George Walker: Chamber Music

Sonata No. 2 for Piano

The Sonata No. 2 for Piano was composed in 1956. It is one of four works completed in that year in which he received his doctoral degree from the Eastman School of Music. His Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra, the Sonata for Cello and Piano and a short orchestral work are from this period. The first movement of the Second Piano Sonata consists of a set of ten brief variations based upon a six note ground bass that mirrors the theme stated above it. The second movement begins with an introduction followed by a section of three independent voices. The introductory material returns to close the section. A playful trio provides contrast before the return of the principal section. The slow third movement is characterized by the additive nature of the decorative figuration that embellishes each statement of the single theme. The fourth movement evolves from tranquility to turbulence in three clearly defined sections that recur after a pause. The concluding coda, with its use of imitation, suggests the opening of the first

Sonata for Cello and Piano

The principal theme of the first movement emerges from the ostinato figure in the piano accompaniment. Double stops in the cello part introduce the lyrical second theme. A vigorous closing section follows. A development section precedes a recapitulation of the expository material. The coda completes the classical sonata form evident in this movement. The slow second movement is structured in three sections. The second part contains a canonic dialogue between the piano and the cello. In the third movement, the fugal exposition gives way to a jazz-like section that uses syncopated figures over an ostinato bass in the piano. The final statement of the fugal subject consists of note values one half of those used in previous statements. This precipitancy leads to a brief, but exciting coda.

Poem for Soprano & Chamber Ensemble (Asetting of The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot)

The Poem for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts through a consortium grant with Capitol Chamber Artists . It was completed in the summer of 1986. The Capitol Chamber Artists presented the premiere of the work on February 8, 1987. The theatrical performance of the Poem, reviewed by B.A. Nilsson in the Schenectady Gazette, was pronounced a "masterpiece…a devastating work, deserving greater attention." The work is scored for flute, clarinet in B flat, violin, cello, harp or guitar, harpsichord, piano and a large percussion section. In addition to the solo soprano part. a bass and a light soprano are used.

Three divisions of the musical setting of The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot encompass the five sections of the text. A brief percussion cadenza utilizing xylophone. tom-toms, vibraphone. snare drum and maracas is introduced in the third section of the text. A fragment of the hymn, At the River, by the Rev. Robert Lowry, is quoted in the fourth section. A transformation of the instrumental introduction that follows the opening preface appears in the middle of the fifth section. The work closes as the bass intones, "A penny for the Old Guy."

Sonata for Violin and Piano No.1

This work was composed in Paris in 1958 on a Fulbright Fellowship and directly predates his first major orchestral work, the Address for Orchestra, designated by the American Symphony Orchestra League as "a neglected American classic." The Violin and Piano Sonata is in one movement. An introduction leads into a fugal allegro. A brief piano interlude signals the beginning of the second section that is highly rhythmic and virtuosic. It concludes with a cadence prolonged by a sustained "D#" in the violin part. The next section, marked "Andante, senza misura" suggests a recitative punctuated by laconic interjections in the piano part. The final section, marked "Molto adagio," progresses to a re-statement of the lyrical material from the beginning of the sonata.

Music for Brass, Sacred and Profane

Music for Brass, Sacred and Profane was commissioned by the Hans Kindler Foundation and received its premiere in Washington, D.C. in 1975. The four sections of the work are, Invokation, Dance I, Chorale and Dance II. The fanfare-like quality at the beginning of the Invokation is succeeded by a fugal section in which two themes are eventually combined before the reiteration of the opening section of the piece. A pervasively rhythmic verve dominates the two Dances. In Dance II, popular elements emerge (fragments of the song, "Once in a While") and are intertwined into the rhythmical fabric. The Chorale, a setting of "Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier," treats the introductory material as a ritornello.

George Walker ©1994

George Walker, born in Washington, D.C. in 1922. He began the study of piano at age five. He was admitted to Oberlin College at age fourteen with a four year scholarship. After receiving a Mus. B. in piano with a minor in organ (he was the organist of the Oberlin Theological Seminary), he was accepted as a pupil by Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute of Music. In 1945, he became the first black graduate of that renowned institution with an Artist Diploma in piano and composition. He concertized in Europe and the United States under the management of National Concert Artists and the Arthur Judson Division of Columbia Artists. He has taught at the Dalcroze School of Music, the New School for Social Research (aesthetics), Dillard University, Smith College, the University of Colorado, Rutgers University, the Peabody

Institute of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Delaware. He has given Master Classes and lectures in many institutions that include the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music, Wayne University, University of California at Irvine and Washington University. He has received honorary doctorate degrees from Lafayette College and Oberlin College.

Italo Babini was born in Napal, Brazil. He studied cello with his father. He continued his studies in Munich and came to the United States to study with Pablo Casals. he is currently the principal cellist of the Detroit Symphony and the recipient of the first endowed chair for that orchestra.

Founded in 1969, Capitol Chamber Artists has premiered over 75 works by living American composers in performances throughout the United States and Alaska. The Ensemble for the Poem conducted by Angelo Frascarelli included:

Janet Staslo, solo soprano

Janet Rowe, light soprano

Michael Murphy, bass voice

Mary Lou Saetta, violin & viola

Ted Hoyle, cello

Irvin Gilman, flute

Samuel Farkas, guitar

Jeffrey Middleton, piano & harpsichord

Richard Albagli, vibraphone & percussion

Scott Stacey, percussion

Ian Walker, speaker

Gregory Walker is the concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra and a Professor of Music and Director of Ensembles at the University of Colorado in Denver. He holds degrees from Indiana University (violin and English). the University of California (computer music), Mills College (composition) and a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in composition from the University of Colorado. He has performed as soloist with numerous orchestras and his compositions have been played by the Colorado Symphony and various chamber groups.

Ian Walker, a graduate of the University of Colorado, resides in Pacifica, California. He has pursued a career as an actor, director and producer of numerous theatrical performances. He has also completed two novels.

The Sonata No. 2 for Piano and the Violin and Piano Sonata No.1 were produced and engineered by George Walker using a Nagra D recorder, Neumann microphones and Baton Cables from Yankee Audio, Vista, California. The editor for this recording was Jonathan Schultz. Special thanks to Dan J. Miceli of Steinway and Sons, New York, New York and a special remembrance of a friend, José Échaniz, pianist and professor at the Eastman School of Music.


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