Frederic Hand: Across Time


Guitarist/composer Frederic Hand's Across Time is an album of original compositions composed over several decades that draws its inspiration from diverse traditions and musical languages. Including vocal settings of texts by William Shakespeare and the Italian philosopher Marsilio Ficino alongside Hand's characteristically eclectic solo guitar compositions, including the re-release of two of his early works Trilogy and Late One Night, this new collection will appeal to fans of guitar music that reaches out to various sources of inspiration.


Guitarist and composer Frederic Hand releases his third recording with New Focus, this time on the newly minted ReEntrant imprint focusing on guitar recordings. Hand stands out among guitarists of his generation for the breadth and depth of his activity — he was appointed the guitarist for the Metropolitan Opera in 1984, has appeared at many prominent festivals, and his compositions have been performed and recorded by major guitar soloists and ensembles, as well as on film and television. Across Time is a compendium of Hand’s work spanning 35 years and demonstrating both the evolution of his eclectic compositional style as well as consistent elements of his artistic voice.

The opening two tracks on the recording are the only works included that are dedicated to other guitarists, João Luiz and Federico Díaz respectively, but both are heard here in performances by Hand. Renewal is a pandemic era composition, traversing through a range of emotions. Opening with introspective harmonics and a poignant melody, the work travels through an unsettled samba, becoming increasingly agitated before a guardedly optimistic light shines through. Argentine guitarist Federico Díaz is a scholar and advocate for the music of Piazzolla, and Hand tapped into his specialized performance practice for Ballade for Astor Piazzolla. The work is characterized by the melancholy expressivity of tango blended with rich harmonic choices, reflective of Piazzolla’s influence as well as Hand’s characteristic polystylism. The Passionate Pilgrim switches gears, using Shakespeare and the English Renaissance as a source of inspiration. A lilting melodic figure is embellished and varied upon in the manner of Renaissance divisions.

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Three accompanied songs are included in the program, featuring soprano Lesley Hand. The Poet’s Eye is from a speech in Midsummer Night’s Dream that extolls the capacity of the poet to animate elements of life, and Hand’s setting captures that sense of poetic wonder. The authorship of 1930’s poem I am” is under dispute, either written by Mary Elizabeth Frye or Clare Harner. Hand sensitively expresses the text which describes how we live on beyond our corporeal bodies through the experiences of our loved ones. There is a Splendor sets a text by Italian Renaissance scholar Marsilio Ficino about spiritual enlightenment. As in the other songs, Hand demonstrates his deference to the text, allowing it to lead the texture and finding coloristic ways to support shades of semantic meaning.

Developed from ideas that emerged from an improvisation, Romantic Etude is a flowing work in three that evokes the gliding lyricism of Antonio Lauro. Waltz for Maurice is inspired by Maurice Ravel, specifically the middle movement of his Piano Concerto in G major. Hand’s voicings reflect the sensuality of Ravel’s chordal palette, and the work is anchored by a simple and poignant melody.

Hand’s arrangement of Simple Gifts captures the expansive Americana spirit of the music of Aaron Copland whose Appalachian Spring made the Shaker song famous. After opening with a swift invocation of the melody with hints of bluegrass, Hand settles into a lyrical reading, with lush harmonies. The arrangement ends with a questioning coda, perhaps a nod to another of Hand’s childhood heroes, Leonard Bernstein.

Trilogy is a three movement work written in 1977 and is reflective of Hand’s fascination with the modern jazz of the time. The flowing first movement, “Moderato,” revels in harmonic corners and detours into quartal harmony and pointed rhythmic material. A pedal point ostinato provides the foundation for a polytonal episode. “Gently” reflects the influence of Bill Evans and Miles Davis, bringing to mind iconic songs like Davis’ Blue in Green. “Allegro” is dynamic, driven by energized, repeated rhythmic cells. A contrasting middle section hearkens back to the lyrical previous movements before a walking bass figure ushers a return to the driving material of the opening and a rousing finish. Like Trilogy, Late One Night was composed in 1977 and reflects the influence of the jazz of that time on Hand’s music. Like nylon string jazz guitarist Gene Bertoncini, Hand takes advantage of the resonance of open strings in his chordal vocabulary.

