Samatureya is composer/guitarist Frederic Hand's second release on Panoramic Recordings, an imprint of New Focus Recordings. The longtime Metropolitan Opera guitarist, Mannes School of Music faculty member, and versatile composer includes works for solo guitar and guitar in ensemble on this characteristic release featuring his eclectic music. Assisting artists are Paula Robison, Brasil Guitar Duo and Trio Virado.
|Frederic Hand, guitar||6:31|
|Frederic Hand, guitar||5:31|
|Trio Virado: Amy Porter, flute; João Luiz, guitar; Juan-Miguel Hernandez, viola|
|03||Light Through The Trees|
Light Through The Trees
|Frederic Hand, guitar||4:32|
|Brasil Guitar Duo: João Luiz and Douglas Lora, guitars||9:16|
|Frederic Hand, guitar||3:41|
|Frederic Hand, guitar||3:55|
|09||Elegy For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.|
Elegy For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
|Frederic Hand, guitar||3:04|
|Frederic Hand, guitar, Paula Robison, flute|
|12||In The Woods|
In The Woods
|Frederic Hand, guitar||3:00|
On this release, composer/guitarist Frederic Hand is joined by five extraordinary musicians, flutist Paula Robison, guitarists João Luiz and Douglas Lora (Brasil Guitar Duo), flutist Amy Porter and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez, who along with João Luiz are Trio Virado. Chorale was commissioned by the New York City Classical Guitar Society for the New York City Guitar Orchestra in 2012, and is heard here in an adaptation of the original score for four guitars, all of which are performed here by Hand. Heart’s Song owes its inspiration to the Brahms Intermezzo No. 2 in A major, Opus 118 — Hand’s fleet tremolo will be of particular delight to guitarists. Trio, written for guitarist João Luiz during his time as Hand’s student, revels in passing melodies between viola and flute in the opening movement before leading into a Brazilian jazz influenced second movement. The solo Samba is joyful and infectious, with a pulsing energy through much of its four and half minutes. Still is dedicated to the excellent Brasil Guitar Duo, and truly highlights their intuitive ensemble connection. For Lenny is dedicated to Leonard Bernstein, capturing a bygone era in New York music, characterized by earnest expression. In About Time, a study in varying time meters, Hand builds freedom into the score, inviting performers to extend the duration of certain passages at their discretion.
Elegy for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was written in 1968 to mourn Dr. King’s loss, doing so with thoughtfulfulness and reflection. The Maverick was the result of a 2015 commission celebrating the centennial season of the Maverick Concert series, and was premiered that season at the Maverick by Hand with the legendary flutist, Paula Robison. The first movement is an exuberant annunciation, and the second movement “Gratitude” begins with an expansive guitar solo before inviting the flute to join in dialogue. “In the Woods” begins coyly before unleashing furious material between the instruments, including some of the most experimental music on the recording. The final movement, “Mountain Song” is driving and rhythmic, with thick chords in the guitar framing a visceral end to the work. This chronicle of Hand’s chamber and solo works ends gently with Lesley’s Song, written for Hand’s wife and best friend of many years, Lesley. On “Samatureya”, Frederic Hand reasserts his unique place as a multi-faceted performer, eclectic composer, and musical humanist.
Engineers: Dave Cook (tr 1 at Area 52 Studios, Saugerties, NY; tr 6 at Greenville Church, Scarsdale, NY), Suzanne Kappa at Dreamland Recording Studios, West Hurley, NY (tr 2, 7-9, 14), Dave Schall at Stamps Auditorium, University of Michigan School of Music Theatre and Dance (tr 3-4), Tom Mark at The Make Believe Ballroom (tr 5), Adam Abeshouse at Westchester Studios (tr 10-13)
Artwork and Layout: Marc Wolf (marcjwolf.com)
Produced by Frederic Hand, Dave Cook, Trio Virado, and Adam Abeshouse
Noted for his unique performances of early music, Frederic Hand is the creator and director of Jazzantiqua, a group The New York Times has described as “scintillating and brilliant.” He was a Fulbright Scholar to England and a student of Julian Bream. Appointed the Metropolitan Opera’s guitarist and lutenist in 1984, he has accompanied Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and many other renowned singers.
