Saturday, March 15, 2014

'Rarely Performed Piano Works, Vol. 2' of Seta Karakashian, on Romeo Records, Features 'Seven Traceries' of William Grant Still

[William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, Recordings, sheet music and books of William Grant Still are available at, which is operated by the composer's daughter Judith Anne Still]

Rarely Performed Piano Works, Vol. 2; William Grant Still: Seven Traceries Suite; Seta Karakashian, Piano; Romeo Records RR 7298 (2013)

Rarely Performed Piano Works, Vol. 1; William Grant Still: Kaintuck, Poem for Two Pianos; Seta Karakashian, Piano; Romeo Records RR 7227 (2004)

On January 25, 2014 AfriClassical posted:

Rarely Performed Piano Works, Vol. 2 of the pianist Seta Karakashian opens with William Grant Still's Seven Traceries Suite (17:00), composed in 1939 for his new bride, Verna Arvey Still, and published in 1940 by Fischer & Bro.

In One Lifetime is a biography of William Grant Still by Verna Arvey Still. It was published in 1984 by The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. The author writes on page 115 that Katherin Garrison Chapin, whose husband Francis Biddle was to become Attorney General of the United States, had written the ballad And They Lynched Him on a Tree, and had selected William Grant Still to set it to music. Verna Arvey Still writes: “Billy had completed a set of seven piano pieces (a companion suite to his earlier Three Visions) for which he needed an overall tile. Mrs. Biddle suggested Traceries, so they were published under that title.”

Dana Perna wrote liner notes © 1991 for Denver Oldham's recording of Seven Traceries on the former Koch International Classics label:

"Seven Traceries was composed especially for Verna Arvey in the year of their marriage and published the following year." "Ms. Arvey described each mood of these 'traceries' as follows:

Cloud Cradles - from the mist emerges a tender melody, assuming various forms against a never-ceasing background of gentle, rhythmic swaying.

Mystic Pool - to a quiet pool, dark foliage lends an air of peace that not even an occasional pebble can disturb.

Muted Laughter - the scarce-heard merriment of sprites rises to impress itself upon our consciousness.

Out of the Silence - only in meditation does one discover beauties remote from the problems of the earth.

Woven Silver - gossamer threads spun into an exquisite pattern.

Wailing Dawn - the dawn wails over the sorrow that will be brought into many lives by the oncoming day.

A Bit of Wit - a conversation piece abounding in clever satire."

The liner notes for the present release discuss William Grant Still (1895-1978), in part, as follows:

"Still is best known for his works on racial themes and social inequality such as the Afro-American Symphony and And They Lynched Him On A Tree.

"A discussion of William Grant Still from a philosophical point of view can lead to a better understanding of Still the composer, by showing how his refined and spiritual personality contributed to the selection of titles and subject matter in the Seven Traceries Suite.

Georges Bizet (1828-1875) - The Menuetto and Farandole are both part of the two Suites de Concert, L'Arlesienne, which Bizet wrote as incidental music for the melodrama by Alphonse Daudet.

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) - The Piano Sonata, Op. 5 was composed in 1881 when the seventeen-year old Strauss was still under the influence of the Romantics, mainly Mendelssohn.  The general architecture of the work follows the standard scheme of the classical sonata.  To the same period belong the composer's Cello and Piano Sonata, Op. 6 and the Violin and Piano Sonata, Op. 18.

Alexandr Spendiarian (1871-1928) - Caucasian Sketches is part of a larger suite called Etudes of Erevan.  It consists of two dances which draw upon various bodies of folklore from Crimea, which the composer collected and studied during his travels to the region.

In her Rarely Performed Piano Works Volume 2, pianist Seta Karakashian continues the outstanding repertoire selection of Volume 1, recognizing that works of William Grant Still do properly have a place with seldom-heard compositions of other composers, including those heard on this recording.  We particularly appreciate the chamber music of Richard Strauss, and have enjoyed discovering his Piano Sonata Op. 5, which is a welcome addition to our collection of his chamber music.  The selections by Georges Bizet and Alexandr Spendiarian are also well-chosen companions to Seven Traceries of William Grant Still, although it evokes an other-worldly mood not present in the works of the other three composers.  

We would very much like to see additional volumes added to the series of Seta Karakashian, combining more overlooked works of composers of African descent with those of other composers. This is a very rewarding recording which we encourage other listeners to explore.

Comment by email:
Thanks, Bill--I hope you are doing well.  [Judith Anne Still] 

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