Across Time closes with Cooper Lake, a sentimental portrait of a location near Hand’s home in Woodstock, NY, and the only track on the recording performed on steel string guitar. Despite the different string composition, the musical composition is vintage Hand, beautifully lyrical, with heartfelt harmonies and a disarming earnestness.

– Dan Lippel

Renewal, Ballade for Astor Piazzolla, and The Passionate Pilgrim were recorded in Area 52 Studios, Saugerties, NY in October, 2021

Recording engineer: Dave Cook; Produced by Frederic Hand and Dave Cook

The Poet’s Eye, I Am, There Is a Splendor, Cooper Lake and Romantic Etude were recorded by Frederic Hand in the mid 1990’s in his home studio, Woodstock, NY

A Waltz for Maurice and Simple Gifts were recorded at Dreamland Recording Studio, West Hurley, NY, in July, 2000
Recording engineer: Sue Kappa; Digital editing: John Yates; Produced by Frederic Hand

Trilogy and Late One Night were recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City, September, 1982
Recording engineer and editor: Judith Sherman; Produced by Judith Sherman

Digital transfer by Gregory Squires, September, 2001

All compositions by Frederic Hand, ASCAP

Published by Handwerks Music and distributed by Theodore Presser and Mel Bay

Classical Guitars by John Gilbert, 1981, Gary Lee, 2012 Steel String Guitar by Bill Wright, 1987

Strings by D’Addario

Cover photo by Zaksheuskaya from Pexels
Cooper Lake photo: Fred Hand

Design: Marc Wolf,

Frederic Hand

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.”

Lesley Hand

Lesley Hand was born in Richmond, Virginia, and trained at the North Carolina School of the Arts in dance, music and drama. She toured with Lauren Bacall in the musical Applause and appeared in television and films, including Robert Altman’s A Wedding. After she and Fred married, they performed together in concerts of songs from the Elizabethan period, folk music of the British Isles, and Fred’s compositions. She and Fred live in Woodstock, NY.



The WholeNote

After dazzling us with his earlier release Baroque and on the Street (Sony), and his work with his fusion band Jazzantiqua, Frederic Hand returns with Across Time and a series of original works that have been written in various styles, sweeping across continents, from Elizabethan England to 20th-century Argentina and Brazil, to utterly contemporary music.

This repertoire is remarkable for its range as well as for the refinement of form and performance. Hand reveals that he has, over time, developed a deep relationship with his instrument, the guitar, and he morphs into a myriad of styles while exploring various eras in the musical continuum.

Across Time shows that Hand now has a voice all his own. He has developed an intimate relationship with melodic line. He also has the ability to create remarkable harmonic tensions with relatively spare ornamentation. And his rhythmic impulses have their own allure, the retardandos and accelerandos sounding entirely natural.

All of this is reflected in all of the album’s music – especially The Poet’s Eye, with stunning vocals by (his wife) Lesley Hand, and on the apogee of the album, which is Trilogy. Drawing on plenty of variety in both dynamics and articulation, Hand foregrounds the tensions of his works with vivid contrasts and also with subtle and sensitive handling of the instrument that he has come to make an extension of his very body – living and breathing the music that comes from within.

— Raul da Gama, 7.04.2022



The title of the latest album from classical guitarist Frederic Hand is meant to be taken literally: whereas three of its tracks were recorded in late 2021, three others stem from 2000, five from the mid-‘90s, and the remaining two from four decades ago (the earliest pieces, Trilogy and “Late One Night,” were previously issued on the 1982 album Trilogy and have been digitally remastered for the new release). That Across Time sounds as cohesive as it does testifies to the clarity of Hand's artistry and vision. In all likelihood no one listening to it would think its material hadn't been recorded at the same time.

As a Hand primer, Across Time is ideal for its stylistic breadth and as a document of his consummate gifts as a guitarist and composer. Enhancing its appeal, the fifty-two-minute album's an extremely personal one for him, given how much the pieces draw from specific inspirations and include singing by his wife, Lesley Hand, on three tracks. Texts by William Shakespeare, Mary Elizabeth Frye, and Italian philosopher Marsilio Ficino are delivered by her, and other pieces pay homage to Astor Piazzolla, Maurice Ravel, and Aaron Copland. That the guitar playing is at a high level won't surprise anyone familiar with Hand's CV. The Emmy Award winner, who studied with Julian Bream, has been the Metropolitan Opera's guitarist and lutenist since 1984, and Hand's playing has been heard in films featuring multiple big-name actors. Throughout the recording, Hand deftly integrates folk and jazz elements into classical structures, the result in each composition transcending straightforward genre categorizing.

