Retro Americana

Henry Cowell composer
Frederic Rzewski composer
George Gershwin composer
Bill Westcott composer
Meredith Monk composer
Art Tatum composer

Christina Petrowska Quilico piano

Release Date: September 24, 2021
Catalog #: NV6361
Format: Digital
20th Century
Solo Instrumental
Piano

Highly-acclaimed, highly-prolific pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico embarks on a magnificent journey through time by exploring an entire century’s worth of North American piano music. RETRO AMERICANA splendidly showcases the whole gamut of a long-neglected genre seldom heard in such magnificence.

Quilico, whose career output includes a mind-boggling fifty-plus records, has assembled the eclectic cornucopia of RETRO AMERICANA with her usual proficient, stylistic command. Atonal pioneer Henry Cowell shakes hands with a rather lighthearted George Gershwin, while their living colleagues Meredith Monk and Bill Westcott are just as diligently heroized as the late legends Frederic Rzewski and Art Tatum. Their respective times and voices are impeccably tied together by Quilico’s trademark: her rivetingly acuminous interpretation.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Six Ings: Floating Henry Cowell Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:31
02 Six Ings: Frisking Henry Cowell Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:49
03 Six Ings: Fleeting Henry Cowell Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:40
04 Six Ings: Scooting Henry Cowell Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:16
05 Six Ings: Wafting Henry Cowell Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:42
06 Six Ings: Seething Henry Cowell Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 0:40
07 Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues Frederic Rzewski Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 9:02
08 Suite: The Man I Love George Gershwin Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:58
09 Suite: Nobody but You George Gershwin Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 0:55
10 Suite: Do It Again George Gershwin Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:21
11 Suite: Oh, Lady Be Good! George Gershwin Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:06
12 Suite: 'S Wonderful George Gershwin Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 0:57
13 Suite: That Certain Feeling George Gershwin Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:20
14 Suite: I Got Rhythm George Gershwin Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:22
15 Suite: Somebody Loves Me George Gershwin Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:34
16 Suite: Prelude Bill Westcott Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 2:08
17 Suite: Wannabe a Rag Bill Westcott Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 3:37
18 Suite: Ballade Bill Westcott Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 5:10
19 Suite: All Boogies Bill Westcott Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 5:09
20 Paris Meredith Monk Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 3:07
21 Windows In 7 Meredith Monk Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 2:01
22 St. Petersburg Waltz Meredith Monk Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 6:28
23 Railroad (Travel Song) Meredith Monk Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:41
24 I'll Never Be The Same Art Tatum Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:39
25 Don't Get Around Much Anymore Art Tatum Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano 1:18

Tracks 1-7, 24-25
Concert recorded live at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto ON, Canada
Recording Session Producers David Jaeger, David Quinney

Tracks 8-15
Recorded at Humbercrest United Church in Toronto ON, Canada
Recording Session Producer J. Hannaby
Recording Session Engineer Wiggert van Hardeveld

Tracks 16-23
Recorded at York University, Tribute Communities Recital Hall in Toronto ON, Canada
Recording Session Producer David Jaeger
Recording Session Engineer Dennis Patterson

All recordings mastered by David Jaeger
Publicist, program notes editor Linda Litwack

General Manager of Audio & Sessions Jan Košulič
Recording Sessions Director Levi Brown
Audio Director, Addtl. Mastering Lucas Paquette

Executive Producer Bob Lord
Executive A&R Sam Renshaw

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Christina Petrowska Quilico

Pianist

In 2020, Canada’s Governor General appointed pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honors, “for her celebrated career as a classical and contemporary pianist, and for championing Canadian music.” It was the latest recognition for a lifetime devoted to her art. Amongst other honors, she has received the Friends of Canadian Music Award from the Canadian Music Centre (CMC) and Canadian League of Composers, and was selected one of the CMC’s Ambassadors of Canadian Music.

