George Walker, A Portrait



George Walker


A Portrait




Five Fancies for Clarinet & Piano Four Hands




for Chamber Orchestra


An Eastman Overture


Variations for Orchestra


Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Boys Choir & Chamber Orchestrea


Three Pieces for Organ




George Walker, A Portrait




Five Fancies for Clarinet and Piano Four Hands was commissioned by the David Ensemble, Warren Wilson, director. It was completed in June of 1974 and is, perhaps, the first work of its kind for this combination. The premiere was given by the David Ensemble in Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, in 1975. Five Fancies consists of a theme with five variations. The theme, expressed in whole notes, is preceded by a nine measure introduction. Variation I presents the five notes in the cadenza-like clarinet part. Variation II distributes the notes harmonically in the piano parts. Variation III uses the notes in diminution in the piano. Variation IV incorporates the five notes in a twelve tone row. Variation V returns the theme to the clarinet.




Antifonys for Chamber Orchestra was composed in 1968 and was first performed at the Bennington Composers Conference in Bennington, Vermont. The instrumentation consists of a flute alternating with piccolo, and single winds oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet and trombone with a small string orchestra (double string quartet and bass). Percussion comprises timpani, glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, cymbals, wood block and celesta. After a short introduction, the principal allegro begins in "doppio movimento." Fragments of melody are tossed around. Kaleidoscopic harmonic patterns alternate or are combined with pulsating rhythms. Climax follows climax until the movement subsides with a string glissando.




An Eastman Overture was commissioned by the Eastman School of Music, Dr. Robert Freeman, director. it received its premiere by the Eastman Philharmonia, David Effron, conductor, in January of 1983 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Subsequently, the orchestra performed it on tour in the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall, Heinz Hall and the Eastman Theatre in Rochester. This work has certain cyclic elements. The fanfare in the introduction reappears as a trumpet flourish after a slow, static section, and at the end of the overture. The penultimate section of the work utilizes fragments from the three "Bs," Beethoven, Bach and Brahms in that order, with the Brahms' quote being the most audible. The snippets were taken from the fourth movement of the Beethoven String Quart, Op. 135, the Bach Organ Prelude in A Minor, and the Brahms Intermezzo in B Flat Minor, Op. 117.




The Variations for Orchestra were composed in the summer of 1971 at the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy. This work does not present a theme in the conventional manner. A short introduction of ten measures contains intervallic fragments that reappear in the variations that follow. Each of the eight variations is a separate entity structured around contrasting orchestral timbres and fragments from the introductory material. Variations six and seven are linked together by a perfect fifth sustained by vibraphone and harp.




The Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Boys Choir and Chamber Orchestra was commissioned by the Boys Choir of Harlem. It was completed in April of 1982. The premiere of the work was given at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on June 20th, 1982.




The Cantata is a setting of Psalm 23 and four verses from Psalm 24 in the King James version of the New Testament. The instrumentation consists of one flute alternating with alto flute, two oboes, three trumpets, timpani and strings. In the percussion section crotales, triangle, glockenspiel, vibraphone and suspended cymbals are used.




The work is divided into two parts. An introduction suggests the pastoral ambiance of the 23rd Psalm. The initial verse is intoned by the tenor soloist. This intonation is heard several times during the unfolding of the Psalm. The occurrence of the word, "water," in the text, evokes special effects from the boys choir. The final verse of the Psalm offers a brief quote form the spiritual, Steal Away. The second part of the Cantata revels in the exultation of the text. The recurrence of rhythmic figures that vary in duration and density is a characteristic aspect of this section. A single boy chants, "Selah," to bring this work to a tranquil conclusion.




Three Pieces for Organ were composed in the early sixties for use in traditional church services the slow, aspiring lines of the Elevation for communion, the chorale, Jesu, wir Sind Hier, as an offertory and the Invokation as a prelude to the service. The modal linearity of the Elevation and the Invokation suggest older music from the Catholic tradition. The Lutheran chorale, representing the Protestant tradition of the chorale prelude, is also characterized by contrapuntal lines and a canonic treatment of one of the phrases of the chorale melody.




©1994 George Walker




George Walker, born in Washington, D.C. in 1922, began to study composition seriously after graduating from Oberlin College at the age of 18. After having been accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to study piano with Rudolf Serkin, he was accepted into the composition class of Rosario Scalero, teacher of Samuel Barber and Gian-Carlo Menotti. Before embarking on a career as a concert pianist, he completed his first string quartet. The second movement of his quartet was arranged for string orchestra and is now known as his famous Lyric for Strings. In 1956, he became the first black recipient of the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the Eastman School of Music, where this doctoral program originated. Although his degree was in piano, (he never studied composition at the Eastman School), he composed his Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra, 2nd Piano Sonata, Sonata for Cello and Piano while residing in Rochester, New York. In 1957, as a Fulbright Fellow in piano, he continued to compose under the guidance of Nadia Boulanger in Paris. With her encouragement he produced his Address for Orchestra, the Sonata for Violin and Piano and several choral works. He performed his Piano Sonata No. 1 on concerts arranged by Mlle. Boulanger. Returning to the United States in 1958 after a second year in Paris on a John Hay Whitney Fellowship, (he was the first composer to receive this award), he began to amass a catalogue of more than seventy published works that have been performed by renowned ensembles and conductors throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.




Five Fancies for Clarinet and Piano Four Hands was recorded and produced by Videmus, a chamber music organization that has achieved national recognition for its promotion of music by minority and women composers. Vivian Taylor is its artistic director.




Three Pieces for Organ were recorded on the four manual, 105 rank Aeolian-Skinner organ of The National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The organist, Dr. Mickey Thomas Terry, studied with Clarence Watters, Conrad Bernier, Charles Callahan and Ronald Stolk. He has been a prize winner in several national organ competitions and is the organist of the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic church in Washington, D.C. He is also a Professorial Lecturer of History at Georgetown University.




Special thanks are extended to Dr. Robert Freeman of the Eastman School of Music, to Mr. Ernest E. Ligon and the National Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., to David E. Hilliard, the engineer for the organ works, to Vivian Taylor of Videmus and to Donald McCormack of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center.




This recording is dedicated to the late Paul Kapp, founder of General Music Publishing Co. and Serenus Records, a staunch friend and a peerless advocate of contemporary American music. All of the music recorded on this compact disc is published by MMB Music, Contemporary Arts Bldg., 3526 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63103-1019.




Producer: George Walker


Editor: Jonathan Schultz




George Walker, A Portrait


Five Fancies for Clarinet and Piano Four Hands (9:21)


Eric Thomas, clarinet · Vivian Taylor & John McDonald, pianists


Antifonys for Chamber Orchestra (6:15)


The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra · Paul Freeman, conductor


An Eastman Overture (7:16)


Eastman Philharmonia · David Effron, conductor


Variations for Orchestra (12:25)


New Philharmonia Orchestra · Paul Freeman, conductor


Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Boys Choir and Chamber Orchestra


I. 23rd Psalm 9:48)


II. Four Verses from the 24th Psalm (2:49)


Joyce Mathis, soprano · Walter Turnbull, tenor


Boys Choir of Harlem · Orchestra of St. Luke's


Warren Wilson, conductor


Time = 12:40


Three Pieces for Organ


I. Elevation (4:17)


II. Chorale, Jesu Wir Sind Hier (2:40)


III. Invokation (4:03)


Mickey Thomas Terry, organ


Total Time = 60:50