Author Archive

Amanda’s Dance now available

Amanda’s Dance is based on an American hymn called Amanda by Justin Morgan. It’s long been a favorite of mine, with its haunting harmonies and stark words. The surprising use of a cross relation [D# and D at the same time] in the third chord of the song always captivated me and I had long wanted to write a set of variations or other work based on this chord and the related melodies. In the winter of 2017, I began the project and dedicated the piece to my German friend Detlev Bork in thanks for many favors and his love of new music. The opening dance gives way to a contrapuntal fantasy on the melodic elements of the original work and slowly works its way back to a reprise and enhancement of the opening theme.

Justin Morgan (February 28, 1747 – March 22, 1798) was a U.S. horse breeder and composer. READ MORE at WIKIPEDIA. He was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts, and by 1788 had settled in Vermont. In addition to being a horse breeder and farmer, he was a teacher of singing; in that capacity he traveled considerably throughout the northeastern states. He died in Randolph, Vermont, where he also served as town clerk.

My favorite stanza of the verse:

Death, like an overflowing stream,
Sweeps us away; our life’s a dream,
An empty tale, a morning flower,
Cut down and withered in an hour.

Here’s the first section played on a wonderful 1941 Hauser at Aaron Green’s Vintage Classical Guitars

Price: $5.95

Five Short Pieces now published

Fünf Kleine Stücke (Five Short Pieces) is my most recent composition, now for sale, click here to purchase a PDF download. I recently paid a visit to my friend Aaron Green where I had the opportunity to play four different Hauser guitars from 1931, 1941 and two from 1959. The 1939 Aaron recently had was sold and not available as the fifth, so we used one of Aaron’s recent guitars which was inspired by the Llobet model of early Hausers. Read more below about my conception and the birth of this new work.

Fünf Kleine Stücke was written for Dr. Daniel Pewsner in thanks for many favors and good friendship. Also for my new found love of Switzerland and its many graces and lovely medieval towns, such as Basel, Bern and Solothurn.

Fünf Kleine Stücke
I. Sequenz I
II. Basel, 1298
III. Lindenberg, 2017
IV. Durch den Rhein
V. Sequenz II

My wife Nancy and I were on vacation in Basel, Switzerland and I had borrowed a beautiful guitar belonging to Dani. It, and the gorgeous 14th and 15th century surroundings, inspired me to do more more than a little technique maintenance while trying to relax (not my forte!). Composing does relax me, and so it went: a morning coffee, a few warmups, then composing, lunch with Nancy at an intimate downtown cafe, then off to a museum, walking the beautiful streets of Basel to get there. On those walks we continually looked for the earliest date above a medieval doorway – the winner, 1298. Thus the title of #2 – Basel, 1298, with appropriate harmonies to that time, many parallel fourths and a spacious flow reminiscent of the long and luxurious reverberation of tones in an all-stone cathedral or chapel.

My dedication of #4 to José Sanchez (another guitarist/friend residing in Bern who possesses perhaps the most beautiful tone I have ever heard!) is based on a trip we took twice to a country chapel on the outskirts of the exquisite town of Solothurn. José grew up near there and had recollections of discovering this magical place some 30 years before – all the while it sat in his memory. I was touched that I was visiting when it occurred to him to take me and Dani there to share his experience. The memory was good – the all stone acoustics were amazing and we soaked up the vibrations in joy and wonderment. On the first visit, a somewhat elderly woman with few teeth, thin, but strong in appearance, entered and asked if we could be quiet for a few moments. Abiding her request, she disappeared into a crypt behind the alter. Our eyes gazed in question at each other upon hearing the bass tones that emerged – wasn’t that a woman? Our question was soon answered by the next phrase that leapt two octaves and more. And so the questions and answers bounced off the walls, floor and ceiling of hard stone. We did ask what language, as she emerged, “my own, they are sounds that come to me.” And the music? “The same – it comes.” She departed, as mysteriously as she had entered, and left us aghast.

The five works are conceived as studies, tone poems they might be called. The prime purpose of any study is to achieve the maximum resonance of the guitar with beautiful tone in any technical circumstance. So a study takes a particular pattern and repeats it a bit more than normal. The several problems presented here are: scales with slurs, thus the two “Sequenz,” or sequences, that are inspired by the medieval form, and feature long scales with slurs, slurs that need to be incorporated into the flow, or pattern, with strength, clarity and fluidity; Basel, 1298 and the following Lindenberg, 2017 (the street on which these works were composed) focus on im chords, two note intervals, that span all six strings, demanding the right wrist be fluid and accommodate all strings so that the tone remains consistent (though variable as dictated by musical demands or inspiration); and the third major focus is simply melody and accompaniment, though in #4, Durch den Rhein, the melody constantly shifts between bass and soprano.

