Welcome to Walter Saul’s New Mobile-Friendly Website!

Photo on 1-12-14 at 9.04 PMWhat a joy and privilege it has been to re-create Walter Saul’s website. This new site is mobile-friendly, and easier to navigate. You can listen to Walter’s music by clicking on an imbedded player, found on the instrumental, vocal, and keyboard music pages. Recently I’ve enjoyed the “Two Gavottes” from Praise the Lord in the Dance, found on the chamber music page. I wonder what treasures you will find? Feel free to let us know through the comments below on each page. Or, if you would like to see some videos which combine Walter Saul’s music with Ann Harwell’s fabric art, take a look at the videos page.

On the front page, you will see recent blogs by Walter Saul. Walter loves to write reviews about his fellow composers. You will also find a music sample from his latest CD, “Sonatas and Meditations.” (Listen to it here.) Copies are available for sale by going to this link.

Don’t forget to check out the recordings page. The players provided by CD Baby help you listen to samples from many compositions. All of these pieces of music are available as entire CD’s, or as individual track downloads through CD Baby. Some of my favorite pieces are the “Tocatta in C” from the Out of Darkness  CD, and the song called “Love is Not All,” from the Songs of Requited Love CD. I’d love to know what your favorites are! Feel free to comment.

Walter’s music is available for sale by visiting his online store. Of course, Walter also loves to write music, and you may contact him at any time if you wish to commission a new piece for your favorite musicians to perform. You can see his commission contract here.

Finally, if you want to hear about our trip to Kiev, where Walter Saul’s orchestra music was recorded and will be released soon as a Naxos CD, you can read this post.

Thanks so much for taking the time to look at Walter Saul’s new website. I hope this helps you find your way around it!

Sincerely,

Daphne Saul (Walter’s wife and webmaster)

 

 

 

Christopher Teichler Review

January 11, 2015

A Setting of The First Noel, by R. Christopher Teichler, Brings Warm Belated Christmas Greetings

I become somewhat of a curmudgeon at Christmastime. It saddens me that much of our musical celebration of this joyous time centers around half a dozen carols that are overexposed while dozens of equally beautiful carols never get sung or played. For me “The First Noel” belongs firmly to the former group, so I postponed listening to R. Christopher Teichler’s stunning setting of this carol until January 7th, which was Christmas Day in Ukraine (I happened to be in Kiev for a week just before our Christmas doing some recording with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine).

Teichler’s recent setting for choir and full orchestra, commissioned by Wheaton College Conservatory of Music for their 2006 Christmas Festival, has achieved several things. It has introduced another and better tune for the terrific lyrics of this carol, it has made the original tune magical in its belated appearance, and it has achieved Teichler’s goal of raising the bar for quality music for the church.

Though the setting starts with fragments of the familiar melody, Teichler wisely waits until the fifth of six stanzas to state the entire tune of “The First Noel,” and introduces us to a new tune that is reminiscent of both the Wexford Carol and Howard Shore’s theme music from The Lord of the Rings. This new tune, with the flexibility of triplets and duples, better underscores the lyrics and, as Teichler states, musically parallels the text in a rich way.

When the original tune appears in the fifth stanza, it is in a gripping yet intimate a cappella setting with rich harmonies that seem inspired by Morten Lauridsen. It is a rare moment for such well-known music to achieve such a new life, but Teichler pulls this off in a masterful and compelling way. Only at the end do we hear the original melody and harmony in a well-prepared climax. Perhaps this was the destiny of this remarkable arrangement to end up, rather than start with the original carol, and, while I found this the weakest moment of this eloquent, ten-minute work, it was a strong “weak moment”! Any Christmas program would be enhanced by this setting.

Yet I would challenge Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and all other entities capable of commissioning new music to do just that, rather than arrangements or fantasies of existing tunes. After all, Psalm 98 encourages us to “sing unto the Lord a new song.” And I would invite Teichler’s next commissioning group to let him go and write completely new music for its members; he has earned the right to be heard on his own terms.

