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Africa - Piano Music of William Grant Still / Denver Oldham


Release Date: 03/04/1993 
Label:  Koch International Classics Catalog #: 7084   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  William Grant Still
Performer:  Denver Oldham
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Africa is the title of the major work here, but as a title for the whole disc it is quite misleading; few of these pieces show any African or American jazz influences. The notes cite Still's “Negro, Spanish, Cherokee, Scottish, and Irish heritage,“ which make him eminently American, but Bells consists of two Debussy-like impressions. The Seven Traceries are also impressionistic, but not particularly French; they too are pure concert music, composed for Still's second wife, the pianist Verna Arvey. At last, on track ten, we get a real blues number, taken from Still's score for the ballet Lenox Avenue; it has been dusted off and neatly dressed for a recital appearance, but its spirit will not stay repressed: a rolling James P. Johnson bass Read more line asserts itself at a very slow tempo.

Swanee River is a gentle, almost straight adaptation of Stephen Foster's “Old Folks at Home.“ Five Preludes are absolute music, identified only by performing instructions; one of them, Smooth and Sustained, repeats an arpeggiated chord in a near-minimalist fashion. Summerland is Still's most popular piece; one of his Three Visions, it portrays a “resplendent 'Heaven' to which the good person travelled following 'Judgement'.“

After all these brief pieces, none longer than 4:30, we finally come to Africa, a twenty-five-minute suite of three movements. Land of Peace and Land of Romance are gorgeous, sun-drenched music, but their location could just as easily be the Riviera or a clear day in Santa Barbara. Land of Superstition finally injects some local color, playing one jazzy hand against a classical one; eventually both give in to the feeling. All this proceeds gently at a measured tempo; eventually classicism sneaks back, in a push to the final coda.

Denver Oldham plays lovingly, with a sensitive touch and a beautiful feel for the relaxation inherent in many of these pieces. This is music which cannot be rushed, and Oldham is always patient with it. Koch has captured his Steinway effectively; it sounds full and yet intimate throughout. This disc is a lovely tribute to a memorable composer.

-- James H. North, FANFARE [7/1992] Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Africa by William Grant Still
Performer:  Denver Oldham (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
2.
Bells by William Grant Still
Performer:  Denver Oldham (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
3.
Blues by William Grant Still
Performer:  Denver Oldham (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
4.
Seven Traceries by William Grant Still
Performer:  Denver Oldham (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USA 
5.
Preludes (5) for Piano by William Grant Still
Performer:  Denver Oldham (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; USA 
6.
Swanee River by William Grant Still
Performer:  Denver Oldham (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
7.
Three Visions: no 2, Summerland by William Grant Still
Performer:  Denver Oldham (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; USA 

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