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Flights Of Fancy - New Music For Organ / Pamela Decker

Release Date: 04/05/1995 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 140   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  William AlbrightHerbert BielawaPamela Decker
Performer:  Pamela DeckerDavid Robbins
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ALBRIGHT Flights of Fancy: Ballet for Organ. Chasm. 1 H. BIELAWA Undertones. DECKER Nightsong and Ostinato Dances Pamela Decker (org); David Robbins (perc) 1 ALBANY TROY140 (61:44)

This 1994 release features performances by Pamela Decker, one of America’s most intrepid virtuoso organists. She performs the music of three Read more composers (one of them being herself) who have all written a great deal of organ music. It was recorded on the wonderful Flentrop organ at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle.

William Albright’s (1944–98) untimely death robbed the organ literature of one of its greatest composers. Though his catalog contains many stunning works in nearly every genre, it is Albright’s music for keyboard instruments that formed its core; they have become standard repertoire. Flights of Fancy: Ballet for Organ (1991–92) was Albright’s last major organ composition, as his final years were plagued with complications from the alcoholism that led to his death. Commissioned for the 1992 convention of the American Guild of Organists, Flights of Fancy is a major work in eight dance movements. Ranging from tango to waltz, to shimmy, to his signature ragtime, Albright employs his lifelong love of vernacular musical styles within the context of this major concert work. The tunes are infectious and memorable, and the treatments are very sophisticated. Pamela Decker has long been associated with Albright’s music (and was married to the composer from 1994 until his death), and recently served as editor for a critical edition of this work, now available from C. F. Peters. Decker’s excellent new edition contains a useful explanatory preface and clears up notation and musical questions throughout the rest of the score.

Albright’s Chasm (1985) is a work that evokes “vast spaces”; though the pace of the music is mostly fast and the sounds are often dramatic and monolithic, the textures and harmonies change very slowly. It requires the use of an “echo instrument” of the performer’s choice (in this case, timpani), to be placed at a distance. As always, Albright manages to employ a fresh, yet still idiomatic approach in his organ-writing. Decker notes in her preface to Flights of Fancy that Albright always said he intended to write “organ music that doesn’t sound like organ music.” He succeeded spectacularly at this goal in piece after piece.

Herbert Bielawa (b. 1930) has composed many organ pieces, most stemming from the inspiration provided by his wife, Sandra Soderlund, a well-known organist and pedagogue. Undertones was commissioned by Decker and is one of Bielawa’s most abstract and dramatic organ solos. The title is taken from the music’s basic substrate, presented throughout in the pedals.

Decker’s (b. 1955) own composition, Nightsong and Ostinato Dances , was one of the first works that brought her to prominence as a composer. It explores many of the stylistic elements (particularly the use of Spanish and Latin dance forms) that have remained a part of her vocabulary. The opening section is lyrical and is followed by three connected dances. All of Decker’s organ compositions are virtuosic in their use of the organ and dark in their emotional tone. In recent years, she has released two excellent discs of her more recent pieces on the Gothic label.

In this year, which would have marked Albright’s 65th birthday, this is a wonderful release to revisit. Flights of Fancy is far from Albright’s only excellent work (and his keyboard music is widely recorded), but it is one of his most instantly accessible. It is my hope that Albright’s magnificent chamber and orchestral works will finally be available on recording in the coming years. In the meantime, it’s good to be able to enjoy this music.

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Works on This Recording

Ballet for Organ "Flights of Fancy" by William Albright
Performer:  Pamela Decker (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1991-1992; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1993 
Venue:  St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Wash. 
Length: 29 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Chasm by William Albright
Performer:  Pamela Decker (Organ), David Robbins (Timpani)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1993 
Venue:  St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Wash. 
Length: 9 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Undertones by Herbert Bielawa
Performer:  Pamela Decker (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1993 
Venue:  St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Wash. 
Length: 6 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Nightsong and Ostinato Dances by Pamela Decker
Performer:  Pamela Decker (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992 
Date of Recording: 06/1993 
Venue:  St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Wash. 
Length: 15 Minutes 44 Secs. 

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