Monday, February 27, 2012

William Grant Still's 'Kaintuck' for Two Pianos on 'Seta Karakashian: Rarely Performed Piano Works,' Romeo Records (2004)

[ABOVE: Seta Karakashian: Rarely Performed Piano Works; Romeo Records 7227 (2004) (68:44) BELOW: William Grant Still (Photo is the sole property of William Grant Still Music, and is used with permission)]

William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, The entry for Kaintuck' describes the composition as a work for piano and orchestra. It was also arranged for two pianos. The work was commissioned by the League of Composers, and was dedicated to Verna Arvey:

Kaintuck'; Poem, for piano & orchestra (1935). Mission Viejo CA: WGS Music. 30p. Instrumentation: 3232 (p), 4331, timp, perc, strings. Commission: League of Composers. Duration: 14:00. Dedication: ´To my wife, Verna Arvey.' Library: Columbia (lead sheet, 1937), Lerma, Library of Congress (lead sheet, 1937), Yale (manuscript).”

This remarkable recital by renowned pianist Seta Karakashian brings together splendid performances of notable works by composers of the 19th and 20th centuries, from Franz Liszt (b. 1811) through Arno Babadjanian (b. 1921). Interestingly, all five composers whose works are played by Ms. Karakashian are especially known for their compositions for the piano.”

The liner notes tell us:

Kaintuck' (1935) was composed as a work for piano and orchestra and in an arrangement for two pianos heard on this recording. The work represents Still's reaction to his exposure to Bluegrass music from the state of Kentucky, a lovely piece that evokes the spirit of the music it pays tribute to. And yet, according to Still's daughter, Judith Anne Still, her father 'composed Kaintuck' while riding a train through Kentucky, and the sound of the locomotive is built into the music, [but] Kaintuck' is also a love poem for Verna Arvey,' the woman Still would marry in 1939.”

We agree that the works on this album are rarely performed. We have recordings by all of the five composers, with many discs by Still, Grieg and Bartók. None include Six Poetic Tones Pictures, Op. 3 of Edvard Grieg; the Burlesques or Rumanian Folk Dances of Bela Bartók; the Six Consolations, Six Pensées Poètiques of Franz Liszt; the Four Pictures of Arno Babadjanian; or Kaintuck' of William Grant Still.

The recording is one of many collection discs which include works of William Grant Still. For an inquisitive fan of classical music, it stands out for its lesser-known works of composers who are themselves relatively well known. Seta Kashkashian is joined on Kaintuck' by the late pianist Richard Fields, to whom the recording is dedicated. The time of this version is 11:13. It was performed before a live and appreciative audience. We have enjoyed listening to the CD for pleasure many times since receiving it. Disclosure: A review copy of this CD was provided by William Grant Still Music.

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