Reflections is a collection of reflective piano music from the classical repertoire along with two gems from popular and jazz genres. I created this recording for a friend who was suffering from cancer. She requested some music that would help her relax and focus on her healing rather than her pain. I selected several slow pieces ranging between 60 and 70 beats per second, a basic tempo that matches the rate of the human pulse at rest. When this recording is played, it can help calm an agitated nervous system or overly excited heart because the rhythm of our bodies will begin to match that of the music. Reflections is a testimony to the power of these timeless compositions to help us reflect on peace in our lives and facilitate relaxation and healing.
Albert Schweitzer, the great organist, Bach scholar, doctor and philosopher, summed up the power of music in the following way:
"Joy, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter - to all these music gives voice, but in such a way that we are transported from the world of unrest to a world of peace, and see reality in a new way, as if we were sitting by a mountain lake and contemplating hills and woods and clouds in the tranquil and fathomless water." (Johann Sebastian Bach, 1908)
My hope is that this exquisitely beautiful music will transport you to a peaceful place within your soul.
Reflections is dedicated to the memory of Faye Duncan, whose love of life gives inspiration to all who knew her.
The music of Johann Sebastian Bach has always been a staple in both my repertoire and listening diet. I usually begin the day with some of my favorite recordings of Bach and then start my practice session with one of the master's preludes and fugues. The great cellist Pablo Casals would end his day with a performance of a prelude and fugue on the piano as a "benediction" for his home. Bach's music is so satisfying because it stimulates the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual faculties at the same time. No composer before or since Bach has so effectively crafted melody, harmony, and rhythm into such masterpieces. His music takes the performer and listener to a place that transcends time, space, and sound. A testimony to the power of Bach's music is that it has been transcribed and performed successfully on many different instruments, including synthesizer and marimba.
The C major prelude that begins Reflections is also the first prelude in Bach's premiere volume of the Well Tempered Clavier, written in 1722. For this monumental work, Bach composed a prelude and fugue in all of the 24 keys that the new "well-tempered" system of tuning allowed at that time. The C major prelude is a relatively simple harmonic study that sustains chords through constant arpeggiation. However, Bach's skillful treatment of suspensions and their resolution gives the work its profound effect. This piece has been so popular that French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893) used its harmonies to accompany the familiar "Ave Maria," and in 1977 NASA selected it to represent the music of the earth on a recording placed on both Voyager 1 & 2 spacecrafts, which are currently traveling somewhere in space beyond our solar system. The extraordinary B-flat minor prelude has a more complex texture than that of the C major prelude. When taken out of context, many of the rich seventh chords and melodies could easily be confused with the romantic music of Rachmaninoff (especially the famous Vocalise). However, we often find this type of writing in Bach's sacred choral works, such as the "Crucifixus" from the B Minor Mass. In the B-flat minor prelude, Bach seems to portray the passion of Christ's crucifixion and death. Bach dramatically ends the piece in the parallel key of B-flat major, perhaps alluding to the hope of the resurrection.
"Sheep May Safely Graze" and "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" are two popular solo piano arrangements from Bach's cantatas. Mary Howe arranged "Sheep May Safely Graze" in 1976 from the soprano recitative and aria from the Birthday Cantata for Herzog Christian zu Sachsen-Weissenfels, called Was mir behagt is nur die muntre Jagd (My only delight is the merry chase). Myra Hess made her famous arrangement of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" after first hearing cantata No. 147 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben performed by the Bach Choir of London in 1920. She was so moved by the beauty of the work that she arranged it for solo piano from the orchestral score and performed it frequently as an encore. Not until 1926 was she finally persuaded to write out the arrangement and have it published. This piece has become one of the most familiar of Bach's music.
The two slow movements from Beethoven's Pathétique and Moonlight Sonatas are among the composer's most popular piano compositions. They come from a period in Beethoven's life when he was struggling to comprehend the fact that he would eventually be totally deaf (1799-1801). Beethoven's music is often dominated by two contrasting moods, either stormy and tempestuous or calm and serene. The outer movements of the Pathétique Sonata contain an almost violent expression of anger and pathos. The "Adagio cantabile" movement used in Reflections provides an escape from that stormy world. Here we find Beethoven at peace with himself and humanity, perhaps through the oneness he experienced with God in nature on the many walks he took in the countryside.
