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An Encounter With The Music Of William Kraft

Release Date: 02/01/2008 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 981   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  William Kraft
Performer:  Barry CentanniSheryl StaplesDelores StevensBrian Head,   ... 
Conductor:  Mitchell Fennell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California State University Fresno Wind Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KRAFT Concerto a tre. 1 Incantation. 2 Vintage Renaissance and Beyond. 3 Encounters XII. 4 Translucences. 5 In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky. 6 Kandinsky Variations 7 Sheryl Staples (vl); Read more class="SUPER12">1 Delores Stevens (pn); 1 Barry Centanni (perc); 1 Brian Head (gtr); 2 Mitchell Fennell, cond; 3 California St University Wind S; 3 Jeffrey Parsons (hp); 4 Terry Longshore (perc); 4 Gloria Cheng (pn); 5 Sharon Leventhal (vl); 6 Jeremy Haldyna (pn); 6 Todd Barton (electronics) 7 ALBANY TROY 981 (72:11)

The various works on this collection span a period of over 30 years, and reflect the creative world of a composer, teacher, professional percussionist, and conductor that has been infused by diverse influences. William Kraft was born in Chicago in 1923, and studied composition at Columbia at a time when that institution was filled with musical innovators. As a performer, primarily during a 26-year stint with the Los Angeles Philharmonic but also with the group he founded, the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble, he collaborated with such composers as Stravinsky, Ginastera, Harrison, Krenek, Varese, Boulez, and Stockhausen.

It is not surprising to hear some of these myriad sources in Kraft’s music, which, at the same time that it is harmonically and melodically challenging, can display a sensuous and playful sonority. He dares himself to find a balance between harp and percussion in Encounters XII of 2003 (which he subtitles “The Gabrielic Foray,” a pun on the name of the French composer whose gentle poetry inspired him). Naturally, the drummer must acquiesce to the harpist in such a duet, with the result here of wonderfully delicate textures. In Concerto a tre, the percussionist again finds unlikely partners in a violin and a piano, with unusual and alluring sounds ensuing. The music here is sweet and flowing, buoyed by whimsical accents. For the Kandinsky Variations , Kraft has created a new musical notation, based on symbols and colors, and allowing considerable freedom on the part of the performer. The result is a funny, expressive sound experiment, here realized on an electronic valve instrument, played by Todd Barton. It is impossible to tell from the recording where the composer stops and the performer picks it up, but the collaboration appears to be entirely successful.

Some of Kraft’s music beckons for closer listening, such as the Incantation for guitar solo, which seems to mimic the precision of computer generated music, or the Translucences for solo piano, a quietly rendered work that has the quality of early-20th-century Impressionism. In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky is a striking trio of short works for piano and violin, inspired by poetry. Perhaps because Kraft’s career was so involved with Stravinsky (he was his main timpanist and percussionist from 1955 until 1969) and his awe of the great man was so profound, his homage contains little to connect it to the music of Stravinsky. There are snippets of quotes from some of Stravinsky, but they are in an alien harmonic context, and the two composers have very different senses of structure. Nevertheless, it is finely wrought and heartfelt material, the last piece in particular, inspired by T. S. Eliot, perhaps the most sheerly beautiful music on the CD.

In the middle of all of this forward-looking music we find Vintage Renaissance and Beyond , a delightful pastiche of tunes from the 15th century and earlier, in a wind-band version of a work originally commissioned by John Williams and the Boston Pops. Kraft is nothing if not eclectic, but a distinct personality is always at play here. In that respect, he resembles his hero Stravinsky even as he does not mimic his music. Perhaps that is the best homage of all.

FANFARE: Peter Burwasser

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Works on This Recording

Concerto à Tre by William Kraft
Performer:  Barry Centanni (Percussion), Sheryl Staples (Violin), Delores Stevens (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2005; USA 
Incantation by William Kraft
Performer:  Brian Head (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Vintage Renaissance and Beyond by William Kraft
Conductor:  Mitchell Fennell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California State University Fresno Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Encounters XII "The Gabrielic Foray" by William Kraft
Performer:  Jeffrey Parsons (Harp), Terry Longshore (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Translucences by William Kraft
Performer:  Gloria Cheng (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky by William Kraft
Performer:  Sharon Leventhal (Violin), Jeremy Haldyna (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Kandinsky Variations by William Kraft
Performer:  Todd Barton (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 

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