Starer: Solo Piano Music, 1946-1996



Robert Starer


Solo Piano Music, 1946-1996


Justin Kolb, piano






Justin Kolb




A proponent of American music, Justin Kolb frequently performs the music of Joan Tower, Tania Leon, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and Peter Schickele. His performances include premieres of compositions of Robert Starer, Paul Alan Levi, and Jan Bach. Kolb's program of Starer's solo piano music in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall was hailed by The New York Times as, "A Piano Recital Program With A Difference." Kolb also performs much of the standard keyboard literature with an emphasis on Beethoven, Liszt, and Alkan.




While serving as artistic director, Mr. Kolb designed and developed The Belleayre Conservatory Summer Music Festival in the Catskill Mountains, and serves as program advisor to several arts organizations including the Woodstock Guild in Woodstock, New York and The Center for the Performing Arts in Rhinebeck, New York. Kolb is frequently engaged by colleges and universities to present his interactive lecture titled KNOW THE SCORE: Inspiration and Motivation for Surviving in the Business of Music. Also Travels with a Piano Player and How to Avoid Being a Nerd are two programs presented by Kolb to grades K-12. These music enrichment and student motivation programs are popular in the private and public school sectors. His musical impact in all areas prompted DePaul University to present him with the 1994 Distinguished Alumni Award.




Justin Kolb has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg Philharmonic (Germany), Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, Gary Indiana Symphony, Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony Orchestra (Ohio), the United States Military Academy Band at West Point, the Northshore Concert Band (Chicago), and the Pittsburgh Symphonic Winds.




Robert Starer




Robert Starer was born in Vienna in 1924 and received his musical education at the State Academy in Vienna, the Jerusalem Conservatoire and the Juilliard School. He has lived in New york since 1947 and became an American citizen in 1957. From 1949 to 1974 he taught at Juilliard and from 1963 to 1991 at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of C.U.N.Y. where he was named a Distinguished Professor in 1986. Among his honors are two Guggenheim Fellowships. He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1994 and awarded the Medal of Honor for Science and Art by the President of Austria in 1995.




His stage works include three operas and several ballets for Martha Graham. His orchestral works have been performed by major orchestras here and abroad under such conductors as Mitropoulos, Bernstein, Steinberg, Leinsdorf and Mehta. Interpreters of his music include Roberta Peters, Leontyne Price and Janos Starker. The recording of his Violin Concerto (Itzhak Perlman with the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa) was nominated for a Grammy. Excerpts from his book CONTINUO: A Life in Music have appeared in the New Yorker, Musical America, and the London Times. His complete works for solo piano have been published in one volume. Albany Records has recently issued two compact discs of Starer's music, one devoted to chamber music, the other to vocal works.




Prelude and Toccata




Prelude and Toccata were written in 1946 when I was still in the blue uniform of the British Royal Air Force waiting to be demobilized. I played them first in Cairo and at other concerts we gave for the troops. They were my first published pieces after I had come to America. During my years as a touring accompanist, whenever I was asked to play a few selections to give the singer or violinist a chance to rest, I played Prelude and Toccata. In my files there are programs from many strange places and a glowing review by Robertson Davies, who was then music critic on a Canadian paper.




Sketches in Color, Set Two




Sketches in Color, Set Two, were written in 1973, ten years after the much played first set. The three pieces chosen for this recording are Khaki, which was the color of uniforms at the time of my military service and stands for marching, drums and fifes; Aquamarine, which suggests the "blues"; and, Silver and Gold, in which a twelve note row in the left hand is juxtaposed to a very tonal melody in the right hand.




Piano Sonata No. 3




My first Piano Sonata dates from 1950 and is dedicated to my teacher Josef Tal. My second Sonata was written in 1968 during a brief serial period in my life. When I approached my seventieth birthday, I thought it was time for a third Sonata. The opening movement is rather gentle and I thought of calling the work "sonata lirica." I actually played the opening movement for the guests at the elaborate 70th birthday party Gail Godwin gave me. When Justin Kolb told me of his intention to give a recital of my music at Carnegie Recital Hall to celebrate that birthday, I offered him the world premiere of the piece. By that time I had added a delicately lighthearted second movement and a finale which opens "with declamatory strength" and continues "very fast, with a bounce." The work has become too vigorous to be called "lyrical" and was published simply as Sonata No. 3. After the superb performance Justin Kolb gave it at his concert I dedicated the work to him.




