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Elemental: Frank Wallace, his own new works, vol. III
Hermann Hauser, 1931 guitar

Gyre 10172 | Choose CD [with shipping charges added at checkout] or choose to download high resolution 24-bit FLAC files; also available at CDBaby and Strings-by-Mail and as MP3 downloads at iTunes, Amazon and Naxos Music Library

Download Complete Notes: Elemental CD Notes

Recorded: September 2013 at the Hillsborough Center Congregational Church, NH

Released: March 1, 2014

Strings: La Bella Argento

Microphones: Schoepps omnis and Neumann U87 through an Orpheus interface

Engineering and mastering: Frank Wallace

Photographs, artwork and design: Nancy Knowles

Credits: This recording is made in memory of Edmund Brelsford. Thanks to Edmund and Veronica Brelsford for the opportunity to play this incredible guitar; Hermann Hauser for making it and his grandson Hermann for bringing it back to life; my sons, my parents and all my in-laws for their support; the congregation of the Hillsborough Center Congregational Church; those who have commissioned or inspired works on this recording: Norbert Dams, Edel Muñoz, Detlev Bork, Marek Pasieczny, Thomas Schuttenhelm; the NH Council on the Arts and most of all my wife Nancy, for her endless love, understanding and inspiration.

All Gyre compositions are ASCAP.

The Elements, op. 29 (2004)
01) Fire – 4:53
02) Earth – 3:32
03) Air – 3:28
04) Water – 3:56

05) A Heavy Sleep, op. 76 (2013) – 4:37

06) Black Falcon, op. 74 (2012) – 9:19

The Bells, op. 61
07) d’Orleans – 1:29
08) d’Angelus – 4:42
09) In the Well – 5:35

Sonata One, op. 32 (2005)
10) Allegro Apassionato- 4:23
11) Grave – 3:49
12) Prestissimo – 3:00

Passing in the Night, op. 71 (2012
13) ‘Round the World – 2:09
14) Don’t say Goodbye – 2:17
15) Par 9 – 0:55
16) Say Au Revoir – 1:06
17) I’m still your Pappy – 2:56


elemental [ˌɛlɪˈmɛntəl] adj
1. fundamental; basic; primal the elemental needs of man
2. motivated by or symbolic of primitive and powerful natural forces or passions elemental rites of worship
Collins English Dictionary – © HarperCollins Publishers

I once had the honor of spending a night at the home of master luthier Nico van der Waals. An extremely cordial man, it was a pleasure to meet him and to talk about instruments and music. I will never forget descending the stairs late at night to find him alone in the living room, head bowed in hands, listening to Gustav Leonhardt playing Bach.  It was a sacred act—an intensity of listening I’m not sure I had ever witnessed.  It is in this spirit that I made this recording. Elemental signifies the root, the essence, the building blocks of life and physical being.  It reflects the raw and powerful dis-passion of nature as portrayed in the first work, The Elements: Fire, Earth, Air and Water.  (The fifth element, The Void, is what lies between the notes.)  The third recording of my solo works for classical guitar, Elemental is contemplative, earthly, dramatic at times, lyrical occasionally.  Perhaps the most all-inclusive description would be textural, or abstract.  I employ many compositional styles and techniques, from tone row fragments to modal polyphony and drones.  My favorite is to derive pitch sets from names—my starting point for A Heavy Sleep, The Bells and Passing in the Night.

I recorded this CD on an extraordinary instrument. In 1929, smitten by Andrés Segovia’s concerts in Geneva, the young violinist Blanche Honegger (1909-2011) asked Segovia if she could study with him, which she did, even living for a time in the Segovia household in Paris. Two years later, Segovia commissioned a concert guitar from Hermann Hauser I.  Of the two instruments Hauser delivered, Segovia kept one.  The other, the guitar on this CD, he gave to Blanche. At the end of World War II, now a member of the illustrious Moyse Trio with her husband and father-in-law, she left France, ultimately settling in Vermont, where they were among the founders of the Marlboro Music Festival.  There Blanche Moyse became renowned as a conductor. Her Hauser guitar, which had not weathered well the long journey, eventually came into the hands of my good friend Edmund Brelsford.  When I first played it in the early 1990s it had not fully rediscovered its voice after initial work on it by David Rubio.  In 1999 Hermann Hauser III, the master’s grandson, undertook a major restoration.  To celebrate the guitar’s revival, I was given the honor of performing several concerts on it, and there it was:  a sunburst of sound, with colors of every hue, and a decay like none other  —each tone ever-so-reluctantly melting into the next. Its true voice, muted for fifty years, sings again.  Enjoy!
Frank Wallace

