GERSHWIN: 6 Songs / COREA: Children's Songs (Karol Kopernicky/ Leon Bates) (Naxos: 8.550341)
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George Gershwin (1898-1937)
3 Preludes 6 Songs
ChickCorea (1941- )
Americahas had an interesting artistic development owing to its blending of cultures from variousparts of the world. It seems only fitting that the musicians who grow up in this diversityshould write music that reflects it. However strong the diversity, the basic elements ofjazz (American Classical Music) and European Classical Music have followed differenttracks even as they have developed. The musicians who have grown up in one area haveseldom entered the other.
GeorgeGershwin and Chick Corea represent two different periods in American musical creativitybut both have been involved as creators of music one might call Fusion, in the case ofGershwin a blend of Jazz and Classical ideas and with Corea the entwining of Jazz, Rock,and classical elements. The piano has been the creative voice for both men and compositionan extension of the pianistic gift.
Thereis a similarity between the Preludes ofGershwin and the Children's Songs of Coreain that they both write in short simple statements. While their styles of harmonizationare different, that seems to be a reflection of their respective time periods, Gershwinliving from 1898 to 1937 and Chick Corea being born in 1941 and continuing to create atthis moment.
Itis very fitting that these two composers are sharing this recording since the one,Gershwin, helped to establish many of the musical ideas by which the other, Corea, hasundoubtedly been influenced. Together their contributions cover an entire century.
Doubtless what they have contributed will be considered in the future in the realm ofserious art music.
ThePreludes of Gershwin are indicative of thiscomposer's interest in writing in Classical forms. The two outer pieces are highlyrhythmic and charged with great energy while the middle selection is an evocative Bluespiece. The playing of these works requires an appreciation of the lyricism of the Blues, astandard American form of expression, and the highly rhythmic music popular in the urbanareas of America in the early twentieth century.
TheSongs of Gershwin are well-known examples ofAmerican creative genius. They have been used over the years in many differentarrangements. It was an interesting challenge to write my own arrangements though. I didnot want to lose the flavour of the original melodies but at the same time I wanted tomake a statement that would allow me to realize my own pianistic ends.
Theidea for the arrangements came up as a result of my interest in performing Gershwin'ssettings of his songs. The composer's versions, however, were quite brief and did notallow me room to show my own piano skills. Fascinatin' Rhythm, SomebodyLoves Me, Liza, and I've Got Rhythm all make use ofGershwin's original ideas to establish their respective characters. My own writtenimprovisations are then woven into the existing fabric. The remaining two songs, TheMan I Love and Strike Up The Band are completely original arrangements.
The total statement is exciting for me in that it represents my contribution to a legacy;the continuum of musically creative people for ever influenced by their predecessors.
TheSongs accomplish what I aimed for, ascountless performances will attest. The pieces are certainly technically challenging,thereby giving one a substantial amount of music to interpret. I have used broken octaves,rapidly moving chords, ascending and descending chromatic thirds, grace notes, flattenedthirds and sixths over a stride bass as part of my vocabulary. I have filled them withwhat I think are interesting challenges that lie well in the hand but certainly takepractice to maintain sharpness. At the same time these ideas do not get in the way of whatGershwin wrote. At least I do not think so. In any case you can be the judge. In an erawhich thrives on Pop culture, it is refreshing to encounter the music of acomposer-pianist who is both a stepping-stone to the music of the future and a link to thepast.
ChickCorea is a serious creative force who is current with his time in that he employs theresources of his time to be expressive. His continued involvement in the development ofJazz Fusion since its inception in the 1960's has given him the chance to use electronicinstrumentation as a means of creating. His performance group, Return to Forever of the1970's helped chart a course in electric Jazz. Chick Corea's name has become synonymouswith new ideas in music. He is currently involved in the continued evolution of electronicmusic as he performs with the Elektric Band, a modern representative of the Jazz Fusionevolution. In addition he has been a steady performer in the traditional jazz settings,having become legendary for his skills as a performer on acoustic piano. At present he ismaking a strong statement with a group called the Akoustic Band.
ChickCorea has also used his pianistic skills in collaboration with other well-knownkeyboardists such as Keith Jarrett, Friedrich Gulda, and Herbie Hancock. His busy scheduleas a performer in his own compositions as well as the works of others links him to theexploits of Franz Liszt and Ludwig van Beethoven. As a composer Corea has proved hisdiversity by his ability to write in Classical forms as well as modern ones, asdemonstrated by his Septet that was written for the chamber group Tashi, and his pianoconcerto.
TheChildren's Songs were Corea's first attemptat writing for solo piano. These pieces were begun in 1971 and were added to graduallyover the next nine years, culminating in the twenty pieces represented here. Chick says hewrote the first song "to convey simplicity as beauty, as represented in the spirit ofa child." The first fifteen songs were written for the Fender Rhodes, one of theearliest electric keyboards, and sixteen up to twenty for the acoustic piano.
Howeverall of the songs can be played either way. The Songs remindersof the Scenes from Childhood of RobertSchumann and the Childrens Pieces ofMussorgsky in that they are short to the point and are quite contrasting in their natures.
The Corea songs are characterized by infectious ostinato bass-lines syncopated rhythms andcircular melodies that are very charming in their innocence. The Childrens Songs are fun to play because whilebeing simple and direct in their statements they are sometimes quite probing and colourfulin their nuances, not unlike children themselves.
Bornin Philadelphia Leon Bates took his first music lesson in piano and violin at the age ofsix. He studied under the late Irene Beck at the Settlement Music School and under NatalieHinderas at Temple University. In his career he has won many awards and prizes and hasperformed with several of the leading world orchestras such as the Cleveland Orchestra andthe Vienna Symphony Orchestra. His previous recordings for Orion records have met withcritical acclaim.