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Notes

It would be interesting to know if in composing the Six Ings (c. 1922) Cowell had heard Schoenberg’s Six Little Piano Pieces (Opus 19), composed in 1911. The material of Cowell’s music, which incorporates major and minor third intervals as building blocks in a non-tonal fashion, is common to both composers, as is the brevity of the works. Moreover, the lack of interest by both composers in the usual goal-directed or climactic drama, typical of most 19th and much of 20th century music, makes Cowell’s pieces stand apart even from those of such an iconoclastic contemporary as Charles Ives. Certainly, Cowell was something of a radical, as demonstrated by his fascination with what he called “tone clusters”—groups of adjoining notes struck simultaneously on the piano by a variety of unconventional physical means. He created a sensation by doing this as early as without playing the keys. Each of the Six Ings (Floating, Frisking, Fleeting, Scooting, Wafting, Seething) stakes out a somewhat different territory through its clear but brief exploration of a single consistent musical texture in static time. In this, Cowell seems to anticipate his later active professional interest in Asian music, many of the later pieces sharing a similar time concept. Along with its extended piano techniques and the first experiments with chance music, this work blazes a trail clearly followed by his famous student, John Cage.

Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (1979) by Rzewski is a work that is often placed as a concert finale. In both its solo and two-piano versions, there is a raw primal power that verges on the brutal in the utter melodic simplicity and naivety of a folk-like, bluesy tune, presented in the center of the work, which charmingly provides respite from the strikingly complex tone clusters. Rzewski’s music is always direct in its expressiveness. Whether it be potent musical/political ideas (Coming Together and Attica), musical/dramatic ideas (Force) or elegant musical constructions with undetermined instrumentation (Les Moutons de Panurge and Spots), there is a continuity of directness that is highly original. Long regarded as a member of the avant-garde, he was a noted pianist, championing new music and frequently performing his own piano compositions.

Few people would suspect that George Gershwin had private composition lessons with Henry Cowell. These elegant and enduring melodies of his stand as some of the best popular music of the 1920s and ’30s. Gershwin was deeply concerned with the limited lifespan of a popular tune: “Unfortunately, most songs die at an early age…The reason for this is that they are sung and played too much while they are alive, and cannot stand the strain of their very popularity.” He needn’t have worried. Many of his songs are still sung and played with gusto. This concern did, perhaps, drive him to compose such serious works as Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, and the opera Porgy and Bess, which established Gershwin as a major American composer with a distinct compositional style. His greatest gift was writing the best tunes.

While a student at the University of Illinois in composition and musicology, Bill Westcott studied ragtime and blues piano for several years with Eurreal “Little Brother” Montgomery, a major blues recording artist of the 1930s and of the later blues revival. He has since continued transcribing and performing music of the early blues pianists of the 1910s, ‘20s, and ‘30s. While appearing occasionally as soloist and accompanist in classical contexts, he has performed as a band member in various rock, dixieland, country-western, ragtime, jazz, and blues ensembles over the past 35 years. Since 1984, he has lived in Toronto, Canada, working as pianist, composer, arranger, lecturer, singer, writer, and teacher. He has published articles on the subjects of early blues piano and the history of African-American music in general. Orchestras in Canada, the United States, and Eastern Europe have performed his original compositions and arrangements. He retired from York University in 2009 and continues to compose and perform.

Hailed as “one of America’s coolest composers,” New York–born Meredith Monk is also a singer, director/choreographer, and creator of new opera, music theater works, films, and installations, with an output of more than 100 works in multiple genres. These include compositions for the Dalai Lama and film music for Jean-Luc Godard, David Byrne, and the Coen Brothers. She is particularly known as a pioneer in extended vocal technique and interdisciplinary performance. Among her numerous honors, Monk received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award in 1995, was the subject of a three-concert retrospective by the 2000 Lincoln Center Festival, was named Musical America’s 2012 Composer of the Year, and was made an officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Republic of France.

The musical terrain of jazz pianist Art Tatum is, quite simply, heroic. Characterized by his spectacularly ornamental improvisations, these two arrangements of popular tunes of the ’30s and ’40s, I’ll Never Be The Same and Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, are exquisite examples of the virtuosic bravado that has challenged and inspired several generations of jazz pianists, including the late great Oscar Peterson. Most jazz pianists, in fact, consider Tatum’s brilliance with such awe that he has become a nearly mythic figure. Even with just these two short arrangements, it is easy to see why. The mercurial right- hand figures against the resonant and (at times) stride-like left hand to create a stunningly colorful music. Tatum’s life was cut short by a sudden illness at age 46, but not before the impact of his pianistic genius assured him legendary status.