Saturday, September 14, 2013

One-off - Earl George's Intermezzo


A while back I wrote an article on Alice McElroy Procter, a student of Howard Hanson and Ross Lee Finney who attempted to start her own classical music publishing house in 1952.  Their flagship title was to be Panorama, collecting a who's-who of B- to Z-list American composers in the early 50's with the aim of cultivating a repertoire of pedagogical piano works worth listening to.  It's about high time some of them get recorded, as there are some quite nice pieces nestled in those pages (including an H. Owen Reed leaf I'll get to later).  Oddly enough, the first piece I've decided to record is one that actually escaped the confines of the American Music Company:  Earl George's Intermezzo.

(Click for larger view)

As per George himself, I've only heard two other pieces of his (Thanksgiving OvertureArioso for cello and piano) and they're just fine.  He authored a good 100 pieces in his life but never achieved wide recognition, getting washed away in a sea of American classical success in the 50's.  This is one of his earliest pieces, dating from no earlier than 1953 and harking back centuries earlier.  Using a simple binary form, the Intermezzo alternates between a minimalist, harp-like texture, with a 2-on-4 F Dorian ostinato ringing on top of a quartal, 3-note cell.  After eight bars the right hand jumps up to a mixed mode for four bars, returning to F Dorian as the left hand moves down a whole step.  The B section is a deceptively simple three-voice chorale, almost plainchant in its hallowed compression but working with contemporary harmonic tools, resulting in heartbreaking passages and resolutions.  The repeat of the piece is identical until the resolution of A2, a branching-off point for B2 to take us towards a smile-inducing final chord, an oddly tonal conclusion to a piece that had quietly reveled in the circle of fifths for so long.  It's no wonder this piece got picked up for re-publication - you may have noticed that Intermezzo isn't the title printed here.  Originally Little Prelude, it was plucked from the depths by Elkan-Vogel in 1955, receiving its new moniker.  I prefer Intermezzo, as the piece seems to have slid in from between the walls of much larger events in life.  It's far too delicate a work to accompany anything but itself, or possibly a pocket of airborne dust in a living room in an early Spring afternoon.  Whatever you make of the Intermezzo I hope I didn't make too much of a hash of things in my recording, my first Soundcloud submission in well over a year.


*Isn't that cover just wonderful?

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