On this last point, I would comment that I have a rule that is essential to my particular style of playing: ALL melodies should be played rest stroke. Now, you may immediately react, “how old fashioned!” But I would have you pause for two seconds and reconsider. Every rule MUST be broken, so I by no means ever achieve this goal. But, even if it is totally impossible or impractical to play a note rest stroke. it is crucial that you try, that you practice it this way. Why? To get that lovely rich sound in your ear. If the ultimate decision is to play free stroke, you have been informed by the attempted execution of rest stroke, and your ear has been infected by that sound. You may want the melody to be soft and wispy, slightly or emphatically ponticello, where rest stroke feels to heavy and punchy. Great – do it. But I have witnessed too many great guitarists playing the opening phrase of Villa-Lobos Prelude #1 free stroke – it sounds weak – it can never achieve that full cello like quality that must be used. Imagine a cellist bowing across the string without wanting to press the string too hard! Shifting between rest stroke thumb and rest stroke finger demands flexibility of approach, particularly in the wrist, but also demands sensitivity in the fingertip/nail connection and arc of the fingers.

Enjoy!

Copyright ©2017 Frank A. Wallace
Cover photography and design by Nancy Knowles
All rights reserved.

Soundboard reviews OMAGGIO CD

Frank Wallace, Omaggio A Tribute to the Legend [legacy] of Segovia
Soundboard Vol. 43 No. 2, p.57

Frank Wallace has enjoyed a career that has included touring since 1976, and these are pieces that likely have been in his repertoire for some time. Each one is played as if it were a brand new piece to discover, yet informed by the love, connection, and depth that one would experience with an old, special friend. This recording, played on a 1931 Hermann Hauser I instrument, which is a “twin brother” of one chosen be Segovia, is clearly an homage to the music but also to the contributions made to Wallace by his many teachers and fellow artists.

Three Preludes by Villa-Lobos are played beautifully, and even though these are decades-old staples of the repertoire, I found them very enjoyable to hear, with strong, assured passage work and bravura delivery. The “Garrotín” in Turina’s Homage a Tárrega is performed with hesitant phrasing, which contrasts with the solid rhythm in the “Soleares.” Among four pieces by Tárrega himself, his Prelude #5, not often heard in recordings, stands out as a quiet, delightful gem. Mompou’s Suite Compostelana is dedicated to Andrés Segovia, who held summer masterclasses in Santiago de Compostela for many years. Wallace attended in 1972, which clearly inspires his interpretation. Wallace presents each movement as its own unique poem, from the depths of the “Recitativo” to the infectiously dancelike “Muñeira.” He includes his own homage to Catalan composer Miguel Llobet with Dreams on a Lullaby, a set of variations on the carol “El Noi de la Mare.” This piece has a wide range of settings starting with a contrapuntally beautiful treatment, dissolving into explosively contemporary and later almost free improvisatory sections, returning home briefly to the theme, and later moving into sections reminiscent of Julián Orbón.

Wallace is a member of the growing generation of sexagenarian players who continue to inspire by their artistry. The recording is well produced, with a solid yet sensitive guitar presence, and excellent graphic design by Wallace’s wife Nancy Knowles. – Jim McCutcheon

Classical Guitar review of Omaggio

Omaggio
Frank Wallace
Gyre Music
Finding new colors in Segovia’s repertoire

This “tribute to the legacy of Segovia” (i.e., pieces associated with him) is played on a 1931 Hauser and recorded in a church, so there is plenty of natural reverb on the recording.  Wallace begins with Villa-Lobos’ first three Preludes, well-known to most, but what is unexpected is his presentation of some details in a slightly different way, which I found quite refreshing.  The Manuel de Falla Omaggio that comes next moves a little faster than a lot of interpretations and is full of power and drama. Turina’s Garrotín and Soleares are wonderfully played.  It is such a shame that Turina’s guitar oeuvre is so tiny, as these pieces are exciting and consistently entertaining.

Four pieces by Tárrega follow, all lovely miniatures, including Adelita and the famous Capricho Arabe, which receives a particularly lively and dynamic performance. The only slightly unconventional addition to the recital is a set of variations on El Noi de la Mare, so beloved in Llobet’s magnificent version.  Here, Wallace treats this lullaby to a constantly surprising set of emotions, many of them definitely not very lullaby-like.  This is Wallace’s own homage to both Llobet and Segovia.