Frank Wallace is an artist whose wizardry on the guitar rivals the range and depth of his musical ideas in composition.  Fanfare dubs him a composer with “an authentic expressive voice” and a “high standard of musical interest” who plays with “flawless technical proficiency”.  The American Record Guide calls Wallace’s music “exciting, unpredictable and fresh”.  A prizewinner in the 2013 José Fernández Rojas International Composition Competition in Logroño, Spain, he has also garnered two New Hampshire Artist Fellowship awards for composition.  Tirelessly working to expand the guitar repertoire with new works, Wallace founded and directed Festival 21 in Boston, a celebration of 21st century guitar works.  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.  In performance, Wallace is known for his “elegant virtuosity” on the guitar (Classics Today) as well as for his mastery of self-accompanied song.  He has toured widely throughout North and South America and Europe since 1976, both as a soloist and as Duo LiveOak with mezzo-soprano Nancy Knowles.

Copyright ©2013 Frank A. Wallace
Cover photography and design by Nancy Knowles
All rights reserved.

The Elements
by Frank A. Wallace, 2004
op. 29, a poetic essay on the origin of life, in four movements for solo guitar

Originally written for 6-string guitar, I have adapted The Elements for 10-string as well which will be recorded on a future CD. It is a poetic essay on the origin of the Earth. I. Fire I conceive as the original burst of energy that birthed this universe, big, chaotic. II. Earth is the eventual congealing of solid ground which features repetitive modal chords that accompany a slow melody. III. Air is spacious, a moment when the potential of life has emerged and a time to reflect on creation itself and IV. Water the careening, tumbling, whirling thing we call life.

A Heavy Sleep
by Frank A. Wallace, 2013
op. 76, commissioned by and written for Detlev Bork

A Heavy Sleep was commissioned by and written for German guitarist Detlev Bork on the occasion of Benjamin Britten’s 100th Anniversary. The title and motivic content of the piece were derived from Britten’s monumental work Nocturnal from 1963. It seemed fitting that since Britten’s masterpiece was inspired by John Dowland’s great song, Come Heavy Sleep, I should in turn find my musical inspiration in the gestures and harmonic language of the Nocturnal.

Black Falcon
by Frank A. Wallace, 2013
op. 74, commissioned by and written for Edel Muñoz

I first met Edel Muñoz at the 2011 St. Joseph Guitar Festival – he was back to do his “winner’s concert”, but I missed it. Fortunately, we met again at Classical Minds in Houston in June 2012 at which point we got to hear each others’ concerts. Edel is one of the most suave and subtle but powerful players I have ever heard. I was thrilled that he asked me to write a piece for him.
I had developed some techniques of generating ideas over the past few years that worked extremely well, but for some reason I tossed those ideas out the door and just wrote from pure inspiration. This is the result, a piece making use of the octatonic scale, my first use of the “diminished” scale in a piece that alternates between dramatic chordal outbursts and flowing bass melodies. Overall Black Falcon is in two sections: Larghissimo in 4/2 and Allegro in 12/8.
The Bells
by Frank A. Wallace, 2010
op. 61, three preludes for solo guitar
Dedicated to: Thomas Schuttenhelm, Norbert Dams and Marek Pasieczny

d’Orleans The round Orleans, Beaujancy is woven into a spacious fabric of dissonant chords, melody pealing high above in harmonics. I re-discovered this piece after it lay dormant for over a year, having totally forgotten this little “experiment” in dissonant chord structures. I was pleased to find how much sonority was possible. The major 7th interval is used repeatedly and creates it’s own beating vibrato.

d’Angelus I was honored to be asked by Norbert Dams to write a piece for his 60th year in which he planned to do 60 concerts around the world. I had composed d’Orleans on a whim two years before and knew I wanted to write more “impressionistic” pieces in this vein. Norbert’s piece uses a series of notes generated by his name and the name of his publishing house, Daminus: FGBBEBC DAEC DAEAFEC and a chromatic variation A#BDA#C#DE CAAD# CAAFA#FD#.

In the Well The third piece, written for Marek Pasieczny, is the most complicated. It is comprised of major 7th intervals, note sets determined by Marek’s name, and an unusual version of the round “Ding dong bell, pussy is in the well” that I learned years ago from a wonderful family of singers, George and Lucy Semler.

Sonata One
by Frank A. Wallace, 2005
op. 32, three movements in a romantic 12-tone style for solo guitar: Allegro, Grave, Presto

As with many guitarists my age, Julian Bream’s “20th Century Guitar Music” album of the late 60’s was a tremendous influence on me. Though my eventual path led to the study and performance for many years of Renaissance music, I never lost my love for the pieces by Britten, Martin, Smith Brindle and Henze on that magnificent recording. Certainly this Sonata #1 came from years of holding those sounds in my heart. The powerful rhythm and harmony emerged in the midst of several tours in which I was debuting two song cycles in the winter/spring of 2005. It surprised me.

