An American Impressionist
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 07/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"William Grant Still (1895-1978) did not consider himself a great composer of music for piano. His strength was orchestral. He studied with George Chadwick and Edgar Varese in New York and worked as an oboist in a theater orchestra. In the late '20s, he got a job as an orchestrator with the Paul Whiteman orchestra; along with composer Ferde Grofe, Still was one of the arrangers whose work created "big band swing" music in the '30s.
In 1939, he married Verna Arvey, a concert pianist. Most of his original piano compositions were written specifically for her use. The pieces on this CD are strongly reminiscent of French impressionist composers, especially Ravel and Satie; indeed, if you like those two, you'll enjoy Still's music a lot. The best of the 20 pieces recorded here, to my ears, is "Summerland", arranged for piano from a previous orchestral suite. Still's music is delicate, seldom virtuosic, seldom profound, but perfect for reveries. Denver Oldham, the pianist on this CD, plays with moody precision.
And though it's not of musical significance, every critique of William Grant Still mentions that he was an African-American.
Happy Fourth of July, 2008, the year when Thomas Jefferson's "all men are created equal" will finally be established as truth."
Casey Kelley | California | 04/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This haunting contemplation of piano works illustrates William Grant Still at his finest. Not a general household name Still, symbolizes America and atonal music in many different ways. His music is a nice blend of sorrow, African-American folk songs, and 20th Century atonalism. Atonal music is defined as, "using the tones of the chromatic scale impartially", which gives a unique effect and sound. This CD's sound is actually very good; I remember reading that the soloist recorded these works in a church. I highly recommend this CD to anyone in a provocative mood and has the urge to discover this composer and his wonderful talent."