Those who already have gotten their hands on a pre-release copy of Summer Journey have been quick to comment on the beauty and power of these compositions by Wes Fishwick. Also, many have noted the persuasive performances given by Melody Wootton, violin, David Levine, cello and the composer at the piano. Here is a sampling of these initial impressions:
Piano Performance : “….the piano sound often reminds me of Glenn Gold…..” and “ In the “blues style” cello prelude, the piano solo could have been written for the late Oscar Peterson, sure sounds like him.” Also, “Big sound, big technique…”
Violin Performance: “Melody Wooton has such a beautiful tone and a romantic, yet restrained approach in the Sonatina.” And “Her sound is on fire!”
Cello Performance: “Mr. Levine plays every role to perfection in that bluesy prelude, he’s the bass player, the sax solo, the master of harmonics, everything. Wow!” and, “Three great cello preludes, three equally great cello performances.”
About the compositions: “There are many influences in these compositions from Bach to Debussy and Rachmaninoff to Duke Ellington, and yet one quickly recognizes a new, totally personal style that is Mr. Fishwick’s own” …… “ the alternating duple and triplet rhythms in the Andante movement give a feeling of improvised playing – truly beautiful and intriguing!”
Recording Engineer: David Lau, owner of Brookwood Studio Inc., is the fourth artist on this recording. David brought these performances together with a combination of expertise, experience and love for ensemble recording that is unmatched. Among many other honors, David Lau is renown for engineering the 2005 Grammy winning recording of “Songs of Innocence and of Experience “ by William Bolcom.
Some thoughts from the composer, Wesley Fishwick:
Summer Journey includes compositions written for friends to play together. In fact, my initial idea for an album title was “Music with Friends” for that is what this album is all about. These pieces were written with David and Melody, my good friends and partners in music making..
Writing music with particular performers in mind must be one of the most pleasurable and rewarding experiences for all composers, it certainly is for me. In this particular case those friends and outstanding musicians are Melody Wooten, violinist and David Levine, cellist.
The three of us have worked together, for a few seasons now, as a piano trio ensemble. We have performed works by Beethoven, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky to name a few. As our ensemble rehearsed, shared ideas and encouraged each other toward a unique sound for the group we really got to know each other. The unique musical contributions of each player were discovered and admired.
So, when I entered the process of writing music for Melody & Dave and the three of us together I often found myself thinking, “Melody will love this passage,” or “David will make this phrase sound so beautiful,” or “I can’t wait to hear the three of us play this fugue!”
In addition Melody and David have been so helpful in suggesting ideas and strategies for performing various parts of these pieces. Writing music for our group and recording throughout the past several months has truly been a outstanding experience in my life and career.
I hope Summer Journey becomes an exciting and pleasurable sound journey for you as you enter, with us, into the experience of music making! Here are some descriptive notes about each of the compositions you’ll discover on our recording, Summer Journey:
Sonatina for Violin and Piano was composed during the summer of 2011. The piece was written with the technical prowess and beautiful tone of violinist, Melody Wooten, in mind. The work bears a dedication to my daughter, Leah, “whose joyfulness and creativity inspire us all.”
Sonatina is cast in three movements (fast, slower, fast). The first movement, with its scale-like theme is reminiscent of the Clementi opus 36/ 38 collections known to all intermediate piano students. Written in sonata allegro form it follows the typical key relationships and includes a repeat of the 1st section and a rousing coda section.
After a mood setting introduction in the piano, the second movement begins a journey of eight melodic phrases exploring the varying colors of the violin. The piano often links these phrases with brief restatements of the violin’s main theme. A very subdued measure with fermatas suggests a cadenza before slipping into the coda (calando).
The final movement, a rondo marked “vivo”, returns to the scale motif but in g minor. The dance-like longer episode (d minor) contains a Paganini quote and returns as the driving force in the coda. The Sonatina concludes, as might be anticipated, with a three octave scale passage!
Three Preludes for Cello and Piano were written for David Levine whose depth of musicianship and passion for chamber music are easily discovered throughout this recording. Number One in b minor is dedicated to my son, William, whom I hope will perform these preludes himself someday! The second, a study in the “blues”, is dedicated to David Levine, while the third prelude in D major is dedicated to Naomi Levine who patiently endured our hours of rehearsal, offered encouragement and discovered, in several measures of this prelude, a sound that she dubbed as “unlike anything she had heard before”!
Prelude #1 in b minor immediately launches into the energetic main theme (cello) after a thunderous b minor piano chord. Over a D pedal, a stately and noble melody emerges in the cello part followed by a restatement of the first theme as the prelude careens toward its conclusion.
Prelude #2 is constructed over a twelve bar blues progression. Each of the cello “solos” explores a different cello “sound” including pizzicato, expressivo melody in the high register, trembelo and harmonics. The piano also gets into the act with a florid type solo reminiscent of the wonderful sounds of Oscar Peterson and other jazz greats on the eighty eights! The piece, written in the summer of 2011, includes a quote from the Piano Trio in a minor by Tchaikovsky. I can only hope that Petr Ilyich approves!
Prelude #3 in F Major begins with a quiet, almost pastoral theme (cello). The stormy cadenza like middle section (piano solo) invokes the grand romantic piano style of the past and is very difficult for the performer (I can personally attest to that fact!). The cello returns with the main theme now in e flat minor. The work journeys home to the key of F and fades into silence.
Summer Journey, Eight Pieces for the Intermediate Level was composed in 1993 and supplies the title for this album. These eight pieces are written for children everywhere and are dedicated, in particular, to the many piano students who have timidly or assertively crossed the doorway of my studio.
Each little piano piece paints a particular image from a summer vacation journey to the “Niagara on the Lake “region of Ontario, Canada. Though they are images from my own journey, they contain hints of all summer vacation trips – haven’t we all can packed our cars, gone on sight seeing explorations and looked up at the stars on a summer evening?
Prelude and Fugue for Piano Trio was written for a concert performance by the Wooten, Levine, Fishwick trio. It is always a pleasure and inspiration to perform with these outstanding artists, and that experience, together with the “fuga” variation of Tchaikovsky’s a minor trio, led me to begin writing a prelude and fugue for this genre. This work is dedicated to my wife, Mary, whose love, advice, and encouragement have made this album a reality.
The prelude contains contrasting material, a unison theme in the strings that is interjected by the piano with a jutting rhythmic figure. These ideas are exchanged throughout followed by a quiet ending that prepares for the fugal subject.
The Fugue follows a traditional path of thematic statements and episodes including several stretti and dominant/tonic pedals. The piano part, however, often “fills in” the harmonic progression of the fugue with added voicing. This is a different approach than Tchaikovsky’s a minor trio in which the fugal variation (2nd movement) casts the piano part in octaves supplying a more pure third voice. The fugue in this composition follows a path more reminiscent of Brahms’ finale in the variations on a theme of Handel. The fugue concludes with a partial statement of the theme and a huge D major reverberation!