Passing in the Night
by Frank A. Wallace, 2012
op. 71, five short guitar solos
Commissioned by: Beatty Music Scholarship Competition

Passing in the Night is five short movements dedicated to my father. It was written in Würzburg Germany August 15-18, 2012 while I was on a composition retreat after 13 concerts in Spain. Anxious to write in general and specifically to fulfill a commission for the Beatty Youth Competition, I did not expect to receive notice that my 94 year old father had a fever and had stopped eating. The words of Amanda, a shape note hymn by Justin Morgan, still resounded in my ears from my recent performance in the magical Romanesque San Martín de Frómista: “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.”

The five works encompass various styles, perhaps influenced by my travels through several countries and by my father’s love of travel. The first “‘Round the World,” is inspired by friend and fabulous Bulgarian composer/guitarist Atanas Ourkouzounov. The second, “Don’t say Goodbye” recalls the stark harmonies and gracious melodies of Justin Morgan and the American shape note school. The titles are both quotes of my father during my last visit when Dad told us of his recent (imagined) trip “’round the world.” A few months earlier he would have elaborated greatly in detail, exotic surely, but as his body weakened after eleven years of struggle, his mind, or perhaps just his voice, couldn’t illumine the imagined trip. On parting Dad said, “Don’t say goodbye, say au revoir. I’m still your Pappy!” After the meditative second piece, Don’t say Goodbye, a quirky little Par 9 evokes his impossible dream of joining the pro golf circuit at age 90. Or rather, it is the feeling in me of how odd it was to feel happy that he had dreams, yet sad that he was so divorced from reality. Which is better? 

Joyous dancing and love of life infuse the the last two pieces, celebrating a life well lived, Say au Revoir and I’m Still your Pappy.

Au revoir Pop!

…a recital of music by the composer-performer guitarist, Frank Wallace. In this case, the composer is the equal of the performer, or vice versa, and both are very good…The work exudes drama, and sustains interest throughout…distinctive compositional voice… virtuoso playing…a firm recommendation.   read complete review – David DeBoor Canfield | FANFARE Sept/Oct issue 2014
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…Wallace has a unique and compelling voice as a composer, and he is a superb player. He uses a 1931 Hauser guitar, a magnificent instrument ideal for his works that explore so many different sonorities.” read complete review American Record Guide | July/August 2014 | KEATON
From brittle cutting chords to silky melodic lines, Wallace has a very wide range of expressive and coloristic abilities on the guitar. The expressive qualities are equally matched by virtuosic playing in rapid flourishes and voice separation. / 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…orchestral ideas in his playing…natural phrasing and rhythm…playing is virtuosic but always in a musically convincing way.
Read the full review: This is classical guitar | Bradford Werner
An epic work. This album signifies not only a major musical statement by composer Frank Wallace, but a much needed sonic statement by Guitarist Frank Wallace. The colors, nuances and textures he brings to life are exactly what set the guitar apart as a conduit of artistic expression. This album should serve as a reminder to all that the inherent powers of the instrument reside in the quality of its voice. Elemental delightfully demonstrates what a Master guitarist can do with a seemingly unlimited tonal palette.
Aaron Green, luthier
“The music is incredible and the versatility of musical styles and genres is incredible. Your synthesis of style is remarkable… I felt transported to the world of Albeniz, de Falla and Montsalvatge one minute and another I was in a new and unknown realm. — Orlay Alonso, Seconda Prattica
“Your CD is mind blowing… Your evolution as a composer and player continues to astound me.  Your playing is immaculate.  The guitar sounds magnificent.  I find the compositions cerebral, intense, complex, and intriguing.  I have been spending so much time with late 1990s-early 2000s Wallace, I feel like you are almost completely a different composer from then.” — David Isaacs, professor of guitar
“The music is definitely elemental — powerful and poetic!” — Jonathan Richmond, writer and music critic
“I’m just now listening to your new CD Elemental. God it is good!!! Really – it is just a terrific combination of composition, performance and recording. Oh and the art work’s not bad either!” — Mark [Davis] Director of NAME and the Providence Mandolin Orchestra
This video has a brief discussion of my compositional style followed by a performance of Dreams on a Lullaby on the 1931 Hauser guitar that is featured on Elemental – watch it in action!

Here are several selections from the CD played on the ’31 Hauser as well as various vintage instruments from Aaron Green’s Vintage Classical Guitars.