BOOK OF HOURSPiano Music by Haskell Small
HASKELL SMALL, piano
ROBIN WEIGERT and MARTIN RAYNER, narrators
World Premiere Recordings
“[Lullaby of War] is set for piano, played by the composer and two narrators, male and female...The musical style is freely chromatic and often dramatic... The work is not easy listening but entirely suitable for this period when we are regularly reminded of the folly of war, especially the First War... Haskell Small’s generally quiet piano pieces [of A Journey in Silence] rise like incense in spiritual contemplation. The style moves from mysteriously chromatic as in the opening ‘Introduction’ and the following ‘Vigils’ to diatonic and homophonic... Musical ideas are pursued and repeated and developed so that although the composition is sectionalised with contrasts of speed and dynamic it can easily be followed. It’s a good piece to be played by candlelight at night and has that feeling that repetition would do no harm to your continued appreciation... the composer is clearly a fine player and he is perfectly well recorded.”
Gary Higginson, MusicWeb International [February 2017]
“[Haskell Small is] a fine pianist who serves as the featured artist on this CD which contains two well crafted, rather serious new compositions by him, [Small] is more his own man than the product of a school or of an already established style, and further, he seems more cosmopolitan than American in his musical language... Small plays with authority and seemingly with total commitment. Indeed, you're getting the music as the composer wants you to hear it. The readings by Robin Weigert and Martin Rayner are delivered subtly and with powerful dramatic effect. The sound reproduction is vivid and the album notes informative. Recommended.”
Robert Cummings, ClassicalNet [November 2016]
“What comes into your ears quiety and poetically? Haskell Small's modern piano music anthology, Book of Hours... [A Journey in Silence: Reflections on the Book of Hours] gives us 11 movements with excruciatingly beautiful mediations, quiet in a post-impressionist, post-Satiean, post-Messianesque way that is expressively becalmed in blissful originality. As with the entire anthology Haskell plays the piano parts himself and he gives us his world undiluted, ultra-pianistic. It is profound music... This all is a testament to Haskell Small's musical poignancy, his brilliant demeanor, his modern expressivity. It is an album you should live with and plumb your depths with. I recommend it gladly and happily.”
Grego Edwards, Gapplegate Classical Review [October 2016]
“The style of the piano writing [in Lullaby of War] is both dramatic and reflective. There are moments of great power and vigor, with intense and acerbic harmonies juxtaposed to moments of quiet introspection where the harmonies bloom like flowers in the morning sun... Small’s work is largely meditative in style, and one could imagine using some of this music in conjunction with the use of a breviary. The harmonic language, as expected, is somewhat more tonal than that of Lullaby of War, but there are some rather piquant sonorities encountered during the course of the work, and several passages work up to a considerable amount of anguish... The 11-movement suite adds up to a memorable emotional experience. Small’s performances of his music are compelling and may be considered definitive, and the recorded sound of the piano, while a bit distant in perspective, is conducive to the presentation of the works themselves. Firmly recommended.”
David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare [November/December 2016]
“Small makes perspicacious use of silence in his program...”
Lamper, American Record Guide [November/December 2016]
PROGRAM NOTESThere is a quotation often pulled from Aldous Huxley’s 1931 essay collection Music at Night concerning silence and music. It’s from the work titled The Rest is Silence, and is worthy of a sentence or two on either side: “From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death—all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence. After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music….
Composer and pianist Haskell Small has been praised for the exquisite blend of sound and silence in his compositions and for his prodigious technique and subtle touch at the keyboard. His discography of over a dozen recordings and his frequent national and international tours have firmly established Small's stellar artistic reputation around the world. Highlights of Small's international performance career include engagements at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center and Spoleto USA. His acclaimed artistry has spread further through his active YouTube channel and other videos, which have received millions of views. In addition to his online videos, Small was featured on the nationally-broadcast PBS special “A Celebration of the Piano.”
Over the course of his career, Small's contemplative nature has drawn him to music that seeks a spiritual quietude that approaches silence. His ongoing series of compositions, performances and recordings, “Journeys in Silence”, reflects this interest. Small regularly tours the United States, Europe and Japan, programming his own compositions as well as works by other composers that share this aesthetic, performing in monasteries, churches and galleries as well as more conventional concert venues.
Small has received commissions from the Washington Ballet, Three Rivers Piano Competition, Georgetown Symphony and Paul Hill Chorale, among others. Small’s discography includes recordings of his own compositions as well as the Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach, Musica Callada by Federico Mompou and Gershwin in Black and White (a collection of piano transcriptions) on the MSR, Naxos, Centaur and 4Tay labels.
Haskell Small received his musical training at the San Francisco Conservatory and Carnegie-Mellon University. He studied piano with Leon Fleisher and William Masselos, and composition with Vincent Persichetti and Ronald Leich. Currently he is faculty member and former Piano Department Chair of the Washington (DC) Conservatory of Music, where he has taught since 1984.
[ haskellsmall.com ]
PROGRAMHASKELL SMALL (b.1948)
A JOURNEY IN SILENCE: REFLECTIONS ON THE BOOK OF HOURS
Walk to Calvary
The Great Silence
LULLABY OF WAR (2007)
A setting of six war poems for piano and two narrators
I. War is Kind [Stephen Crane; 1871-1900]
II. NO [Joy Harjo; b.1951] [First Published Version]
III. Recitative [Yvan Goll; 1891-1950] [excerpts]
IV. Naming Souls [Uri Zvi Greenberg; 1896-1981]
V. Look Down, Fair Moon [Walt Whitman; 1819-1892]
VI. Guernica Pantoum [Paula Tatarunis; b.1952]