Hand’s original scoring for television includes Sesame Street, As the World Turns, and The Guiding Light, for which he was awarded an Emmy. His playing and improvisations have been heard on the scores of numerous films, including those starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Robert DeNiro in This Boy’s Life, Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep in Kramer vs Kramer and Sean Connery in The Next Man. Television performances include appearances with Meg Ryan, Marisa Tomei and Julianne Moore. His arrangement and performance of the theme for the film “Kramer vs. Kramer” led to his own best selling recording for Sony, “Baroque and On the Street.”
Guest appearances include the New York Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Mostly Mozart Festival, Marlboro Music Festival and the Caramoor Festival with the Orchestra of St. Lukes. For his recording and performances with flutist Paula Robison, he won the Classical Recording Foundation’s “Samuel Sanders Award.”http://www.frederichand.com/
Trio Virado is a fresh new collaboration between three distinguished artists on their instruments of flute, viola and guitar. Amy Porter, Juan-Miguel Hernandez and João Luiz are artists widely sought after for their musical performances on recordings and the concert stage. Joining together, they form a concert trio experience with emotion and love of music that radiates electricity. This unique blend of artists are performing music composed especially for them by some of the world’s leading composers and bringing more traditional Brazilian music like Astor Piazzolla to their group’s repertoire.
Brasil Guitar Duo, a 2006 winner of the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, and hailed by Classical Guitar magazine for its "maturity of musicianship and technical virtuosity," is equally at home on a classical or a world- music series. Its innovative programming features a seamless blend of traditional and Brazilian works, resulting in a full global touring schedule and a growing catalogue of critically acclaimed recordings. The Duo has appeared internationally on major concert series and at festivals in Cuba, Germany, England, South Korea, Colombia, Brazil, Austria, Panama, Poland, and Bermuda. Recent and upcoming U.S. engagements include recitals in such major venues as New York, Santa Barbara, Miami, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, St. Louis, Tucson, Portland, Nashville, San Jose, and Oakland. Committed to performing new chamber music employing the guitar, the Duo joined cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Carlos Prieto in the October 2014 world premiere of El arco y la lira, a work for two cellos and two guitars by the esteemed Cuban composer Leo Brouwer. On the same program—a highlight of the sixth annual Festival Leo Brouwer in Havana—the Duo gave the Cuban premiere of Brouwer’s Sonata de Los Viajeros, which they had presented in its U.S. premiere the previous month and recorded for a Naxos CD of Brouwer’s complete works for two guitars, scheduled for release in 2015.
“American Treasure” Paula Robison, recognized early as one of the great solo flutists of her generation, is celebrating a career of over fifty years on the international concert stage. She was born in Tennessee to a family of actors, writers, dancers, and musicians, spent her young years in California, and at 19 went to New York where she studied at both the Juilliard School with Julius Baker and the Marlboro Music Festival with Marcel Moyse (making her a direct musical descendant of the great Paul Taffanel). When she was twenty, Leonard Bernstein invited her to solo with the New York Philharmonic. When she gave her New York recital debut under the auspices of Young Concert Artists, the New York Times wrote: “Music bursts from her as naturally as leaves from trees”. Soon after that she became the first American to win First Prize in Flute at the Geneva Competition, and her international career was launched. Ms Robison was a founding member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and held the title of Artist Member for twenty seasons. During the same time she gave a sold-out annual three-recital series at Alice Tully Hall in New York, and served as co-director with Scott Nickrenz for the Chamber Music Concerts at the Spoleto Festivals, presenting many great artists early in their careers and earning the Adelaide Ristori Prize and the Premio Pegaso for her contributions to Italian cultural life, as well as honorary citizenship for life of the City of Charleston, SC. A passionate advocate for new music, Paula Robison has commissioned works by Leon Kirchner, Toru Takemitsu, Robert Beaser, Kenneth Frazelle, Oliver Knussen, and Lowell Liebermann, and premiered music by Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter, William Schuman, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Carla Bley, among many others.