In the "Adagio sostenuto" movement of the Moonlight Sonata, we encounter Beethoven in a different state of mind. Although the piece has a calming effect with its subtle nuances and incessantly flowing triplet accompaniment, I believe the overall character depicts the loneliness that Beethoven experienced as an outsider in society because of his hearing impairment. Beethoven remarked to his student Carl Czerny that the piece was "a night scene, where a plaintive voice sounds from a great distance," and he instructs the performer to play the piece very delicately and pianissimo. Perhaps this work is an auditory representation of both Beethoven's forlorn existence and how he perceived the world sounding "from a great distance." Only a year after composing this sonata, Beethoven wrote his "Heiligenstadt Testament," a will in the form of a letter addressed to his two brothers in which he admitted that he only found redemption through his art: "I was not far from ending my own life - only Art, only art held me back. Ah, it seemed impossible to me that I should leave the world before I had produced all that I felt I might, and so I spared this wretched life..." (Heiligenstadt Testament, October 6, 1802).
Franz Schubert led a tragically short but remarkably productive musical life. As a child his teachers were amazed at his prodigious talent and one teacher at the Royal Seminary in Vienna even remarked, "I can teach this one nothing. He has already learned from God." The hallmark of Schubert's music is his beautifully crafted melodies and inventive use of harmony. He frequently combines emotional extremes by alternating major and minor tonalities within a phrase. In a document dated July 3, 1822, he wrote, "For many and many a year I sang songs. Whenever I tried to sing of pain, it turned to love." Known as the "father of the German Lied," Schubert wrote over 600 songs in his lifetime, often composing songs in various instrumental guises. Such is the case with the Impromptu in G-flat Major, Op. 90 No. 3. In this heavenly music, the pianist must become both the accompanist and soloist with the right hand. The ternary form (ABA) of the piece is also similar to the structure found in his lieder. In the turbulent middle section, Schubert sings of pain and then transforms it into the most exquisite expression of love by the end of the piece.
The two nocturnes included on Reflections represent two distinct settings of this nineteenth century character piece. The Irish composer John Field (1782-1837) is credited with "inventing" this genre whose title suggests the calm beauty of the night. However, Chopin's rich innovations brought this genre to a pinnacle during the Romantic era. Chopin was greatly influenced by the melodic writing of the Italian bel canto opera composers, specifically the music of Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835). To hear the inspiration for Chopin's melodic ornamentation, listen to the stunning aria "Casta Diva!" from Bellini's opera Norma. I require all my piano students playing nocturnes to do this and they usually exclaim, "It sounds like Chopin!" The Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9 No. 2 is an excellent example of this compositional style. Chopin habitually varies the repetition of a phrase to make the piece feel like a spontaneous improvisation.
Unlike Chopin, Grieg only wrote one nocturne, found in the Op. 54 collection of the Lyric Pieces. Whereas Chopin was inspired by opera, Grieg found his inspiration in the breathtaking natural beauty and folk music of his native Norway. He composed short character pieces throughout his life and published them in ten opus numbers that collectively form the Lyric Pieces. Many of these colorful works show a reverence for nature and the influence of Norwegian folk music. Grieg's harmonic language is unique and captures an almost iridescent quality. Even though his nocturne is very romantic with lush harmonies, the trills and harmonic progressions in the middle section evoke a Norwegian landscape and the sound of birdcalls. The voicing and the chromatically descending seventh chords in the bass near the end of the piece are quite remarkable and sound strikingly similar to the musical language of Duke Ellington.
