Ron McFarland | Chamber Works

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Classical: Contemporary Classical: String Quartet Moods: Type: Instrumental
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Chamber Works

by Ron McFarland

The Alexander String Quartet's quiet notes that introduce the first ray of light into the dark world of Constantine Cavafy also bring life to the exquisite words of this outstanding 20th century Greek poet.
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
Release Date: 

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1. WINDOWS String Quartet with Soprano-The Windows Alexander String Quartet
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2:50 $0.99
2. By the Open Window Alexander String quartet
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3:55 $0.99
3. The Afternoon Sun Alexander String Quartet
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2:52 $0.99
4. Ode and Elegy of the Road Alexander String Quartet
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1:57 $0.99
5. PEGASUS String Quartet-Fanfare and Fugue Alexander String Quartet
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5:08 $0.99
6. Serenade Alexander String Quartet
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4:46 $0.99
7. Variations Alexander String Quartet
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3:39 $0.99
8. Scherzo Alexander String Quartet
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3:24 $0.99
9. LES HOMMAGES 24 Preludes for piano-Andantino à Poulenc Eliane Lust
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1:40 $0.99
10. Moderato à Poulenc Eliane Lust
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1:47 $0.99
11. Lent et triste à Satie Eliane Lust
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2:38 $0.99
12. Allegretto à Satie Eliane Lust
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1:55 $0.99
13. Allegro scherzando à Prokofieff Eliane Lust
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1:21 $0.99
14. Andante assai à Prokofieff Eliane Lust
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2:28 $0.99
15. Andantino à Stravinsky Eliane Lust
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1:44 $0.99
16. L'istesso tempo à Stravinsky Eliane Lust
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2:04 $0.99
17. Largo à Chopin Eliane Lust
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1:53 $0.99
18. Allegro appassionato à Chopin Eliane Lust
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2:01 $0.99
19. Moderato à Berg Eliane Lust
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1:52 $0.99
20. Andantino à Berg Eliane Lust
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2:12 $0.99
21. Rolly Roll Rag à Joplin Eliane Lust
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3:08 $0.99
22. Valse Tempo à Joplin Eliane Lust
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2:48 $0.99
23. Poco moto e rubato à Faure Eliane Lust
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3:17 $0.99
24. Moderato à Faure Eliane Lust
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2:06 $0.99
25. Vivo à Bartok Eliane Lust
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1:06 $0.99
26. Andante, Vivo à Bartok Eliane Lust
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1:28 $0.99
27. Lento, Tempo di Blues à Gershwin Eliane Lust
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2:06 $0.99
28. Allegro agitato à Gershwin Eliane Lust
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1:37 $0.99
29. Allegretto, sempre cantabile à Liszt Eliane Lust
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2:00 $0.99
30. Poco animato à Liszt Eliane Lust
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2:00 $0.99
31. Poco lento à Ravel Eliane Lust
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1:14 $0.99
32. Allegro à Ravel Eliane Lust
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2:24 $0.99
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Ron McFarland, a California native, has known the glare of the limelight since his teens. He has been praised by major critics both as composer and pianist with comments like, "The music reveals much of the man...romantic and passionate," "compelling lyricism," "fresh and original," and "dreamy obstinate and emotional, ever direct and accessible." Renowned Bay Area music critic Stephanie von Buchau wrote, "McFarland's music has a fresh musical viewpoint. One is not assaulted by bizarre concepts or noises that pass for 'originality'... [using] traditional forms and melodic material, he aims for individual expression of emotion, and that alone is enough to make him a rare duck in contemporary music."