Glad to hear this nicely recorded new release from guitarist/composer Frederic Hand. A beautiful album filled with solos and ensemble music. I particularly enjoyed the Trio Virado works with Amy Porter, flute; João Luiz, guitar; Juan-Miguel Hernandez, viola.
— Bradford Werner, This is Classical Guitar, 5.11.2018
One of Frederic Hand’s fine 1980s albums, “Jazzantiqua”, was one of these delicious blends of medieval music and jazz. The host of original melodies blended with interesting combinations in the ensembles was part of the growing transition to New Age styles that did not quite fall into classical or jazz categories. His most famous recording is likely the arrangement of the theme used in the film Kramer vs. Kramer. He would go on to score television series a well. Another album, “Heart’s Song” continued explorations of folk music and this blended jazz and ancient musical styles. The title song from the latter album as well as Samba reappear in this new release featuring a variety of Frederic Hand’s original music for smaller ensembles and guitar. The new album takes its title from one of the two multi-movement works on the album which also features eight additional shorter pieces.
The first larger work on the album is a Trio for flute, guitar, and viola written for guitarist Joao Luiz, a member of the Trio Virado who perform it here. The two-movement work was originally recorded for the trio’s own debut recording on Soundset (Mangabeira). The opening “Light Through the Trees” is akin to the way hand melds his stunning, lyrical melodies, into a texture that has an almost modal jazz quality to it with interesting additional meter shifts that add further rhythmic interest. A bit more angular start kicks off Samatureya which eventually will settle in to a Brazilian samba, a transition that is so fluid that one barely notices the way this shift occurs. It is all brought together by a recall of the opening movement. The trio is another of those works that transcends genre with something for both classical, jazz, and world music lovers. The other significant work is for flute and guitar. The Maverick refers to the summer music festival at Woodstock, NY, for this commissioned piece written and premiered for the 2015 centennial season. Hand and flautist Paula Robison premiered the work and perform this four-movement piece here. Each movement reflects different aspects of the festival from its opening celebratory nature and a sense of “Gratitude” for the opportunities it presents. The third movement, “In the Woods”, follows a couple in dialogue who begin rather calmly and move into a more intense and impassioned argument. The final movement, “Mountain Song”, connects to more folkish elements.
Hand begins the album though with a Chorale for Guitar Quartet playing a solo adaptation here. Most striking here, as in many of Hand’s works, is the way these simple, yet gorgeous melodies appear. In Heart’s Song, an almost flamenco-like arpeggio gives way to a delicate melody that is equally touching as the harmony becomes darker, or even slightly dissonant as the ideas seem to move in an almost improvisatory way chasing one another in compelling, and accessible music. The various musical influences on Hand’s music are displayed in some of the individual works that are in the center of the album. Samba certainly recalls some of those great Verve releases of Bonfa, Gilberto, or Jobim. A touching tribute to Bernstein appears in For Lenny which features melodic structure and harmonic shifts reminiscent of the composer’s song style. The improvisatory style of Hand’s music comes to the forefront in About Time which allows for just that flexibility in performance coupled with mixed meters. Another tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., rounds off the section in this moving 1968 work. In the midst of these solo works performed by Hand, the Brasil Guitar Duo steps in for a fascinating exploration of motives and use of silence in Still. How these evolve into melodic material is another of those fascinating components of Hand’s music that is like listening to the music being created as we listen. Slight dissonance appears from time to time adding an extra emotional intensity. This somewhat improvisational feel is what makes most of these pieces engaging. The album concludes with a touching love song for Hand’s wife, Lesley.
If you have never experienced Frederic Hand’s music, this is as good a release as one can hope for to do so now. The music here is all quite accessible with its musical fingers in various classical guitar, jazz and folk guitar, and world musics. The sound is quite warm with great presence. Like many of Hand’s work of the 1980s, this is an album to treasure.
