The music of Dr. Clare Fischer is a synthesis of influences across an unusually broad spectrum. From an
early age, he was absorbing the works of Bach, Bartok, Ellington, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Strayhorn,
Berg, Villa-Lobos and later Jobim and Dutilleaux. He considered himself an orchestral composer first and
foremost. All of his educational degrees reflect this.
By the time he had finished his formal education, he had played and become proficient on all wind and string
instruments. This gave him the ability to write for them in an absolutely idiomatic manner. Because of his
talents across so many genres though, he became busy, well known and respected in the Jazz, Pop and
People such as Richard Stoltzman in the classical world, who knew of his orchestral work and
commissioned him, found it to be an unparalled approach to chromatic tonality. Building on centuries of
history, most of it is incredibly complex in ways that stun those able to analyze it, yet at it’s core is a
beautifully logical simplicity and thus accessibility beyond the realm of the purely classical.
Continuing to write timeless chamber and symphonic works throughout his life, he passed on his distinct
harmonic and orchestrational concepts to me through a decades long apprenticeship. Herewith then,
following up on his previous orchestral album, After The Rain, as I continue to carry on his legacy, is our
latest collection of works:
Pensamientos for Solo Alto Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra – All who’ve seen this score agrees it’s
one of the most important works for alto saxophone in an orchestral setting. It was started by Clare Fischer
in the 1950s, just as his career took off in other directions, finalized in the 1990s, and then remained
dormant until I found it recently during my archiving of The Clare Fischer Music Library. The work is something instrumentalists dream of: inventive, challenging and, most importantly, idiomatic.
Besides the incredible writing, I found something I had never seen before: the 3 percussion parts (snare
drum, bass drum and suspended cymbal) were to be played by a single person on a drumset. Such a
logical idea and yet none of us had thought of it.
Before we recorded the piece, my father decided to change the chamber string parts into full string section
parts. Although it can be performed in it’s original form, it appears here as a piece for alto saxophone and
large orchestra. Gary Foster did magnificent work conducting the orchestra and then adding his superb
Miniature – In the early 1970s, a colleague who my father respected very much as a drummer, told him that
he was taking up mallets. As a gift, my father wrote this piece for him featuring soprano and standard
vibraphones, standard and bass marimbas plus keyboard. The colleague never came by to look at it. It too
remained dormant until I was finishing up my degree in symphonic percussion about 15 years later. Then
he gave it to me.
Recognizing it, even at my young age, as an incredible piece of literature for percussion ensemble, I took on
the responsibility of preparing all the parts. Just before we recorded it, he decided to orchestrate the
keyboard part for strings. I take great pride that, as a young man, I was able to execute these difficult parts
artistically. It’s too bad then that when we recently transferred the original 24 track tape to digital format,
there were quite a few dropouts. So I had to again prepare these parts to fill in the missing areas. I can say
happily it was easier the second time. Interesting note on this recording that as a keyboardist, my father
played the shakers and as a percussionist, I played the auxilliary keyboard part.
Realización for String Orchestra – This started as a string quartet by a young Clare Fischer in the 1950s.
By the late 1980s he had developed it into a piece for a full string orchestra and we recorded it during his
final years with Gary Foster conducting. When I was young, the mood of the piece reminded me of Bartok
and I suggested that he call it Bartokianas Americanas, knowing he was fond of Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas
Brasileiras. Then I found elements of Shostakovich, Ellington and Berg (in other words, the very essence of
Clare Fischer) interlaced among the intricate construction, causing me to rescind my earlier comment. As
with Pensamientos, I suggest concentrating on a different aspect with each listen in order to reveal the depth
Interlude for Piano – A true convergence of the many influences that led my father to the peak of his
career. He always referred to his music as a fusion; his kind of fusion, not having anything to do with the
genre classification used in pop and jazz fields.
Bryan Pezzone’s incredible interpretation of this piece took place on my father’s treasured home grand
piano during a long night of recording. My father was so moved (as was I) by Bryan’s playing that he made
the long trip (for a then 81 year old man) down the stairs from his bedroom to compliment and thank him
profusely. Then he did it again an hour later during the next piece. We are eternally grateful for the
keyboard mastery of Bryan Pezzone.
Two for the Road – Part of the genius of Clare Fischer was his ability to take uncomplicated melodies, such
as this one by Henry Mancini, and turn them into profound expressions of orchestral beauty. I’m hoping that
this new masterpiece of chromatic tonality will turn a pop music classic into popular classical music.
Weekend in Stockholm – Conceived after my first trip to Europe in 1987 as a piece for solo vibraphone, I
recently added a chamber orchestra accompaniment. Because Fischer harmonies are typically 5 and 6
part, I used a sextet of 1st and 2nd violin, 1st and 2nd viola, cello and contrabass.
On vibraphone, I start out with 4 mallets then switch to 5 and finally 6. Based on the Musser grip, I found a
way to have three mallets in each hand that still allows me to change intervals between the mallets. My
modified grip also affords many more chord positions than other grips I’ve seen, making it practical for my
pandiatonic and polytonal purposes.
Coming Home – This is the first piece my father wrote after having been confined to a hospital bed, due to
a concussion, and separated from his beloved piano. First appearing on his solo piano album, Introspectivo,
he later wrote the string orchestration presented here. It’s amazing how, late in life as his physical systems
were failing, his creativity remained pristine and thrived.
Reflection for Piano – Polytonality in it’s most sonorous form, brilliantly performed by Bryan Pezzone. This
work represents a paradigm of beauty; analytically dazzling and timelessly passionate. Additionally, it fits
into those philosophies of music currently and for the last 60 years being referred to as comtemporary or
modern; terms first used in relation to music and other arts in the 13th century.
Retrograde Orbits for Vibraphone – I wrote this based on my father’s often intensely percussive approach
to the piano. Related melodic and harmonic ideas coincidentally employ inverted rhythmic groupings, hence
Suddenly – My favorite of my father’s many compositions, it was written as a catharsis from the unexpected
loss of a close friend and colleague. I was able to appreciate it intuitively as a teenager, but since I have
gained the skills to analyze it in depth, I feel like a quantum physicist who is slowly unlocking the secrets to
the formation of the universe. For decades I had wanted to take the original quartet recording and add a full
orchestra. Now I finally have.
A Moment of Silence – Although there are many of his works still left to record, this is one of the last pieces
my father ever composed and conducted. At that point in his life, he didn’t need to write to impress anyone
or prove himself, but to simply express his feelings by letting the music that naturally flowed out of him,
sometimes even in his sleep, come to life without any reason other than to create freely.
In producing this album, my goals were to let the music be heard and to preserve it for future generations of
performers in all fields. For my father and I, genre matters not, only creativity.