Needless to say, highlights are many. His technical command is drawn upon extensively for the opening “Renewal,” which he wrote for Brazilian guitarist Joao Luiz. Over seven minutes, Hand deploys harmonics and other techniques as the piece progresses through meditative, samba, and waltz sections, each transition executed with grace and skill. Considering that it was commissioned as a wedding present from a bride to her groom, “The Passionate Pilgrim” is understandably radiant, albeit quietly so; pretty too is “Romantic Etude,” which exudes joy in the lilt of its rhythms. Hope and promise pour forth from both songs' singing melodies and the variations Hand spins from them.

Written in 1977, Trilogy has lost none of its lustre in the years since its creation. Whereas the central movement, “Gently,” beautifully distills the refined sensibility of its creator into three delicately rendered minutes, the “Allegro” naturally dazzles for the virtuosity of its rapid fingerwork, not to mention the jazzy bass runs that gradually surface. Hand nostalgically recollects life as a young musician in New York City in the lyrical ballad “Late One Night,” after which his lovely evocation of a Woodstock, NY setting, “Cooper Lake,” concludes the release on a serene pastoral note.

“Ballade for Astor Piazzolla” surprises for not aping the Nuevo Tango master's composing style, but it registers as an affectionate tribute nonetheless. Using the middle movement of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major as the primary inspiration, Hand pays allusive tribute to the French composer in “A Waltz for Maurice” by replicating the elegance of the typical Ravel composition. Copland, on the other hand, is referenced directly in “Simple Gifts” when the Shaker song featured in Appalachian Spring forms the foundation for Hand's treatment. In one of the album's most exquisite moments, the song's familiar melody is first played fast but then slowly, which allows the beauty of its melody to fully blossom.

Lesley's attractive singing enhances the three pieces on which she appears, her delivery marked by clarity, control, and a refreshing absence of embellishment. Indicative of her vocal style is her unsentimental delivery of Mary Elizabeth Frye's “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” (its text also published two years later by Clare Harner in her poem “Immortality”) and Ficino's “There is a Splendor” (“There is a splendor that shines on everything / Each part has a radiance of its own”). The album's all guitar, vocals aside, but Hand's playing is so mesmerizing nothing else is needed. Every moment, it seems, captivates for the precision and poetry of his playing, as well as his melodic voicings and expert handling of texture, tempo, and dynamics. Though guitar aficionados will appreciate Across Time for the calibre of its guitar work, it's an album non-guitarists can embrace just as much.

— Ron Schepper, 5.31.2022


Steven Kennedy

Guitarist Fredric Hand gained international attention when he performed on the soundtrack for Kramer vs. Kramer. It is hard to believe that some 30 years has passed since this reviewer first experienced Frederic Hand’s Jazzantiqua album and later Heart’s Song. A student of Julian Bream, Hand carried on that tradition of exploring earlier works for lute and guitar and brought that same language to his original work. He has been performing with the Metropolitan Opera for over four decades. Blending ancient modes and musical gestures with modern instrumentation made these earlier forays an engaging experience. Hand would release other albums that blurred the new distinction between classical and jazz or popular music in what would eventually be lumped into a “New Age” category. In Across Time, Hand provides us with a reminder of his excellent skill and melding classical gestures, ancient modes, and a fine sense of melodic and harmonic development.

Across Time is a collection that includes a nice cross-section of new pieces as well as a couple that have appeared on previous releases. The album opens with three more classical works composed in 2021. “Renewal” kicks things off rather nicely inviting us into the beautiful tonal world and harmonic shifts Hand likes to use. It moves us into an interesting homage and exploration of South American rhythmic ideas in the equally reflective “Ballade for Astor Piazzolla”. His wife, Lesley, joins him for three beautiful songs based on texts by Shakespeare and Marsilio Ficino. The texts and reflective style lend a sort of deeper release that comes on the heels of loss in the wake of COVID these past couple of years. “I Am” is particularly touching. A gorgeous “Romantic Etude” provides another beautiful lyrical melody with Hand’s unique harmonic changes that engage the listener. The same could be said as well of “Waltz For Maurice”. Hand also explores American folk music in his own setting of the Shaker tune, “Simple Gifts”. The album closes with a shift to reflecting on natural beauty in “Cooper Lake”, inspired by his trips to the Catskills.

