Tracy Anne Smith Lilac.Star.Bird
1. Francis Kleynjans: ARABESQUE en forme de Caprice
2. Agustin Barrios Mangore: Vals Op. 8 No. 4
3. Dusan Bogdanovic: Mysterious Habitats
4-6. Ying-Chen Kao: Lilac.Star.Bird
7. Joaquin Rodrigo: Invocacion y Danza
8-12. Jacques Hetu: Suite Op. 41
13. Djano Reinhardt arr. Roland Dyens: Nuages
Tracy Anne Smith is a musician who excels in the realm of color and shape when she paints a melody. This album brings all of her strengths to the surface through the medium of a wonderfully resonant, diverse, and contemporary collection of literature.
To begin, the track listing is an aural travelogue which frames the album in the French style and offers a smart collection of pieces in between which traverse language from impressionism, to jazz, and the obliquely tonal. What this uncommon collection of repertoire shares is a collective allusion to previous composers, pianists, and even Walt Whitman, which is then focused through the lens of Tracy Anne Smith's capable and sensitive hands. The liner notes from Jonathan Leathwood are illuminating at a minimum, and a must read for any listener.
Francis Kleynjans was born in Paris France in 1951. Although he boasts a significant pedigree in guitar lineage and is noted for composing some 300 concert works for the instrument, he is largely under performed and under-discussed. Tracy's performances of this particular work were my personal introduction to the composer, and these performances were some of my favorite memories from my time as an undergraduate. Her attention to detail allows no unpolished note or phrase to pass. Moreover, each phrase is crafted with forethought and precision and the pacing across the arc of the work is perpetually engaging. For me, the arrival point at 7:30 after the conclusion of the shimmering harmonic section carries the collective weight of the work, and evokes an emotional resonance any artist should strive for and any audience can connect to.
In 2005 Tracy Smith became acquainted with the composer Ying-Chen Kao while studying at the Peabody Institute. The album's liner notes remark that Ying-Chen's compositions, with their "passion and rhythmic energy", sparked the initial interest for collaboration. The liner notes continue…
Smith and Kao looked for a literary inspiration for the music and they settled on Whiman's poem When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd from Leaves of Grass, written on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The poem ends, "lilac and star and bird, twined with the chant of my soul, / There in the fragrant pines, and the cedars dusk and dim." Kao distills the threefold symbol of lilac, star, and bird in to the three movements of her piece, removing them from the context of Lincoln's burial and seeking to evoke them in their natural settings. Thus the irregular rhythms and wide-ranging contours of Lilac describe a gentle wind in a lilac tree and the scents of the afternoon; Star suggests "a distant light that grows and fades" in a play of harmonics and natural sounds; the tremolos, percussion and agitated rhythms of Bird are inspired by the sounds and darting movements of the woodpecker.
The sophistication, originality, and worth of this composition are immediately noted by this performance. The ambitions of this composition have found a voice in the hands of Tracy Smith as she brings to life the range of intended images and sounds. New repertoire is inspiring and refreshing, especially when it as effective as this composition.
Django Reinhardt is a legendary French jazz guitarist and composer who lived and worked from 1910-1953. Roland Dyens is a contemporary classical guitarist, composer, and arranger who adapted Nuages for solo classical guitar. This genre transition is seamless on paper, but the harmonic layering, style, and sheer difficulty of this arrangement make it an immense challenge to perform. Hearing and seeing Tracy Anne Smith perform this work disguises its difficulty and brings a smile to any listener. Her rhythm is impeccable, her swing never breaks the pocket, and style is at a premium. Furthermore, the melody is unfailingly kept in relief to the accompanying harmonic progression. This arrangement and this performance are ineffably cool and is worth the price of purchase alone. Finally, I love that this is the concluding track on the album because it counterbalances the obliquely tonal language of Jacques Hetu and functions as a sort of built in encore piece. Performances like this will be what opens the door to a larger audience for classical music and inevitably enlightens listeners to a wider sense of history, technique, and repertoire.
For further information regarding concert appearances, press material, or purchasing the album consult her webpage. Expand you aural horizons. Knock down the walls of your harmonic environment. Listen this music and set new precedents for the possibilities of the guitar and schemas for what classical music is and who is playing it. You dig?