The work may be heard at http://williamvollinger.com/audio/Teichler.mp3

Trip to Kiev, Ukraine

IMG_0513Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year to all from us in Fresno, California. I no longer take this for granted as I sit at home writing to you, for my wife and I have just returned from Kiev, Ukraine, where I have overseen the recording of six of my orchestral works, including the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and a brand-new work, Rhapsody for Oboe and Orchestra (Kiev 2014). Please read more about the project at http://kievorchestralmusicrecording.mydagsite.com/.

Theodore Kuchar, director of the Fresno Philharmonic, directed the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine and James Buswell, from New England Conservatory, joined him and the orchestra to record the Violin Concerto, while Rong-Huey Liu, first oboist of the Fresno Phil, did a magnificent recording with them of Kiev 2014.

For our composer friends at least, I have been tempted to create a guide for projects such as these that I tentatively call Kiev in 500 Easy Steps. Such steps include learning to count higher than four in Ukrainian so you don’t say something like “dva before seventeen,” which brought down the house when I wanted to ascertain where we were in a certain score! But, for now, let’s thank the Lord that we recorded the entire CD in 20 hours as we had planned, that we had a marvelous and safe time in Kiev, right on the Maidan where all the protests and riots have taken place, and that we had safe travel there and back.

Oh, can’t resist one more story now: on the way back, while we were in the Kiev airport very early on Monday, December 22nd, it became clear that the entire AirFrance computer system was down. So they were handwriting boarding passes and luggage tickets for about 300 people! We finally got through security to the gates and went to our own gate where we awaited our seat assignments. The same harried flight attendants who had handwritten the boarding passes came hurriedly to the gate – and checked everyone else onto the plane first, even though we were first in line to get our seats. American missionaries to Kiev next to us started joking about us being on “business class,” and I thought that was too good to pass up! As it turns out, they were prophetic, and we did end up in business class for the three-hour flight to Paris! Daphne’s luggage didn’t fare so well; it went missing in Salt Lake City at customs. A week later, right after I filed the lost baggage claim, and right when the Fresno baggage attendant said it would, the bag showed up on our front porch. I wish it would share its travels with us; that would be a fine blog, indeed!

Betty Wishart Sonata 2 and David Canfield Sonata 2

Thursday, July 03, 2014

What is it about second piano sonatas? We see a very different Brahms and Schumann between their first and second sonatas. Schumann labored over his Second for seven years, whereas Brahms actually composed his Second previous to the first, but thought the first better.

In our own time, three composers have presented their second piano sonatas to the world. Sonata II by Betty Wishart has a marvelous opening movement, pregnant with possibilities. I hear the romance and modernism combination of Samuel Barber with a bit of Bartok thrown in, hence, I relish this captivating exploration of questions from the depth of the human spirit, which I also endeavored to do in my own Sonata No. 2 for piano.

The Capriccio is most welcome, as the energy of the harmonic language is soaked up into a rhythmic drive and the music becomes tonal, centering on D Minor. It most certainly does not wear out its welcome, and I would enjoy hearing more of this movement.

The third movement seems to be a distillation of the entire sonata, with a slow introduction shifting gears into a tumultuous Vivace. But a reversal occurs here: the slow introduction is the tonal section, whereas this closing Vivace is more harmonically adventurous as well; a fine complement to the opening two movements.

Wishart asks us to decide whether the Sonata II concludes with angst or joy and hints, through the closing G major chord, that it might be joy. All well and good, but an interesting conversation might ensue: are tonal harmony and/or major triads essential to depicting joy in music? Perhaps the postmodernistic environment finds this to be the case, but I would say that some of the most joyous moments in music are the dissonant, atonal, modernistic ones. Maybe that’s just the modernist in me protesting. Wishart’s Sonata II is a compelling work, and worthy of listening and performance. A fine performance by Jesse Davis, pianist, may be heard at http://williamvollinger.com/audio/Wishart.mp3 and the score may be viewed at http://williamvollinger.com/pdf/Wishart.pdf .