The recital finishes with one of the finest pieces Segovia had written for him, Federico Mompou’s Suite Compostelana. Wallace’s interpretations are quite telling, as here, too, he manages to find fresh ways to play this suite.  This is altogether a wonderful album, beautifully played. – Chris Dumigan, Classical Guitar Summer 2017

Listen and Purchase

Nina Krebs, on hearing Omaggio, Gyre CD by Frank Wallace

Gyre 2 by Nina Krebs“Gyres” by Nina Krebs [click on photo to see more] –

I met Nina at the Long Island Guitar Festival two years ago. She’s an artist, a fan, and a lover of all things beautiful. Nina posted several new drawings recently and I had to grab them since each is full of gyres – the circular squiggles. She also wrote me a beautiful response on hearing my new CD a couple of weeks ago and I suggested she fill it out a bit and post as a “review”. So here it is…

Everything about this work of art is beautiful: the lush multi-layered painting on the cover, the sensuous photo of the Hauser inside, the love letter to your mentors, the recorded sound quality, the music and humanity. The music is exquisite; a selection of works that were dear to the iconic guitarist Andrés Segovia as well as a dramatic set of variations on the famous tune Noi de la Mare. Called Dreams on a Lullaby, Wallace’s own composition is perfect for inclusion.

OMAGGIO sat on my desk for a few days, and I enjoyed looking at the cover. Last night I opened it and played it straight through. I was transfixed – did not move. That was not my intention, but I couldn’t tear myself away, and when it ended I hoped for more. Only listen to this work if you have time to devote to cascades of notes, cadences and accents so delicately placed you might miss them if you breathe.

The music flows from its creators through the magic fingers of Frank Wallace. His soul is in the music, and he is unembarrassed by that vulnerability.  The artist’s attention to detail is a gift, one which allows the listener to completely surrender to the performance. The clarity of the playing, the trills and runs that tumble and fall with grace and resonance, carry the music forward intentionally. The Hauser guitar, with its intricate history and depth of soul, embraces the history of music, and hopefully the future.

OMAGGIO coalesces a particular repertoire, a history-laden instrument resonant beyond belief, and an artist who loves it all and pours his musicality as well as exquisite technique and attention into this work. The CD is presented artfully; Nancy Knowles’ cover painting is a perfect touch along with photographs and liner notes that highlight a spare conceptual homage to a particular history of classical guitar music.

The depth of Wallace’s knowledge, commitment and experience shimmer through the sound. Sometimes perfectionism pays, and this is one of those times. In addition to my pure pleasure in listening to the music I find inspiration to push for my best in the work I’m doing now. Thank you. Congratulations on a fine contribution to world art. – Nina Krebs, 1/16/17

Purchase you copy or link to downloads here: BUY OMAGGIO

OMAGGIO now on digital sites

OMAGGIO, a tribute to the legacy of Segovia with guitar by Hermann Hauser I, 1931
Frank Wallace plays Villa-Lobos, Turina, Mompou, Tárrega, de Falla and Wallace

NOW AVAILABLE as digital downloads at:


“Above all he is concerned with the sonorities of the guitar, and as a performer he employs a huge range of timbre and dynamics…all on an epic scale…He uses a 1931 Hauser guitar, a magnificent instrument…”
Elemental, ARG, July/August 2014, Keaton

OMAGGIO new CD by Frank Wallace

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

OMAGGIO

NEW CD by FRANK WALLACE on GYRE

Omaggio CD coverOn January 6, 2017 Omaggio [Gyre CD 20212] will be released worldwide in digital formats. This 25th recording by American virtuoso guitarist Frank Wallace is now available in CD format at www.gyremusic.com. Featuring an extraordinary 1931 Hauser I guitar, the CD pays tribute to the legacy of Andrés Segovia and the incomparable German luthier Hermann Hauser. Works on this recording were written for Segovia or were part of his repertoire, and are homages themselves to Bach, Debussy, Tárrega, Llobet, and the ancient city of Santiago de Compostela. Wallace, “…a powerful player, possessed of an unfailing musicianship…an almost symphonic range of colors and articulations…” [Kunze, Soundboard], performs works of Villa-Lobos, de Falla, Tárrega, Turina, Mompou and his own piece dedicated to the Catalan composer/guitarist Miguel Llobet, Dreams on a Lullaby.