— © 2018, Steven A Kennedy, Cinemusical
Before listening to Samatureya, Frederic Hand's second release on the New Focus Recordings imprint Panoramic Recordings, I wondered whether it could possibly match the high standard set by the classical guitarist's earlier Odyssey. No more than a single listen was needed to confirm that the new set is in every way as satisfying. It impresses on multiple levels: as both a composer and guitarist, Hand is remarkably gifted, and though the release features ten chamber and solo works (two of them multi-part), it exemplifies satisfying shape and cohesiveness. That it does so is no small feat when the album compiles material recorded at different times (Chorale in mid-2017 whereas Heart's Song, For Lenny, Elegy for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., About Time, and Lesley's Song stem from 2000) and in some cases by different instrumental groupings. While many tracks feature Hand alone, Trio, for example, features the playing of Trio Virado (flutist Amy Porter, violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez, guitarist João Luiz), with its version first presented on the group's debut release Mangabeira. In addition, Samatureya includes contributions from Brasil Guitar Duo (João Luiz, Douglas Lora) and flutist Paula Robison.
As listeners acquainted with Odyssey know, Hand brings a wealth of experience to his creative process. A one-time student of Julian Bream's, Hand has been the Metropolitan Opera's guitarist and lutenist since 1984, is a Mannes School of Music faculty member, and has contributed as a composer and player to numerous television and film productions, among them Kramer vs Kramer, Sesame Street, and The Guiding Light. Such a remarkable background has provided Hand with a bountiful well-spring from which to draw as a composer.
His solo performances are a constant delight, whether it be a dignified elegy written in 1968 to mourn the passing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or affectionate homages to Hand's wife, Lesley, and Leonard Bernstein. In addition to the melodic richness of the compositions and the fundamental contrasts in their character, there's Hand's playing, which is distinguished by sensitivity of touch, taste, and unerring command of tempo and dynamics. Never are such qualities more evident than during that aforementioned elegy, its quiet grandeur so movingly conveyed by Hand's performance, or the opening Chorale, a setting inspired by renaissance and baroque choral music that features the guitarist performing all four parts in an adaptation of an original score written for a larger ensemble. In drawing for inspiration from Brahms' Intermezzo No. 2 in A major, Opus 118, Heart's Song presents Hand's classical side to glorious effect, especially when it shows the guitarist deftly segueing between dazzling tremolo episodes and others rich in heartfelt expression. Samba, on the other hand, shows him expertly switching gears for a swinging, Bossa Nova-styled setting that oozes charm.
Hand was so impressed by Trio Virado's performance of Trio, which the composer wrote for guitarist Luiz when he was a Master's degree student at the Mannes College of Music, that he decided to include the group's treatment rather than a newly recorded one of his own. It's easy to see why: Luiz's graceful playing shows that he clearly learned much from his former teacher, and the flute and viola performances of Porter and Hernandez add considerably to the loveliness of the piece, whether the material in question is gentle and reflective (Light Through the Trees) or samba-inflected and infectious (Samatureya). Luiz also appears alongside Brasil Guitar Duo partner Lora on the elegant meditation Still, in which Hand uses three-note motifs as a springboard for elaborate interlacings between the players.
On a recording where the performances are never less than stellar, The Maverick stands out for pairing Hand with Paula Robison, regarded as one of the great solo flutists of her generation and whose career has spanned a half-century on the international concert stage. He composed the four-movement work in 2015 as a commission to celebrate the centennial season of Maverick Concerts, a summer chamber music festival situated near Woodstock, NY. Displaying masterful pitch, control, and a vibrato-rich tone, Robison proves to be an eloquent partner to Hand in the wide-ranging work. Regardless of whether the expression is exultant joy (“Celebration”), humble appreciation (“Gratitude”), or folk-inflected declamation (“Mountain Song”), The Maverick distinguishes itself as one of the recording's finest accomplishments.
Hand clearly gave considerable thought to the pacing and track sequencing of the album. Although many pieces were recorded at different times and in a small number of cases by musicians other than the composer, Samatureya holds together remarkably well as a cohesive statement. Further to that, this excellent follow-up to Odyssey makes a compelling argument in favour of Hand's gifts as a guitarist, collaborator, and composer.