To help fill out this brief release, we are treated to new re-mastered recordings from his 1982 Trilogy album. These include the three-movement title work and the equally fine “Late One Night” both composed in 1977. These pieces provide a glimpse into the jazz and harmonic styles that marked his work in this period. It helps provide a good arc that connects well with the theme of the album which both shows him thinking and reflecting on the passing of time.

Across Time is its own gift both for those who have followed Hand’s previous releases and for those who may be discovering his work for the first time. It is recorded with a fine ambience that lends the instrument a rich tone without being too close to hear every movement. An intimate album that works quite well as a fine time to take stock and reflect. Lesley Hand’s vocals are equally wonderful with a pure tone that floats above the guitar accompaniment. This album is highly recommended and one you will likely return to often.

— Steven Kennedy, 4.19.2022


Midwest Record

Unless you are a committed New York, long hair guitar fan, Hand is one of the most protean guitarists of our age that you’ve heard plenty of but probably have never heard of. His main shot a the mainstream was a new age group that was so progressive the genre couldn’t keep up with it. Other than that, this student of Julian Bream’s that can easily rub elbows with John Williams has caught his breath long enough to look back over the last 40 years here---a voyage you should join him on. Elegant and accessible, this is some of the loveliest solo guitar you are ever going to hear. Easily a rare treat from a master.

— Chris Spector, 4.20.2022


Classical Voice of North Carolina

A composition professor in my hometown once spoke about his thoughts on guiding twenty-first century graduate students: he gives them freedom to work and develop on their own terms. Frederic Hand seems to have instinctively adopted this philosophy on his own. This album does not push boundaries or set your teeth on edge. It is a retrospective – a collection of his favorite works.

Frederic Hand, composer, performer, and teacher, has played with the great vocalists of our time: Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Renée Fleming, and others. He has performed with great orchestras for both film and television. His compositions have been performed by John Williams, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and more. He was appointed by the Metropolitan Opera as guitarist and luteist in 1984. Formerly head of the guitar department at SUNY Purchase and Bennington College, he currently serves on the faculty of Mannes College of Music at the New School. He is a graduate of Mannes College of Music and studied with Julian Bream while a Fulbright Scholar in England.

Hand studied the classics, including the music of the Renaissance; he listened to modern jazz greats and in the 1980s he started his own fusion performing group Jazzantiqua. The music on this compilation reflects these, and within his eight pages of liner notes, he tips his hat to several influential composers and musicians: Brazilian guitarist Joao Luiz; Aaron Copland, Astor Piazzolla, and Maurice Ravel.

From the cover photo by Zaksheuskaya, the photo of Cooper Lake (FH), with design by Marc Wolf, Hand invites us into his sound world imbued with a rich harmonic vocabulary. It feels like a down comforter, warm but not heavy, sweet without a saccharine after-taste.

Lesley Hand trained at the North Carolina School of the Arts where she studied dance, music and drama. She has a crystal clear soprano voice; especially suited to the Renaissance style called for in "The Poet's Eye," "There is a Splendor," and the poetry of "I Am." The collaboration of voice and guitar adds more color to the palette. I daydreamed about love songs of the troubadours and trouvères.

"Passionate Pilgrim," a commissioned piece, was originally intended for lute. This version for guitar is short and memorable. Placed before "The Poet's Eye," it works like a programmed interlude.

It is impossible to choose a favorite selection, but I was particularly drawn to Hand's most recent works, including the stunning "Renewal" and "Ballad for Astor Piazzola." The rhythmic feel of the Latin influence is stylized, but right there; and I loved the improvisational quality of the ballad. Viva, Nuevo Tango! There is more to enjoy, including the reissued Trilogy (1982). This is beautiful guitar music to savor and listen to again and again. It will occupy a prominent space along with my favorite guitar CDs; I recommend it.