LISTEN TO SAMPLE TRACKS

Segovia first met Hauser in 1924, beginning a long and close relationship that led to the 1937 Hauser that Segovia played in concert for 25 years and which he proclaimed is “the greatest guitar of our epoch.”  It is now housed at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City. The Hauser guitar on this recording was built for Segovia in 1931, but was soon passed on to his student Blanche Moyse, later known for her work with the Moyse Trio and as a founder of Marlboro Music. In Wallace’s own words: “These older guitars are vibrant musical powerhouses – their tones are infinitely more complex and haunting than those of newer guitars.” Wallace has long been a proponent of historical music and instruments. He has recorded and performed lute and vihuela music on authentic instruments, and on historic guitars by Panormo, Lacote, Gutierrez, Manuel Ramirez, Soto y Solares, Hauser, Bouchet, Fleta, etc.

Omaggio presents music that Segovia frequently played in concert, including several homages. Opening with the first three Preludes by Heitor Villa-Lobos, they are a Homage to the Brazilian sertanejo (county man), Homage to the carioca hustler, and Homage to Bach. Wallace moves on to what is considered by many the first great masterpiece of the 20th century, Omaggio (Homenaje) by Manuel de Falla. Written in 1920, it was composed for a collection of works entitled Tombeau de Claude Debussy. Next is Homenaje a Tárrega by Joaquín Turina composed in 1932 for Segovia. Written in a nationalistic musical style, it has distinct impressionistic influences. Wallace’s Dreams on a Lullaby is a set of variations on Noi de la Mare, a Catalan folk song made famous by Miguel Llobet’s iconic setting. The six-movement Suite Compostelana by Federico Mompou has special personal associations with the great pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela for both the composer and the performer. Mompou dedicated this work to Segovia in 1963 as homage to the great city itself as well as the festival presented there annually. The International University Courses Música en Compostela were created in 1958 on the initiative of Maestro Andrés Segovia, together with the Spanish diplomat José Miguel Ruiz Morales. Wallace attended the course in 1972 and met Ruiz Morales several years later which led to a performance at Música en Compostela by his Trio LiveOak in 1982.

Frank Wallace tours internationally as a soloist and with mezzo-soprano Nancy Knowles as Duo LiveOak. Robert Schulslaper of Fanfare dubbed him “…a true master of his instrument…His dynamic range is impressive, and his gradations of tone, constantly singing line, and sensitive musicianship confirm his ‘elegant virtuosity’ (classicstoday.com).” Bradford Werner on This is classical guitar says, “Frank Wallace plays his own works with inspiration, determination, and a wealth of creativity. With top notch playing and excellent compositions, this synthesis is a spectacular success. / …he can match the musicality of any player out there…”

One of the most prolific guitar composers of our time, Frank Wallace’s works have been called “contemporary musical emancipation” by NewMusicBox.org. A prizewinner in the 2013 José Fernández Rojas International Composition Competition in Logroño, Spain, he was also a 2015 recipient of the Ewing Arts Award. Tirelessly working to expand the guitar repertoire, Wallace founded and directed Festival 21 in Boston, a celebration of 21st century guitar music. In New York he founded and co-directed the Second Sundays Guitar Series run by the New York City Classical Guitar Society and the Roger Smith Hotel. He has taught at the New England Conservatory as well as various colleges and universities in New England and many summer workshops. Wallace is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, with a BM in guitar performance.

Complete program info, photos, videos and audio
Touring schedule
Compositions
For a review copy of the CD Omaggio, please contact wallacecomposer[@]gmail.com

Nuevas Cantigas explore medieval sounds

Monasterio de Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Monasterio de Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Welcome to #freefriday. Please go to Free Sheet Music to listen and download a free copy of Nuevas Cantigas, my homage to the Spanish Medieval period.