— Ron Schepper, textura, June 2018
TEN QUESTIONS WITH FREDERIC HAND
It's no exaggeration to say Frederic Hand has enjoyed a career unlike any other classical guitarist's. Consider: his playing has been heard on the scores of numerous films and television series, among them Kramer vs Kramer, Sesame Street, and The Guiding Light; he's performed onstage with Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti; has played guitar with the Metropolitan Opera since 1984; and has even performed on Broadway with Maximillian Schell in a production of John Osborne's A Patriot for Me. This Grammy-nominated and Emmy-winning recording artist also has issued a number of fine recordings, most recently Samatureya, a stellar collection of Hand-composed solo and chamber pieces. textura was honoured to interview recently this renowned musician and discuss the new release, his experiences playing with the Metropolitan Opera, and other matters.
1. Many years ago, you studied in England with Julian Bream after being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. What long-term impact did studying with this legendary guitarist have?
In a way, I began studying with Julian Bream through his recordings and concerts, long before working with him in Canada and England. From the moment I heard his recordings, I was focused on his sound, expressivity, and rhythmic vitality. His repertoire introduced me to renaissance dances and fantasias and baroque suites, and many contemporary works. His long-term impact has been on my sense of tone production, use of a wide variety of timbres, and a deeper, more intuitive perspective of phrasing.
2. Unless circumstances have changed since your 2016 textura spotlight appearance, you live in Woodstock, NY and travel to the city a few days a week to teach at Mannes College and perform with the Metropolitan Opera. As you've held the position of guitarist and lutenist with the opera company for thirty-four years, I'm guessing you've had a memorable experience or two in that role. Could you share a couple with us?
My most memorable moment at the Met came in a performance of Francesca Di Rimini by Zandonai. My lute was knocked off a chair backstage and badly damaged, just seconds before I had to play on stage in a scene with Placido Domingo. The chanterelle (tuning peg for the top string) was broken off along with the string itself. I had to re-voice all of the chords on the spot. It was a surreal experience, and as it was happening, I was both terrified and exhilarated.
3. Are there any operatic works that are particular favourites and that you're fond of performing?
My favourite operas to perform are Il Barbieri di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) by Rossini and Wozzeck by Berg. In the Rossini, I add my own ornaments and arpeggios and both of the tenor arias with guitar are so beautiful and an important part of the opera. In Wozzeck, I'm in the stage band. We're playing completely different music than the orchestra, and there's a great deal of action on stage. The coordination of these various elements is enormously challenging. I particularly enjoy the score, which is incredible on so many levels.
4. When I heard that your follow-up to Odyssey was coming out, I wondered if Samatureya could possibly match the excellence of its predecessor and of course was thrilled to discover that it does. What for you are the key differences between the two projects?
Both Odyssey and Samatureya are deeply personal recordings because with the exception of one piece the music is all original compositions. Samatureya has more assisting musicians and chamber music, including a seventeen-minute flute-and-guitar piece, a trio for viola, flute and guitar, and a Chorale for guitar quartet, in which I played all four parts (with the help of my brilliant engineer and co-producer, Dave Cook).
5. Did you feel any pressure to live up to the high standard set by Odyssey when you turned your attention to its follow-up?
I always feel pressure when recording because the session will only capture a snap-shot in time of how I played the pieces that particular day. But that snap-shot is preserved, and I'm going to have to live with it for the rest of my life. So it's important that I feel I've done my best and that the recordings represent the music in the best possible light. That said, it's also important not to drive yourself crazy with the standard of perfection.
Someone very wise once advised me to use the concept of perfection as a beacon and not a bludgeon. It's often hard to maintain a healthy perspective at the end of a long recording day. I allow some time between the recording sessions and editing, mixing, and sequencing. My initial impressions usually change as I live with the recording.
6. Samatureya features a number of solo guitar pieces performed by you but also includes contributions from guests: guitarists João Luiz and Douglas Lora (Brasil Guitar Duo); flutist Amy Porter, violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez, and João Luiz (Trio Virado); and legendary flutist Paula Robison. What was the experience like of working with these guests, one of who, Luiz, was once your student?