Twilight Fantasies




Twilight Fantasies (1985) is the work that brought Justin Kolb into my life. Having met him at a dinner party I sent him a copy the following morning. This led to an extended and intense professional relationship. Twilight Fantasies was the first piece of mine Justin Kolb played and he has played it many times and many places since. The title comes from a poem by Shelley, "hopes and fears, and twilight


fantasies." The work follows the wanderings of a musical mind rather than a preconceived structure. The opening chords recur in various guises throughout the piece, other musical ideas appear only as if in passing. The work ends as it began in the mist of twilight.




The Ideal Self (Fantasy, Variations and Fugue on a Song) (1981)




"Each of us has an ideal self" is the opening line of a poem by Gail Godwin which played a significant part in my opera "Apollonia." My setting of it was published as a separate song and widely performed as such. It gave me the urge to try to do in our century what had been a popular form in earlier times, namely to write a set of variations on one's own tune. The work opens with a fantasy in which elements of the melody are gradually introduced until the song is stated in its entirety. This is followed by seven variations which lead to an elaborate fugue, another early form recently resurrected.




The Contemporary Virtuoso




These seven studies were written in January, 1996. They deal with aspects of piano playing that have interested me for a long time. I began playing the piano in early childhood and have played it ever since, professionally and for my own enjoyment. While I did not switch to composing as my chief activity until my mid-twenties, I enjoyed improvising ever since I started playing the piano. Luckily my mother, who insisted that I practice daily, could not tell the difference between the music I was supposed to play and what I made up as I went along. So I got away with it, convinced that it was a sinful waste of time. It was not until much later that a piano teacher who heard me doodle, asked, "What is this you are playing?" When I answered, "Oh, nothing, just whatever comes to my mind," he told me to write it down and show it to him. He liked what he saw and then he explained the difference between improvisation and composition to me.




These studies deal with crossing hands, changing fingers while repeating notes, developing a singing tone and skipping without looking among other things. They can be played separately or in any order desirable. Some of them are meant to sound quite brilliant. That is why the word virtuoso is in the title.




Robert Starer






This recording has been produced in memory of Herman Shapiro, a masterful teacher and virtuoso.




This recording would not have been possible without the support of Marilyn Irvin, Rhonda & Michael Kurtis, Burton, Cieri, Del Sordi & Co., Linda Hirschman, Elaine Kaufman Foundation




Producers: Barbara Mellon, Gregory K. Squires




Executive Producer: Marilyn Irvin · Engineer: Gregory K. Squires · Recorded at American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, New York ·Piano: Baldwin CD10 ·Cover Art: Marie Vickerilla · Kolb photo: Robert Preston




Exclusive Management for Justin Kolb: Mellon Music Management, Fleischmanns, NY 12430,










Robert Starer






Sonata for Piano, No. 3 (1994)




Gently flowing (4:36)




Moderately fast (3:09)




Slow, with declamatory strength (9:12)




From Sketches In Color, Set Two (1973)




Khaki (:50)




Aquamarine (1:30)




Silver and Gold (1:49)




Prelude & Toccata (1946)




Prelude (3:16)




Toccata (2:32)




The Ideal Self (1981) (11:54)




Fantasy, Variations and Fugue on a Song




Twilight Fantasies (1985) (12:07)




The Contemporary Virtuoso (1996)




Crossing Over (:45)




Repetition (1:11)




A Singing Tone (2:13)




Thirds (1:02)




Dots, Dashes, and Slurs (1:02)




Scales (:43)




Skipping Without Looking (:53)




Justin Kolb, piano




Total Time = 58:52