sonata in G Major, Op. 79 . With twenty variations and a coda, my work was dedicated to the late great piano teacher at the Eastman School, Cecile Genhart.





The Woolworth Man and The Hen's Snuffbox , both from 1979, are stylized rags taking their titles from poems in Afro-American dialect by Herbert Woodward Martin. In the first, a lady dumps her man: "Store-bought Man/ I got you at the five and dime" and in the second, a mother lectures her child: "So if I tell you a hen dips snuff,/ Search for the box."




Foxtrot (1977) is a sonata in two movements. Blues conjures smoky bars, a haze of booze, hangovers and regrets for the sour love of one-night stands. An Old Soft Shoe is danced by a vaudeville tatterdemalion in top hat and tails, deftly bouncing his rubber cane, executing comic bits and pratfalls while proudly recalling better times long gone.




Bernini's altarpiece of St. Teresa in ecstasy and St. Teresa's own writings about the experience give some notion of the central portion of the Second Romance: Calentura de Teresa (1983). The outer panels are a Spanish serenade to the pleasures of the hair-shirt.




The first performance of Concerto Piccolo (1962) was at the Eastman School with Howard Hanson conducting; written there during my years as an undergraduate when all the pianists that could pounded away at the Brahms B flat or Rachmaninoff Third Concerto, and composers wrote in one of the prevailing currents of serialism, neoclassicism, or a kind of academic Americana represented by the work of Hanson himself, or Roy Harris, Walter Piston and other members of the U.S.A. Boulangerie.




About Juana Zayas:




Such faith: very Catholic. Her birthday's on Christmas Day.




Very Latin in temperament. Cuban-born, French-trained.




At the piano: quiet body, fierce attention, formidable determination. Away from the keyboard: sweet, saintly, not a bitch a handicap in the pursuit of success.




Very few deeply musical pianists in the world with no technical limitations whatsoever. You can count them on two hands. Include Juana Zayas.




A child prodigy, of course. A graduate of the Paris Conservatoire with prizes in piano and chamber music, a winner at The International Competition in Geneva, she had just won The Teresa Carreño Competition in Venezuela when I met her in the 1970's. Happily married and mother of three very active boys, somehow she found time to beat the 88's into submission and devour huge chunks of standard repertory leaving enough mental space to learn music by obscure living composers. Her musical ambition was palpable, her energy reserves awesome. What one couldn't guess was her capacity for growth.




Two years later, she debuted at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. Beside a Mozart sonata and the G aspard de la Nuit , she tossed off the twenty-four Chopin Etudes bringing down the house and moving Harold Schonberg as close to rapture in print as he dared go in the New York Times : "a Chopinist to the manner born. She played with style, sensitivity, a big technique and an aristocratic flair for the mixture of romanticism and classicism embedded in the music." Months later, he included this recital in his end-of-the-year roundup of the best concerts he had heard. Piano maven Harris Goldsmith echoed Schonberg's sentiments in a review of Zayas' recording of the complete Etudes for a now defunct record company: "Zayas makes one forget that she is, in fact, walking a pianistic tightrope, and instead provides an absorbing musical experience. This is a truly distinguished edition"




Since then, a long list of orchestral appearances, tours in Europe, South America and the U.S.A. Recently, she's made quite a splash in the Netherlands where she's regularly engaged. Juana Zayas has enjoyed some success but not as much as this writer thinks she deserves.




Her playing and her career remind one of another Latin pianist. Proper appreciation did not come to Alicia de Larrocha until quite late in life. With luck, the same may happen to Juana Zayas. God knows she deserves it but sometimes God keeps secrets.




Joseph Fennimore




About the composer:




Joseph Fennimore has written songs, chamber music, orchestral works, and two one-act operas. His works have been performed by the Chicago Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera Studio, the New York City Ballet, at the Almeida Festival in London, and the Ravinia, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Tanglewood festivals, among others. His music has been performed nationwide, in Europe and Japan and broadcast worldwide on Spectrum, Nonesuch and Albany Records.




Born in New York City, Fennimore has been composing since childhood. He attended the Eastman and Juilliard Schools of Music, receiving degrees with honors from both. After a brief but distinguished career as a pianist, he founded and for its first five years directed the Hear America First Concert Series in New York City devoted to American music. He has written opera libretti, song lyrics, criticism for national music magazines and a two-act musical play Keeping Time , starring pianist Marthanne Verbit which finished a limited New York City run in the spring of 1992. He teaches privately in New York City and is visiting Professor of Music at The College of St. Rose in Albany, New York.




Recording engineers: Tom Lazarus (solo piano works); Robert Auger (Concerto Piccolo)




Cover design: Kathleen McMillan




Editor: Gordon Hibberd




Photo credit: Christian Steiner




Two other compact discs of compositions by Joseph Fennimore are available from Albany Records: Selected Vocal Works (TROY023), scores available from Classical Vocal Reprints, P.O.B. 20263, Columbus Circle Station, New York, NY 10023; and Chamber Music featuring cello (TROY065). All instrumental scores available from Fennimore Hibberd Publishing, 258 Morton Avenue, Albany, NY 12202.




Joseph Fennimore as pianist can be heard on Albany Records in a compact disc recital of Griffes, Scriabin and Schumann (TROY102).




JUANA ZAYAS, piano solos


JOSEPH FENNIMORE, pianist with members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Paul Freeman, conductor




Selected Piano Music of Joseph Fennimore




Two Pieces from Armistice (1977)


Sans Souci (4:45)


March (4:49)


Time = 9:34


Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (1966)(19:07)


Two Rags (1979)


The Woolworth Man (5:52)


The Hen's Snuffbox (5:39)


Time = 11:31


Foxtrot (1977)


Blues (7:24)


An Old Soft Shoe (6:45)


Time = 14:09


Second Romance: Calentura de Teresa (1983) (6:17)


Juana Zayas, piano


Concerto Piccolo (1962)


I (2:43)


II (3:32)


III (4:16)


Time = 10:31


Members of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra


Paul Freeman, conductor • Joseph Fennimore, piano


Total Time = 71:58