I have long admired the many excellent works of David Canfield, including dozens of magnificent chamber sonatas, particularly the sonatas for violin and piano. So it is with joy I anticipate the release of a new CD featuring Canfield’s Piano Sonata No. 2. on the Enharmonic label. Cast in four movements, this work opens with a whirling dervish reminiscent of the finale of Chopin’s Bb minor Sonata (also his second), and then, like Witold Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra, continues with an even faster second movement! The third movement comes off as the slow movement but in an elegant intermezzo; it is also the most tonal movement of this thoroughly modernistic piece. The finale begins pointillistically and gradually the “points” approach each other as it goes through times of stride bass and a powerful accelerando leading to a breathtaking close.

The entire work is a tour de force for the exceptional pianist necessary to perform it, and seems disquieting, with some sparks of anger in the opening and closing movements, balanced well with the wit and humor of the inner movements.

In its journey through many moods and struggles, Canfield’s second piano sonata reminds me of my own, now available on the new CD Walter Saul: Sonatas and Meditations for Piano. Cast in two movements, my Piano Sonata #2 (1981) could be summed up as my cry for help followed by the Lord’s response. I have never matched the violence of the first movement and its passionate outbursts in the 33 years since I wrote it, and it is barely restrained by its sonata-allegro form. It is answered by a mostly quiet five-part rondo unabashedly in B Major, but with many atonal surprises here and there, depicting the surprises of the Lord’s leading in my life. Interestingly, it follows the first sonata by eleven years.

Each of these second piano sonatas is distinctly personal, taking the listener into deep spiritual realms of their composers. Let’s celebrate and anticipate the releases of these fine works.

Garrett Hope — Piano Quartet 1

Thursday, January 09, 2014
Happy New Year and a glorious Epiphany to all! I would like to invite you to the CD release concert for Walter Saul: Sonatas and Meditations for Piano in the McDonald Hall Atrium of Fresno Pacific University, 1717 S. Chestnut Avenue, in Fresno, California. The recital takes place Friday, January 24, 2014, at 7:30 PM. More information is available at http://events.fresno.edu/events/2014-01-25-033000/pacific-artist-series-3-walter-saul. If you would like to order a CD, they are priced at $15 including postage and tax, payable through PayPal or by check. Simply e-mail us at daphne@waltersaul.com for more information.

Congratulations to Garrett Hope on his Piano Quartet 1 (2010) presented beautifully by the Garth Newell Piano Quartet in the Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers’ Listening Page 109. The opening movement, written for a student ensemble, exhibits shades of minimalism, which I normally struggle with, but Hope pulls it off in exuberance and energy and woos performers and audience alike. The second movement, “Passacaglia,” admirably sets the stage for “Rachel’s Wound,” a poignant reflection on the pain of infertility. The finale recalls the energy of the first movement in combination with the darker moods of the two slow movements. There are many fine moments of pentatonic scales in combination with Hindemith-like quartal and quintal chords, though the piece ends quietly and enigmatically on a dominant 13th chord. Well worth listening to at: http://www.cfamc.org/listening_pages/109-Hope.html.

2013 CD Release

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Just a short note to let everyone know that I have just released a new CD of my works through Enharmonic Records: Walter Saul: Sonatas and Meditations for Piano. This CD includes my previously unrecorded Sonatas #1, 2, 4, and 5, along with three meditations: On the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus, Palingenesia, and For God Alone My Soul Waits in Silence. The CD jacket notes describe my own faith journey with Jesus Christ in detail through these works which range from Sonata #1 (written when I was 15) to Palingenesia (2009). The CD’s are priced at $15 including postage and tax, payable through PayPal. Simply e-mail us through this website at daphne@waltersaul.com for more information.