The romantic character pieces by Liszt and Brahms on Reflections are both deeply consoling in nature and provide "comfort food" for the soul. Although Liszt was famous for his transcendental technique and bravura performing style, he also composed many reflective works. He wrote six Consolations during 1849-50. The title is taken from a set of poems by Sainte-Beuve, published twenty years earlier. The third, in D-flat Major, resembles a nocturne with its peaceful rolling accompaniment that supports a beautiful singing melody. The ethereal poetry of this composition is a reflection of Liszt's deep spiritual values. Throughout his life, Liszt expressed interest in becoming a priest, and even took partial orders in the priesthood later in his life. He also composed works that were outwardly spiritual in nature, such as the Harmonies poétiques et religieuses and the Two Legends ("St. Francis Preaching to the Birds" and "St. Francis Walking on the Waves.")
Like other Romantic composers, Brahms wrote short character pieces that were descriptive in nature or expressed a particular mood. However, he gave his works more generic titles, such as Intermezzo, Cappriccio, Romance, and Ballade. Brahms also took a keen interest in Baroque and Renaissance polyphony, and this influence shows up in the complex texture of his compositions. They often include polyphonic treatment of themes and rhythmic devices such as hemiola. Brahms wrote the Three Intermezzi Op. 117 in 1892 and referred to them as "lullabies for his sorrows." The first of these is based on a Scottish folk song. Brahms inscribed the words at the beginning of the composition: "Sleep softly, my child, sleep softly and well! It troubles me to see you crying." The piece is in ABA form, containing the consoling lullaby in the A sections. In the middle section in the dark key of E-flat minor, Brahms pours out his sorrows.
The selections on Reflections by Debussy, Ravel, and Satie come from a period in France before the turn of the 20th century when music was mirroring the movement of Impressionism in art. Impressionist painters such as Monet and Renoir tried to capture the effect of light and color on objects in their work. In music, composers used innovative sonorities and pedal effects to create musical impressions. The works on this recording by Debussy and Ravel both come from earlier periods in these composers' lives. Although neither of the two pieces can be considered examples of Impressionism, they both show young composers discovering their own style, which lead to more mature works later in their careers.
Debussy's early works bear no descriptive titles that would suggest the influence of Impressionism. To the contrary, they seem to pay homage to Baroque, Classical, and Romantic styles. Rêverie was written in 1890, about the same time as "Clair de lune" from the Suite bergamasque. In these two compositions, we find Debussy capturing a more impressionistic mood than that found in other works from this period. In Rêverie, Debussy creates a dreamy atmosphere with the left hand's gently undulating accompaniment pattern that supports the singing melody in the right hand. His harmonic language is quite romantic. However, when performed without an excessive use of rubato, Rêverie creates a remarkable hypnotic effect.
Whereas Debussy used existing musical forms in his early compositions, Ravel was fascinated with music and musical forms from the past for most of his career. Although his writing is often virtuosic in the style of Liszt, Ravel's works are meticulously crafted, showing a clear structure and inventive use of harmony and pedal, as was the hallmark of impressionist composers. Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Infant) was written early in his career in 1899. Here he evokes the feel of a slow, sedate Renaissance dance that was performed at the Italian and Spanish courts in the 16th and 17th centuries. Although many pianists have over-dramatized the work as a funeral dirge, Ravel commented that it was "an evocation of a pavane that a little princess might, in former times, have danced at the Spanish court." The exquisitely beautiful melodies and harmonies of Ravel's Pavane create a sense of longing for a former time of innocence and grace.
Erik Satie is one of the most eccentric composers included on this recording. After doing poorly at the Paris Conservatory at a young age, Satie left to obtain his musical education in the "real" world of the time in the job he kept for the rest of his life: playing for singers in a cabaret. Satie led an eccentric personal life as well as a unique musical one. He lived in a one-room apartment for most of his life, purchased a dozen identical gray suits for his entire wardrobe (each to be discarded as it wore out), and collected umbrellas. Musically, he sought to go against the romantic trends of the previous generation, which had culminated in the music of Wagner. Many of his pieces make fun of romantic titles and are quite satirical (Authentic Flabby Preludes (for a Dog), Dried Up Embryos, and The Dreamy Fish to name a few). Harmonically his music is quite simple, direct, and often employs modal sonorities. The First Gymnopédie, written in 1888, is contained in a set of three compositions by the same title. Satie invented the title to depict ceremonial dances performed in religious festivals in ancient Greece by young boys. The piece shows almost no emotion with its calm, lilting chords and bare melodic lines that arch above modal harmonies.