It was wonderful! The nature of the classical guitar is that of a soloistic instrument. But I'm most happiest when making music with other musicians. In this case, they are some of the premier instrumentalists performing today. Paula Robison is one of the great flutists of our time, being introduced to the pubic by Leonard Bernstein's Young Poeple's Concerts. Performing with Paula has been a tremendous learning experience for me as she embodies incredible spirit, heart and authenticity. Joao and Douglas (Brasil Guitar Duo) are extraordinarily gifted and enjoying a well-deserved, wonderful career. Joao, (who lives in New York) and I have become good friends and have done lots of work together. He also formed a trio with two great virtuosos, Amy Porter and Juan-Miguel Hernandez. Their recordings of “Light Through the Trees” and “Samatureya” are so beautiful I saw no reason to re-record it. It is exactly as I had envisioned it.
7. Separate pieces on the album were composed for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Leonard Bernstein. In what specific ways did these seminal American figures have an impact on your life?
As a teenager I attended the famous 'March On Washington' and saw Dr. King give his “I have a Dream” speech to an enormous gathering of people of all ages and walks of life. Five years later, when I heard the heartbreaking news of his death, I wrote an “Elegy” for him that same night.
Leonard Bernstein remains one of my greatest compositional influences, along with Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber. Bernstein's musical language often finds its way into my work and that influence continues to this day.
8. I found it interesting that in that 2016 spotlight you cited James Taylor as one of your favourite guitarists (Bream, Andrés Segovia, and Jim Hall are some of the others mentioned). Such a choice suggested to me that for you it's not only a matter of technical facility (not to suggest Taylor doesn't have his share) but touch, feel, and note selection. Is there anything in your own playing that you continue to work on and refine, even after having played for as many years as you have?
I continue to seek the most comfortable way to hold the guitar, affording both hands and my entire body maximum relaxation. This has been a lifelong endeavour. Initially, I was trained to hold the guitar on the left leg, which was elevated by a footstool. But when I studied jazz, everybody was holding the guitar every which way. I found that I played better with the guitar on the right leg. I caught hell from classical guitar aficionados for doing that, but I really didn't care. However, elevating either leg is not good for the lower back. So I continue to experiment with various devices that attach to the guitar and elevate it, allowing both feet to remain on the floor.
9. Listening to Samatureya sans background info, you'd never guess it includes both recently recorded material (Chorale, Trio, Still, The Maverick) and pieces recorded in 2000-2001 (Heart's Song, Samba, For Lenny, Elegy for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., About Time, Lesley's Song); further to that, the Trio Virado performance of Trio actually originally appeared on the group's debut recording Mangabeira (Soundset Recordings). As the project progressed and as you were sequencing it, did you become especially focused on ensuring that it would sound like a cohesive set?
I absolutely did, and I'm so happy to hear you say that it sounds cohesive. That was one of the great challenges of this recording, precisely because of all the reasons you stated. After an album is recorded, I try out several different sequencing orders, listening for smooth transitions in the flow of the music from one piece to the next. That includes not only the music's emotional qualities, but also the sound quality and timbral differences between tracks. Sometimes just adding an extra second or two between pieces can make all the difference for a satisfying transition. Also, an individual track can sound very pleasing on its own, but in the context of the surrounding music, might need to have the e.q. or reverb modified, or a different mix of microphones, to make it blend better with the rest of the album.
10. Finally, where did the album title come from?
Joao Luiz called me after Trio Virado recorded my trio and asked if I had titles for the two movements. I thought about the essential quality of the first movement and the image of a dappled light through trees came to me, but for the second movement, I could not think of a title. Then I remembered that this movement uses the first movement's theme and explores it much deeper, expanding it greatly. Suddenly the word ‘Samatureya' popped into my head. From where it came I do not know. It doesn't exist in any language. The meaning I ascribe to it is: “That which lies beyond the light through the trees.”