I fell in love with the sound of Medieval music in 1979 when I toured Spain for three months, performing 12-16th century music in 800 year old cathedrals in Catalunya. This Medieval suite for guitar is the result of much love and adoration of the pure melodies and harmonies of that period: five original pieces with two arrangements of authentic medieval music, Imperayritz from the Llibre Vermell and a Cantiga de Santa Maria. The first movement, Montserrat, was featured in Issue #58 [July 2005] of Fingerstyle magazine.

from the Cantigas de Santa Maria

from the Cantigas de Santa Maria

Montserrat is dedicated not just to the famous pilgrimage site west of Barcelona, but also to the actual pilgrimage Trio LiveOak made there in 1979. We were privileged to have a private viewing of the Llibre Vermell (Red Book) which contains Imperayritz, a hymn or dance of praise to the Virgin Mary, and 13 other important musical examples of 14th century Catalonia, now the northeast region of Spain. Abadesses is a memory of another phenomenal 12th century site, the cathedral at Sant Juan de les Abadessas [see photo below]. Loor means ‘praise’ in Gallego-Portuguese, the poetic language King Alfonso X, “El Sabio,” preferred for his large and magnificent collection of over 400 Cantigas de Santa Maria of the 13th century. Santa Maria Valed is one of the few songs thought to have actually been written by Alfonso when he was ill and in need of his precious Saint Mary’s aid. The suite concludes with an Estampie, a medieval dance form that features many sections not unlike the rondo form of later centuries. This particular one is modeled after the Robertsbridge Estampies, the earliest examples of written keyboard music.

Gargoyles reviewed in CMSA Mandolin Journal

Short Reviews, Volume 3: Recordings of Interest
By Robert A. Margo, CMSA Mandolin Journal
Mare Duo, “Gargolyes: mare duo plays Wallace,” www.gyremusic.com

California-born [Texas-born and California raised] and educated at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Frank Wallace has long enjoyed an internationally reputation as a performer on classical guitar and renaissance lute and as a composer of solo and chamber music for classical guitar. Wallace met Annika and Fabian Hinsche – the Mare Duo — at a concert in Boston in 2008 and was immediately entranced by the sound of the mandolin – and the rest, as they say, is history. “Gargoyles” contains the bulk of Wallace’s music for mandolin plus one piece for solo guitar, “White Albatross”, dedicated to Fabian Hinsche (not on the record are a piece for solo mandolin, “Blue Heron”, written for this reviewer; “My Vital Breath,” written for the New American Mandolin Ensemble; and two arrangements of works originally for other instruments). Joining the Mare Duo on several tracks are Anne Wolf (mandolin), Kristina Lisner (GDAE mandola), Melanie Hunger (mandolin), and Thomas Kolarczyk (contrabass). Wallace’s voice is modernist, rhythmically and harmonically adventurous but never aggressively so; technically, the music often stretches the mandolinist (and guitarist) considerably beyond their comfort zones (a good thing, in my opinion). This is especially true in the remarkable work for mandolin and guitar “The Coming of Arthur” (written for the Mare Duo) and “Night Owl”, a demanding piece for solo mandolin written for Annika Hinsche. Wallace is fond of programmatic titles, such as the recording’s namesake (for two mandolins and guitar); and the beautiful “New England Quartets” (M1, M2, GDAE mandola, guitar), whose three movements evoke scenes and sounds from New England’s past and present(this piece also exists as a quintet for mandolin ensemble, and in a version for guitar orchestra). Also included is a quintet work (M1, M2, GDAE mandola, guitar, bass) “Nocturne”, originally written for Das JugendZupfOrchester des Landes NRW and the Providence Mandolin Orchestra.

While much of the music on this recording is of a professional caliber of difficulty, “Quartets” and (to a lesser extent) “Nocturne” is feasible for intermediate-level amateurs. The performers are among the crème of the crop of the modern German mandolin scene; it is difficult to imagine superior recordings of any of these pieces. The recorded sound is also unusually good – lifelike, balanced, and sonorous. “Gargoyles” can be ordered directly from www.gyremusic.com along with sheet music for all of its selections (and Wallace’s other works for mandolin); the recording is also available from www.trekel.de.

Recording the Video of Windy Place

20151102_170028Once again I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to play a very special instrument which is currently for sale through Aaron Green’s Vintage Classical Guitars. While this is not a flamenco guitar, it is cypress with a very crisp sound and the action is set rather low – very low for my personal preference. So I was struggling a bit in this session to find the right piece that would show off both the guitar and me. After sometime working on Sor and Tárrega (coming later), I played a few chords of From the Windy Place, my first full length and through-composed piece. Then said, “Let the cameras role.” Most of what you hear here is the first take played straight through with two cameras rolling at once. Some reverb was added to enhance the sound of a fairly bright, though not terribly large room. Mics were two Schoepps omnis up close and a Neumann U87 on the room. From the Windy Place is on my first recording of original compositions: Frank Wallace: his own new works.

See the video on the video link tab or at Aaron Green’s YouTube channel. Thanks to Nancy Knowles, Emily Taub and Amber Martin for creating this video with me.