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ClassicsOnline Home » HARTWAY: Imaginary Creatures / 3 Myths / Images of Mogador / Scenes from a Marriage
"Fresh", "creative", "optimistic", "accessible" are some of the adjectives used to describe the compositions of contemporary composer James Hartway. This CD features some of Hartway's best-known chamber works, such as Images of Mogador for harp, flute and viola, Scenes from a Marriage for one piano four hands, and the title work Imaginary Creatures for voice and string quartet.
By Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press
By David Denton
James Hartway (b.1944)
Three Myths for Piano • Imaginary Creatures
Images of Mogador • Scenes from a Marriage
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1944, James Hartway began a lifelong study of music with piano lessons at the age of seven. In middle school and throughout high school he pursued this avocation with diligence by forming his own jazz quartet, learning to play percussion, and amassing a substantial collection of both classical and jazz recordings. During college the "for fun" avocation turned into a serious vocation. Hartway earned Bachelor of Arts and Master of Music degrees from Wayne State University, and a Ph.D. in music from Michigan State University. His principal composition teachers have been H. Owen Reed and Ruth Shaw Wylie.
As a professional composer James Hartway has received sixty commissions from major musical organizations and educational institutions, and has composed 89 works. (as at 2007) He has been asked to create pieces for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the American Artist Series, the Meadow Brook Music Festival, the American Guild of Organists, the Michigan Opera Theater, the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit for the Papal visit of John Paul II to the United States, the Scarab Club, Printemps Musicale des Alizés of Morocco, the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, the Verdher Trio, the Woodland Trio, and various other chamber music groups and soloists, and he has served as composer-in-residence for the Chamber Music Conference and Composers Forum of the East in Bennington, Vermont.
Hartway's original compositions have been recorded, choreographed, and performed throughout the United States and in Canada, South America, Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, China, and Africa. Lukas Foss, Sixten Ehrling, Kenneth Jean, Michael Krajewski, David Daniels, Kypros Markou and many others have conducted his symphonic works. In 1982 he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in music for his concerto for jazz quartet and orchestra Cityscapes. He is the proud recipient of an Arts Foundation of Michigan Award and has received a Resolution of Tribute from the Michigan Senate. He has been an annual winner of the ASCAP Standard Panel Award for his compositions since 1978, and has been named the 'Detroit Music Awards Outstanding Classical Composer' three times. His 'Affair of the Harp' CD was the Detroit Music Awards Outstanding Classical Recording for 2005.
James Hartway is currently a Distinguished Professor of Music at Wayne State University and is the Director of its Division of Music Composition and Theory.
Three Myths for Piano was composed in Paris during the composer's sabbatical leave from Wayne State University in the winter of 1993. The writing was done in a one-room garret without much heat, plumbing that did not always work, and on a piano with some missing keys. So much for the artists' life!
The intense, motoric rhythmic activity and dissonance of the first movement, 'Wrath of the Furies', depict the Furies, underworld dwellers whose chief occupation is to pursue and punish sinners. 'Orpheus' Love for Eurydice' tells the story of the renowned musician Orpheus and his trip to the world of the dead to beg for the return of his beloved Eurydice. According to the myth, Orpheus so impressed the rulers of Hades with his beautiful singing and performing on the lyre that they granted Eurydice a reprieve. His forbidden look back, however, condemned her to death and him to loneliness. The dissonant chords toward the end of the movement that interrupt the lyrical melodic lines suggest Orpheus' anguish. 'Hades' Jazz Band' is a myth in itself. The topsy-turvy, jazzy, stride piano writing and non-symmetrical musical motives have a scherzo-like quality. Of course there is no jazz band in Hades, and the Furies and Orpheus and Eurydice do not exist either. Or do they?
Three Myths for Piano was commissioned by the pianist Pauline Martin through a grant from the Arts Foundation of Michigan, and is dedicated to Pauline by the composer with great appreciation for her talents as a pianist.
Imaginary Creatures, composed in 1999, is a set of songs written for soprano and string quartet based on the poem of the same name. The six short verses in this collection express a variety of moods, thoughts, and feelings through the imagery of the fictitious creatures. For the most part soprano Pamela Schiffer activates the stories and the string quartet comments, accompanies, and sets the mood and tone for each. The poetry is reprinted below with the permission of its author John Reed, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of English at Wayne State University.
I. frolic bird
in wingless flight through airless sky, euphorically rare-sheer, sheer delight.
II. hate snake
bites without fangs into fleshless veins, where its venom drains and festers.
III. tranquility spider
loafs in her hammock of memory-threads of tenderness, threads of joy-lolls in her hammock of desire.
IV. laughter cat
tickles with his neural whiskers, brushes with his cerebral tail.
V. soul mole
knows all 'bout what's goin' on down in the rich and mortal source.
VI. infinity scarab
in its hardened case of dreams feels signals thrill on its antennae from all that was and all that's yet to be.
The Scarab Club of Metropolitan Detroit funded the composing of Imaginary Creatures. The club has been dedicated to serving the public and Michigan artists of all disciplines for over a hundred years. The composer is most grateful.
Images of Mogador for harp, flute, and viola, was commissioned by André Azoulay, Conseiller de Sa Majesté le Roi Mohammed VI, of Morocco and Mohammed Enaji, Director of the Printemps Musical des Alizes in 2002, and had its première at the annual classical music festival that takes place in Essaouira, Morocco.
The three movements are earthy, rhapsodic, and rhythmic, as they attempt to reflect the colour, passion and sincerity of that exotic northern African country. 'Trance Music' was inspired by the composer's first impressions of the improvisatory quality and rhythmic vitality of a group of North African musicians as they swirled, danced, sang and performed their native music. 'From the Minaret' through its repeated notes and harp glissandi attempts to depict the sacred call to prayer and the spirituality that is so evident in Muslim countries. 'Le Souk' with its fast exchanges of musical phrases and motives recalls a day and night spent at the world-famous open market in Marrakech. It was an intense adventure of shopping, bartering, eating, having fun, and snakes. The work was composed for and dedicated to the Woodland Trio who also enjoyed a week of performances in Morocco with the composer.
In 1993 classical music radio host Dave Wagner interviewed the composer and asked on air: "How does someone commission you to write a piece?" Hartway's response was: "Call me and ask." Soon thereafter Keith Wissman, the husband of one of Hartway's former students, called and asked. Keith Wissman wanted to give his wife a special gift on the occasion of her fortieth birthday, and thus was born Scenes from a Marriage. The piece was composed for one piano four hands as a kind of marital duet.
The movement titles suggest the music that they engender: 'in harmony' is filled with big, full chords and is mostly consonant; 'in conflict' is dissonant and contrary, one part usually interrupting and contradicting the other; 'in love' is a lush, lyrical and melodic lovers' song; 'in fun' is a fast paced "quote" piece whose humour is obvious. The Catherine Wilson / Robert Conway Duo performs the work on this recording.
It is with considerable gratitude and heartfelt appreciation that the composer introduces you to the artists on this compact disc. Certainly none of them needed to record my music to further their already impressive professional performing and teaching careers. Their collective dedication and musicianship have brought a very high level of excellence to these recordings. Thank you my friends: Ars Longa - Vita Brevis!
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HARTWAY: Imaginary Creatures / 3 Myths / Images of...