With the music of English composer Stanley Myers, Reflections crosses over to the popular genres of film music and jazz. However, Myers has something in common with Satie in that he began his career writing songs for cabaret shows. After attending Oxford University, Myers also worked as a musical director for the theater before composing for BBC television plays from about 1964. In nearly thirty years he composed over 100 film and television scores and a Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Orchestra. The Cavatina was originally written for guitar and appears as the main theme in the movie The Deer Hunter (1978). This version was arranged for piano in 1994 and programs well with the Satie Gymnopédie because of its similar harmonic structure, which is rich in seventh chords. The Cavatina has a hauntingly beautiful melody that is supported by a nocturne-like accompaniment that winds through some remarkable chord progressions.
This recording concludes with Reflections in D by Duke Ellington. Although Ellington's early career began as a pianist in the ragtime tradition, he later became famous as a jazz composer and big band leader. His renowned "orchestra" played at the popular Cotton Club in New York from 1927-1932 where he pioneered the "jungle" style of big band jazz and made over 200 recordings. His later compositions include extended works for the concert hall, a film score, stage music, and liturgical music. His "Sacred Concerts" near the end of his life took jazz into some of the greatest churches in the world, including the Cathedral of St. John The Divine in New York City. These concerts embraced a variety of styles and performers including low-down blues, ethereal vocalese, discordant instrumental orchestrations, church choirs, professional soloists, organ music, dancers, and "fire and brimstone" speakers. These performances mirrored Ellington's deep spiritual values and his belief that "every man prays in his own language, and there is no language that God does not understand." Reflections in D was improvised by Ellington during a recording session in 1953 for the solo piano album, Piano Reflections, and was transcribed from that recording by Alex Smith. Reflections in D has the quality of a private prayer with Ellington "praying" in the language he knew best.
From Bach to Ellington, Reflections embraces the musical language of diverse composers and spans a time period of over three hundred years. Although each selection speaks with a distinctive voice, the common message is that of peace. As Albert Schweitzer wrote, "we are transported from the world of unrest to a world of peace, and see reality in a new way..."
Copyright 2001 Greg McCallum
Producer: Greg McCallum
Recording Engineer: Dwight Robinett
Editing: Dwight Robinett at Robinett Recordings, Raleigh, NC
Photography: Artie Dixon
Design: Dick Hill at Hillstudio, Chapel Hill, NC
Piano Technician: Peter Estep
Yamaha C7 Piano
Recorded December 30, 2000 and January 1-4, 2001 in the sanctuary of United Church of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Total Playing Time: 73:24
©& P 2001 Greg McCallum
All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.
Made in USA. Printed in USA.
For more information contact:
304 West Poplar Avenue
Carrboro, NC 27510 USA
GREG McCALLUM BIOGRAPHY
Pianist Greg McCallum has performed in the United States, Europe, and Latin America for diverse audiences ranging from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C to thousands of school children in the Southeastern United States. A versatile musician, McCallum plays a wide range of repertoire from Bach to Brubeck, and has been praised by critics for his "deeply felt, sensitive playing" (Die Main Post, Germany) and "consummate technical and artistic skill" (The Spectator, Raleigh, NC). His recent concerts include a performance on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago, which was broadcast nationally over WFMT radio and worldwide over the Internet, and a tour of the United Kingdom, which included a performance at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London. Upcoming concerts include a performance at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York and tours of Germany and the Caribbean Islands.
More than just a pianist, McCallum is dedicated to creating new ways of reaching people with great music that can transform daily lives into works of art. His concerts include entertaining commentary, are based on themes that reflect his mission and reach out to a wider audience. Currently McCallum serves as Artistic Director for Piano Connections, Inc., a North Carolina-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting piano music within communities. For Piano Connections' millennium project, "North Carolina Piano-To-Go: 88 Keys Across 100 Counties," McCallum is performing residencies with his Yamaha C7 piano in North Carolina counties to celebrate both the 300th anniversary of the invention of the piano and the role this instrument has played in bringing communities together.
