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CHAN 10513
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CHAN 10513

Hartke: Horse with the Lavender Eye/ Sonata/King of the Sun

The Classical Shop
release date: February 2009

Originally recorded in 2008


Richard Faria


Xak Bjerken


Ellen Jewett


Michi Wiancko


Los Angeles Piano Quartet


Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, State University of New York


Xak Bjerken

Joel Gordon


Joel Gordon

Record Label




Total Time - 63:14
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(b. 1952)
premiere recording

The Horse with the Lavender Eye (1997)

  Episodes for Violin, Clarinet and Piano  
1 I Music of the Left. Left-handed 2:23
2 II The Servant of Two Masters. Quite manic 4:22
3 III Waltzing at the Abyss. Gingerly, but always moving along 3:58
4 IV Cancel My Rumba Lesson. Two Left Feet 6:32
 Ellen Jewett violin
premiere recording

Selections from 'Post-modern Homages' (1984-92)

  for Piano  
5 Sonatina-Fantasia (1987). Giubilante 3:45
6 Gymnopédie No. 4 (1984). Suave 3:06
7 Template (1985). Presto 3:12



Estudo-Scherzo (1902). Presto-leggiero

  in B flat minor - in b-Moll - en si bémol mineur  

Sonatina DCXL (1991). Boppin' along




Sonata (1997-98)

  for Piano  
10 I Prelude. Massive – 3:00
11 II Scherzo. Epicycles, Tap-dancing, and a Soft Shoe. Deft and lively – 6:09
12 III Postlude. Floating 4:03

The King of the Sun (1988)

  Tableaux for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano  
13 I Personage in the night guided by the phosphorescent tracks of snails. Stealthily 2:17
14 II Dutch interior. Phantasmagorical 3:08
15 III Dancer listening to the organ in a Gothic cathedral. Granitic 5:45
16 Interlude. Tempo of Movement I 0:54
17 IV The flames of the sun make the desert flower hysterical. Fiery 3:36
18 V Personages and birds rejoicing at the arrival of night. Quietly energetic, with an air of innocence 4:15
 Michi Wiancko violin
New York Times: ‘If constructing organic structures is one challenge facing today’s composer, finding a distinctive musical voice is another. Stephen Hartke has one… Authenticity is a difficult quality to account for, but Hartke’s music is guileless and affecting.’

Stephen Hartke is widely recognised as one of the leading composers of his generation, whose work has been hailed for both its singularity and the inclusive breadth of its inspiration. The result is an individual musical voice – one of melody with colour, reflecting two great individualists, Bartók and Messiaen, and an affection for non- Western music. In addition, his openness to a blend of the abstract and the sacred, and his disregard for the boundaries between high and low art, is heard in his varied output. This collection offers the listener different sides to Hartke’s chamber music composition performed by America’s premier piano quartet, the Los Angeles Piano Quartet.

The surreal trio The Horse with the Lavender Eye of 1997 here receives is premiere recording. It counts amongst its bewildering array of inspirations a play by Carlo Goldoni, Japanese court music, the cartoons of Robert Crumb, and Looney Tunes. Hartke explains: ‘All the movements have to do in one way or another with a sense of being offbalance – playing music with only one side of the body; being caught between insistent and conflicting demands… nonetheless, in the very end, a sense of calm and equilibrium comes to prevail.’

Four selections from Post-Modern Homages for solo piano also receive their premiere recording. Despite the title they were not written as a set, and thus the piano writing is very different in each piece, but they share a common feature: each was composed for a friend, and each transforms aspects of an existing piece of music; for example, Gymnopédie No. 4 evokes Erik Satie. Hartke’s other major work for solo piano is the vivid Sonata for Piano, cast in three movements, the central movement having a muscularity and elegant ease that bring to mind the dancing of Gene Kelly.

The final work is The King of the Sun, written for the Los Angeles Piano Quartet. Inspired by paintings by Miró, the work is full of good humour. The New York Times said of the work, ‘Here and there, one could hear intimations of composers as diverse as Olivier Messiaen and Steve Reich, and idioms as far afield as gospel and jazz. Yet the writing sounded coherent and vigorously expressive, not afraid of dissonance but not obsessed with chromatic fragmentation, either.’

“With each encounter, I’m taken with the sparkle and virtuosity, the rhythmic vitality, melodic invention and overall alertness of Hartke’s music. There’s the sense that the Los Angeles-based composer has taken a thousand influences, everything from Japanese court music to Stravinsky, tossed them into a blast furnace and melted down to something essential and unique. The performances here, by the Los angeles Piano Quintet, clarinettist Richard Faria, violinist Ellen Jewett and pianist Xak Bjerken are exceptional; they breathe music.”

Richard Scheinin


San Jose Marcury News - 1 January 2010

This outstanding performance by the Los Angeles Piano Quartet of an outstanding work seals a never-less-than-fascinating survey of Hartke’s chamber music.
International Record Review

K Bowker