At the age of sixteen he became a protégé of the legendary Ethel Leginska, and after three years of study he made a successful Los Angeles piano debut with symphony conducted by Leginska. The L.A. Examiner wrote, "his tone quality, his emotional directness and his amazing fluent fingers added to a musical grasp of light and shade, earned this teen-ager repeated calls from his listeners." He was then invited to live in an apartment adjacent to Leginska's Hollywood studio. It was during the next three years while living at her studio that he met and performed for numerous internationally known artists, composers and conductors, who included: Artur Schnabel, Benjamin Britten and Bruno Walter. While still in his teens, he studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg, one of the greatest masters of 20th Century composition and later continued his studies in orchestration with David Sheinfeld in San Francisco. After playing several solo piano pieces including two from his own unfinished "Piano Suite," it was Bruno Walter who said, "Young man, your are a fine pianist, and I certainly don't mean you should give it up, but this is the real you - a composer. Perhaps a composer-pianist, but a composer first!"

Leginska and Schoenberg were the two most important teachers in his young life. He remembers Leginska as a very demanding taskmaster who stipulated that her students enter as many competitions as possible, because she believed the experience was tantamount to launching concert careers - as finalist in the Hollywood Bowl competition he performed with the KFI-Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Sample. After six years of study with Leginska, he left the Hollywood world of recitals and competitions and traveled to New Orleans, where he began a career as an artist. While in New Orleans, he met the Hungarian pianist Istvan Nadas, a teacher at Loyola University, and decided to renew his piano studies. Later, when Nadas accepted a teaching position at the San Francisco Conservatory, McFarland decided to return to California as well. During the long drive from New Orleans to San Francisco, he was haunted by the strains of the unfinished "Suite for Piano" that he had begun with Schoenberg. He could hardly wait to reach the Bay Area and put his musical thoughts down of paper - his Op 1. It was then that writing music became the major commitment in his life.

When Nadas heard the completed "Suite" he was so taken with it that he included it in his Festival of 20th Century Piano Music at San Francisco State University. The work then won first prize and a "Special Achievement Award" from the Composers Today Competition of the Music Teachers' Association of California. McFarland began writing for many different combinations of instruments, including compositions for violin, string quartet, two-pianos, including a suite for orchestra with narrator, and a children's opera for San Domenico's School Festivals. He next embarked on writing "The Donner Party," an opera based on the prize-winning book by George Keithley, with libretto by Maria Woodward on a commission from Chico State University. The Opera News review read, "The pioneers reach the top of the Wasatch Mountains to a glorious up-welling in the orchestra worthy of Bartok. The Passacaglia theme imprints itself vividly on the ear and the final duet is beautifully lyrical." The Berkeley Symphony conducted by Kent Nagano performed a concert version of this opera called "Tamsen Donner." Nagano called the work, "a score to be treated with respect and one worthy of a great production."

McFarland's second opera, "Song of Pegasus," was a finalist in New York University's American Opera Competition. It has since received many performances, including the summer "In Performance" series, conducted by noted San Francisco Ballet and Opera conductor Denis de Coteau. He joined the Bay Area Playwrights Festival Opera Studio, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, where he composed his often performed comic opera "The Audition Of Molly Bloom." The S.F. Examiner called McFarland's "amusingly schizophrenic 'Molly Bloom,' a hypothetical audition piece that toys with Mozart and comes awfully close to being a hip saloon piece."

Besides the operas mentioned above, he has written symphonies, concertos, chamber works, songs and music for the piano, theater and for children. The second of his commissions from the San Francisco Girls Chorus was "The Night Before Christmas" that became the centerpiece of their Sing-Along Christmas Concert and premiered at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. A notable collaboration occurred when he received a call from Edward Hastings, Artistic Director of the American Conservatory Theatre, to write the incidental music for Hastings' production of "King Lear." Its success led him to write a version for two spoken voices with instruments, premiered with "Lear" actors Peter Donat and Fredi Olster. A third version for singers resulted from the request of Metropolitan Opera tenor William Lewis, who gave its premiere performance.