Although he primarily appears as a soloist, McCallum has also worked as a collaborative artist with such distinguished musicians as international flutists Wissam Boustany of London, Alexa Still of New Zealand, and violinist Eric Pritchard of the Ciompi Quartet. He has even performed programs that cross over from classical to more traditional music genres with such artists as famed American folk singer Mike Seeger, United Voices of Praise Gospel Choir and best-selling author Lee Smith. North Carolina critics praise the diversity and scope of McCallum's work, and hail him as "one of our region's most innovative performers." (The Spectator, Raleigh, NC)
McCallum received music degrees from the University of Maryland at College Park, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and the Hochschule für Musik in Würzburg, Germany. He has won prizes and honors in piano competitions including the National Symphony Orchestra Young Soloist Competition, the Elizabeth R. Davis Memorial Piano Competition and the Elizabeth Harper Vaughn Concerto Competition. Upon winning the Hofer Sinfoniker Concerto Competition, McCallum made his orchestral debut in Hof and Würzburg, Germany. He has also won awards in competitions for chamber music and accompanying, such as the Jessie Kneisal German Lied Competition at the Eastman School of Music. His teachers have included Nelita True and Maria Curcio Diamand.
McCallum released his first compact disc recording, Excursions, in 1996. This recording was praised as being "simply terrific" by The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), and was selected by The Spectator Magazine (Raleigh, NC) as one of The Spectator's 10 Best of '96 for Classical Albums. For his second CD, Reflections, released in 2001, critics hailed, "McCallum's playing is marvelous...he is a superb technician with remarkable artistic sensibilities." (The Classical Voice of North Carolina - www.cvnc.org) McCallum's third release, Southern Quilt, will appear in 2004 on the Musicians Showcase Recordings label. Currently, he is listed in the North Carolina Arts Council Touring Artist Directory, the South Carolina Arts Commission Roster of Artists and the Louisiana Division of the Arts Artist Roster. In addition to his busy concert schedule, McCallum is dedicated to using music for the benefit of humanitarian causes. He performs benefit concerts for Habitat for Humanity, which provides affordable housing for the needy. His "Beethoven and Friends for the Homeless" concert series has raised over $20,000 for the Inter-Faith Council of Chapel Hill, NC.
"This outstanding collection of reflective piano music presents some familiar fare in an atypical program originally intended to provide comfort and solace to a friend of the performer who was suffering from cancer. McCallum's playing is marvelous...he is a superb technician with remarkable artistic sensibilities. Each work is a gem unto itself, and there is in the compilation a wonderful sense of unity. This CD seems to offer much more than everyday piano recital recordings. Few CDs come with notes that are as illuminating as those that accompany this one. They cover the music altogether admirably and relate the specific selections directly to the program with atypical skill. It should come as no real surprise that they are by the performer himself. The sound is absolutely first rate."
John Lambert - The Classical Voice of North Carolina ~ www.cvnc.org
As a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Greg's CD is wonderfully useful. For relaxation during labor, the music most often used is sort of New Age (or what ever it is called now), like Wyndam Hill, Narada, Steve Halpern -- great music -- but there is something paretic; airily calming to hearing classical music, even if one, like many younger moms, isn't used to hearing it, it is vaguely recognizable to them. Classical music repeats itself and there is something subconsciously comforting in that.
I am usually a very optimistic person, but after Sept. 11, I have had some pessimistic times when I reflect on what kind of world we are creating for our children. Attending Greg's New Year's Eve concert at our church and putting his CD on give me hope ...
Gini Bright - Chapel Hill, NC
Many will be blessed by this music this Christmas. I realized in listening to the CD again that much of the music I sang in choirs over the years - and some even struggled to play as a child - its familiarity is in itself calming and very nourishing - many thanks. Many of my friends and I will be graced by the beauty and serenity you create for this world. Know that you bring pleasure to so many of us in a time when we need this peace and groundedness. I cannot think of a better gift for all of us.