— Karen E. Moorman, 5.15.2022



Frederic Hand's new album Across Time collects some of the venerable guitarist's original compositions dating from 1977 to 2021. It begins with the newest works, and they are gems: the captivating, Brazilian-flavored "Renewal"; the thoughtful homage "Ballade for Astor Piazzolla"; and "The Passionate Pilgrim," a transcription of a songlike theme-and-variations piece that Hand originally wrote for the Renaissance lute.

The ancient mode continues with "The Poet's Eye," a setting of a passage from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with pure-toned vocals from Lesley Hand. Lesley Hand also sings on "I Am," a beatific setting of the famous poem that ends "Do not stand at my grave and cry,/I am not there. I did not die," and she returns for "There Is a Splendor," a setting of an early-Renaissance poem by Marsilio Ficino. Here a friendly vocal melody glides over interesting guitar harmonies.

From this folksy realm the album moves into the 19th century Romantic era with the heartfelt melodies of "Romantic Etude" and the Ravel-inspired "A Waltz for Maurice." Hand's sure, delicate touch proves ideal for the warm sentiment arising from these pieces. As throughout the album, the music is recorded with deft sensitivity that matches Hand's playing.

At the fulcrum of the album is "Simple Gifts," the Shaker song best known from Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, a piece many listeners will recognize.

"Trilogy" and "Late One Night," from 1977, are here digitally remastered from a long-ago album. The sound is just as good as on the newly recorded tracks. The music takes its cue from modern jazz. "Trilogy'"s second movement, marked "Gently," feels very much like a jazz ballad. The edgy "Allegro" sounds a bit Brubeckian; a walking bass line spiders through one section.

Across Time is 52 minutes well spent. Much of the music is on the soothing side; the closing track, "Cooper Lake," even sounds like a lullaby, albeit one that ends with a question. But some tracks will leap out and grab you forcefully. And all will repay a close listen, as Hand's beautiful touch and masterful technique never falter.

— Jon Sobel, 6.17.2022


Minor 7th Podcast

— Alan Fark, 7.18.2022


Minor 7th

Across Time spans four decades of original compositions by classical guitarist and composer Frederic Hand, a student of Julian Bream and veteran guitarist and lutenist at the Metropolitan Opera. In addition to more than a dozen volumes of original compositions and arrangements published worldwide through G. Schirmer, Theodore Presser, Cherry Lane, and Mel Bay, Hand's playing and improvisations have been heard in the scores of numerous films, and his original scoring for television includes Sesame Street, As the World Turns, and The Guiding Light, for which he was awarded an Emmy. The fourteen selections on this album, released on ReEntrant, an imprint of New Focus Recordings spotlighting guitar music, showcase a broad range of influences with inspirations from diverse traditions, and include contributions from Hand's spouse, the vocalist Lesley Hand, on three accompanied songs. The programmatic word painting in these songs, with texts by Shakespeare, either Mary Elizabeth Frye or Clare Harner (the poem's author is in dispute), and Italian Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino, reveal a master composer at work. A thoughtfully curated melodic and textural attentiveness to each song's overall meaning, colorful harmonic shading, and Lesley Hand's exquisite vocal delivery earn "The Poet's Eye," "I Am" and "There is a Splendor" equal pride of place on this recording. The re-release of two early pieces from 1977, the three-movement work "Trilogy" and "Late One Night," both originally recorded in 1982 and digitally remastered for this release, are perfectly programmed toward the end of the album. These pieces evince the influence of jazz on Hand at that time, particularly the music of pianist Bill Evans and the open-string chordal sensibilities required to impute those signature voicings on the guitar. The album's track sequence itself is chordal in nature, with each third moving toward the top of the triad not in order of composition (the album's first three pieces are the newest, composed in 2021), but in a sequence informed by momentum and mood. The arrival at "Cooper Lake," the program's final offering played on steel-string guitar and inspired by one of the composer's favorite places in which to enjoy the beauty of the Catskills, rewards the listener with a peaceful, calming end to a worthwhile journey. Frederic Hand is a brilliant performer and a master composer whose work is eclectic, lyrical, heartfelt, and superbly presented on this compendium.

— David Pedrick, 7.18.2022

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