McFarland's music has been commissioned, performed, and broadcast by such organizations as the Alexander String Quartet, Marin Arts Quartet, Marin Symphony, Old First Concerts, Composers, Inc. California Shakespeare Festival, New Eureka Theatre, San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, Voices/SF, Kensington Symphony Orchestra, Squaw Valley Creative Arts Society, College of Marin, American Concert Association, San Francisco Musical Club, Marin Chamber Orchestra, Guest Concert Series, Dominican University, Chamber Music Sundaes, Navarro Trio, Cinnabar Opera Theater, Angelo Piano Duo, KKHI Sunday Morning and KKHI Friday Night Concerts. He has received grants and awards from such organizations as the ASCAP, University of Cincinnati Piano Concerto Competition, Opera America, and five 1st prizes from Composers Today Competition. He has lectured for California Colleges and Universities, including S.F. City College Concert Lecture Series, USC Composers Forum, UC Berkeley, MTAC Artists Series, Chico State University, and Star Classics Composer and Performer.


Reviews


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Allan Ulrich S.F. Examiner Music Critic

Ron McFarland writes music that is not ashamed to be beautiful.
Recordings of Bay Area musicians fiqure prominently in the recent release list. Let's skim the cream off the top: Ron McFarland writes music that is not ashamed to be beautiful. This generous, 78- minute collection includes "Windows" (to Cavafy poems) for soprano and string quartet, the "Pegasus" quartet and the 24 piano preludes, "Les Hommages," clever tributes to the musicall legends of yesteryear. Performances are uniformly persuasive.

Roger O'Dell Williams

Chamber Works
On the Chamber Works CD, I found Windows absolutely captivating. Although I am a big fan of Greek food, music (especially Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjizakas) and modern Greek literature ( Kazantzakis), I did not know the poems of Cavafy. They are stunning and I absorbed them with great interest and pleasure. The music is perfect for these wonderful words and the strikingly beautiful voice of Sara Ganz and her articulation are a marvelous combination. A haunting experience .

Pegasus is music for string quartet that I can really enjoy. The balance, the melodies, the harmony, the counterpoint, the rhythmic vitality and especially the very knowing balance of effects. Writing effective music for string quartet is very difficult because of the limits imposed on color and dynamic range. For that reason the right balance of effects is essential. Too much pz or too much sul ponticello or “Bartok pz” or “ con sordino” and it becomes obvious…….however, seasoned just right by a good ear' with good material the use of effects is essential. The movements in Pegasus are a joy to hear.

As for Les Hommages, I like the idea of the set and admire the way it is carried it out. The trick is in doing it so that it sounds right and has an identity as a piece of music on its own. I really wouldn't want to have to single them out but I especially like the a Satie, the a Faure, the a Stravinski,, the a Bartok and the dazzling and thrilling a Liszt.

Tamara Turner, CD Baby


One of the most insightful looks into the music of Ron McFarland is the way his music affects the body language of his listeners. I personally find myself leaning forward, scooting to the edge of my seat, turning my head to the side and looking upward, trying to open my mind a little wider, trying to take it in a little more deeply. There is a simulataneous beauty, mystery, softened pain and pulling, tugging, unresolved quality that engages a curiosity, a wanting to fully understand. These works for soprano and strings, with words by Constantine Cavafy, the 20th century Greek poet, creep and slither into consciousness and while you may not leave singing a melody, you will undoubtedly be squinting your eyes, straining your mind to integrate the world around you more artistically.

Mark Lehman American Record Guide

McFarland (writes) expressive and shapely music with conviction and skill.
This disc is the first recording of McFarland's large output that I have seen. The language of the song cycle "Windows" and the string quartet "Pegasus" is turn-of-the-century Germanic late-romanticism—like Mahler and early Schoenberg. McFarland uses that language with conviction and skill, and the result is expressive and shapely music. I was startled by the rhythmic figure in the quartet's finale taken from Vince Guaraldi's popular "Linus and Lucy" from the Peanuts television specials. An in-joke, perhaps?