Corki Ford - Santa Monica, CA
I am writing this letter to let you know how "Reflections" helped me during a very difficult surgery. In December, I was a patient in the MOHS Surgical Unit at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Prior to my surgery, I was quite nervous because of the invasive procedure required. The doctor and nurses selected a CD for me to listen to while I was waiting, and I must say, it comforted me a great deal and helped me overcome my anxiety. Hearing those melodic sounds of you playing the piano really made the whole experience more pleasant for me and I have since purchased the CD.
Thank you for caring enough to create such a therapeutic collections of songs and I hope it continues to heal others in need.
Marylyn M. MacCallum - Chapel Hill, NC
IN REFERENCE TO SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
If everyone listened to Greg's "Reflections" CD every morning before they start their day, and again, before they go to bed at night, we'd have to look up the term "road rage," insomniacs would find relief, and there would be drastic reductions in so much senseless bickering. His music brings us all face to face with the essential part of ourselves, and all you can hear is the beat of our heart.
I think the War on Terrorism should include a mandate that everyone listen to Greg's "Reflections" CD every morning before they start their day, and again, before they go to bed at night.
Maggi Grace, Technical Consultant for NC Arts for Health - Chapel Hill, NC
On the morning of September 11th I was in my UNC office, where I work, with five colleagues. We were alerted by a phone call telling us a plane had hit The World Trade Center in New York. The television we use for training videos was immediately set up and we all watched in horror as the second plane struck its target and we heard of the third plane crashing in Pennsylvania. The television stayed on all during our working hours and there was no escaping the awful details repeated over and over and scenes of rescue and death. That evening my husband and I were drawn to the TV News coverage as we anxiously watched and waited to see what further developments might occur and what reaction our country would take. The radio alarm woke us the next day with more terrible news reports. When I arrived at my office, the TV was already on and there was no way to avoid the heart breaking sights and sounds as they were reported and re-reported all day. By mid-afternoon I could take no more and left for home. There I put Greg's beautiful, soothing "Reflections" CD on the player, lay down on the couch and let the lovely, quiet music wash over me. It was a healing experience for both body and soul as the music transported me away from the agony of reality into a realm of peace and hope. Since that time whenever life has become stressful and nerves frayed I have been able to experience the same quiet restful peace the music brings and refresh my spirit. I will be forever grateful to Greg for such a gift.
Frances Stein - Pittsboro, NC
Greg brings much more than wonderful musical ability to his work. He has a spirit about him that exudes a sense of peace. When I am finding it difficult to create sermons, I listen to Greg's Reflections and inspiration invariably comes. His music is good for the soul.
Rev Kaye Crawford - Hillsborough United Church of Christ, NC
Greg McCallum is indeed a masterful musician. The added gift in this CD is the spirit it captures. Greg seems to breath in sync with the soul of each composition he selected and then interprets the blend with sensitivity and
passion. Beyond the beauty and excellence, there are subtle, indefinable qualities in this work that encourage the harmony of mind, body and spirit. From the opening "Ave Maria," performed with devotion as well as musical clarity, to the closing, mellow "Reflections in D," I knew this would be a CD that I would not only enjoy personally but would use to enrich workshops, rituals and services.
Gloria D. Karpinski - Winston Salem, NC
Author of "Barefoot on Holy Ground" and "Where Two Worlds Touch"
This recording is one of the most beautiful CDs of piano music that I have heard. Mr. McCallum gives the talented and sensitive performance that his listeners have come to expect - and the selections for this CD include some of the most beautiful pieces written for the piano. It is a must-have for music lovers at all levels.
Katherine Springer - Carmel, CA
I have listened to your CD probably about 10 times now. I listen to it when I am working on the computer and find it very calming and serene. It really is a lovely CD.
Wissam Boustany - London, England
I've been listening to Greg's CD while working at home today, and I am extremely impressed. Not only is it a wonderful selection of music consummately played, but also the recording quality is outstanding. Played through the Infinity IL-40 towers (no surround sound), it sounds like I'm sitting four feet from the piano. The subtlety of the harmonics is amazing.
Ron Hodges - Washington, D.C.