AFTER THE RAIN
With this recording, Clare Fischer presents for the first time, a program of original music that falls distinctly into the category of "classical." Well known and admired for decades as composer, arranger and pianist of singular originality, he is thought of first for his accomplishments in the jazz field. Clare remarked recently that until about fifteen years ago he thought that he needed to keep his jazz and classical writing somehow separate. More recently he acknowledged that he is what he is - a natural mixture of both. Jazz and classical influences as they are exquisitely entangled in Clare's mind, from his earliest composition to most recent, are heard in these extraordinary recordings.
Every perceived moment of beauty or emotion from life experience, whether from music, literature, art or personal relations inevitably affects an artist's work. As an awakening to classical music, Clare's high school music director and first mentor, Glenn Litton, played a recording of Shostakovich's First Symphony for Clare, then age 13. He soon heard Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige. The merging of influences had begun. During the years he played in Mr. Litton's high school band, Clare studied and performed on whatever wind instrument was needed to fill out the group's instrumentation. He refers to that as his earliest (and hands-on) study of orchestration.
Clare's only period of actual piano study before his university training, was from age 9 to 11. At age 12 he began to play the cello and later declared that instrument his major upon entering Michigan State University in 1947. At the same time, Clare submitted to the composition department a piano sketch of what is heard on this recording as The Early Years, (Movement II) from the Suite for Cello. As one hears this early composition and considers the chronology, it is staggering to think that it was conceived by an 18-year-old composer from a small town in Michigan. It seems clear that Clare never made a conscious decision to be a composer - he was one, fully formed, by the time he graduated high school. It is certainly unlikely that the distinguished composer H. Owen Reed, another mentor and life-long close friend (and the man to whom Clare submitted this early work), was accustomed to encountering such exceptional youthful efforts.
As part of the requirement for his Master of Music degree from MSU, Clare composed Rhapsody for Alto Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra. During the subsequent years of his professional career other notable classical compositions include: Rhapsody Nova for Woodwind Soloist and Wind Band, Piano Quartet, Cornucopia for Brass Ensemble, Miniature for Mallet Percussion and Strings and Sonatine for Clarinet and Piano. Of these, only the last, which was commissioned and performed by Richard Stoltzman, has been commercially recorded.
On recordings of his own works, Clare has performed on alto sax, e-flat valve trombone, cello, clarinet and bass clarinet. For a recent recording project Clare purchased and learned to play a complete choir of bugles as he composed for them.
In the 1980's Clare was "discovered" by a number of pop vocal artists who chose him to write - mostly for rock and roll recordings - string and orchestral accompaniments to be over-dubbed on their vocal and rhythm tracks.
Prominent among these artists are Prince, Vanessa Williams, Robert Palmer, Paul McCartney and Paula Abdul. On one particular date, Clare surrounded a harmonically simple pre-recorded pop vocal and rhythm track with a sweeping orchestral arrangement that left orchestra members applauding. Observing the star and her band while listening to the playback, their slight lifting of the chest and broad smiles seemed to say, "I didn't know we were that good."
SUITE FOR CELLO AND STRING ORCHESTRA
In 1999, with leftover time at the end a record date for which Clare had written the string arrangements, he was able to record The Early Years (Movement II), with Cecilia Tsan as cello soloist. Cecilia, whose solo playing was previously unknown to Clare, showed remarkable presence and identification with the music. After finally hearing this realization of his earliest work (1947), Clare then composed After the Rain and Finale to give the work a three-movement structure. The outer movements were written for Cecilia, produced by Clare and recorded later in 1999.
Time Piece was recorded in 1998 at Capitol Studios with a full symphony orchestra chosen, conducted and produced (paid for!) by Clare. Clare says of this work:
"The title refers to the 44 years between the original conception of this work and its first hearing. The first half of Homage was conceived and scored in 1953. The original ideas for the second half of the movement were conceived in 1953 but the actual writing of the music took place in 1987."
The homage referred to here is to Igor Stravinsky. Clare's inspiration being the early ballet music of that influential composer.
"The Elegy portion of the second movement, Elegy and Blues was, conceived in 1987. The Blues section was composed sometime in the early 1950's and it represents a manifestation of the duality of my existence as a composer. The piano solo in this movement was freely improvised and transcribed by Clare for this recording.
"The third movement, Fugue and Finale, was conceived in 1987, the fugue theme is jazz-like in phrasing but not in choice of notes. There are sections where I have utilized jazz orchestral procedures but in a classical way, i.e. the use of plunger mutes in the brass including combinations of the tight closed plunger and French horn
This entire work was commissioned by the Reader's Digest Meet the Composer program. The third movement was performed in concert by the New American Orchestra in 1988. Plans to perform the entire work were never completed.
BACHLUDES I and II
The recordings of these two works are, according to Clare, nearly twenty years old. The performance is striking in quality and these compositions represent, once again, the depth of expression and uniqueness that Clare's harmonic concept always delivers. Harmony equals emotion. I like to imagine that the old Kapellmeister of Leipzig would be thrilled to hear the harmonic priciples he codified taken, as they are by Clare, to the tenth power.
In an over entertained world where music is so often sold to our generation with great calculation and cynicism, the release of this music creates an important and original musical document. Popular culture thrives on the synthetic while Clare Fischer has always woven his own pure harmonic cloth. The breadth of his distinguished accomplishments is greatly widened by the release of these recordings.
Gary Foster February 2001