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George Walker: Chamber Music And Songs / Green, Stasio, Cygnus Ensemble

Walker / Stasio / Green / Martin / Cygnus Ens
Release Date: 07/27/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559659   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Walker
Performer:  Janet StasioPatricia GreenGeorge WalkerJames Martin
Conductor:  Angelo Frascarelli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Son Sonora String QuartetCapitol Chamber ArtistsCygnus Ensemble,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

George Walker is one the most senior living American composers, having been on the musical scene since the 1940s. He writes in a somewhat dissonant manner, but is not without expressiveness. The recording under consideration here covers several aspects of his output and is especially interesting for containing some of his recent work.

The String Quartet No. 2 starts off plaintively and quickly becomes contrapuntal. The second movement emphasizes plucked strings, but the piece really gets going in the third movement, which is more melodic than the first two and full of pizzicati. The last movement contains an interesting fugue. It should be mentioned that the Lyric for Strings, also on this disc, is a movement from Walker’s
Read more earlier Quartet No. 1 and is still his best-known piece. It is serious and quite moving.

The most interesting work here is the Poem for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble, to words by T.S. Eliot. This is very solid, with an advanced, but impressive solo part and a fascinating use of the instruments, especially the piano. The use of Sprechstimme by the main soloist and accompaniment by two other soloists is also well done.

The most recent item on the disc is the Modus for Chamber Ensemble. It is in four sections, with two guitars prominent. They definitely add to the atmosphere. A solo flute is also in evidence. Each movement builds on the previous one so that the last produces a true feeling of culmination. Unfortunately, equal praise cannot be given to the Five Fancies.

Of the five Walker songs recorded here, two definitely stand out. “Never Saw a Moon” uses programmatic elements in the accompaniment to support the vocal part and has an Emily Dickinson feeling. The Wyatt song “And Will Thou Leave Me Thus” uses different intervals to mirror the emotions of the text.

All of the ensembles heard on this recording play very competently and with great dedication to the music. Soprano Janet Stasio is especially notable. One could hardly imagine anyone else with a better understanding of the music. Patricia Green is also fine in her three songs, although James Martin is not nearly so good. As the recordings were made in several different places, recording quality is somewhat variable.

-- William Kreindler, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Quartet for Strings no 2 by George Walker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Son Sonora String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
2. Lyric for Strings by George Walker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Son Sonora String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946/1990; USA 
3. Poem for Soprano and Chamber Ensamble by George Walker
Performer:  Janet Stasio (Soprano)
Conductor:  Angelo Frascarelli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capitol Chamber Artists
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; USA 
4. Modus by George Walker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cygnus Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001; USA 
5. Fancies (5) by George Walker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Videmus Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974 
6. I never saw a moor by George Walker
Performer:  Patricia Green (Mezzo Soprano), George Walker (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
7. Response by George Walker
Performer:  Patricia Green (Mezzo Soprano), George Walker (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USA 
8. Mother Goose, Circa 2054 by George Walker
Performer:  Patricia Green (Mezzo Soprano), George Walker (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954; USA 
9. Lyrics: no 2, Take, o take those lips away by George Walker
Performer:  George Walker (Piano), James Martin (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; USA 
10. And wilt though leave me thus by George Walker
Performer:  George Walker (Piano), James Martin (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2002; USA 

Sound Samples

String Quartet No. 2
Poem
Lyric for Strings (version for string quartet)
5 Fancies
Modus
I Never Saw a Moor
Response
Mother Goose (Circa 2054)
Take, o take those lips away
And Wilt Thou Leave Me Thus

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