Release Date: November 13, 2020
Catalog #: RR8045
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century
Solo Instrumental
Piano

Moods

Betty Wishart composer

Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi piano

Betty Wishart and Ravello Records present her latest album: MOODS, featuring her compositions for solo piano as performed by Jeri-Mae Astolfi. These impressionistic pieces, sparked by a swath of concrete and abstract inspirations, explore the full range of timbral textures and colors the piano offers.

MOODS follows up Wishart’s 2016 premiere solo album, PIANO SONORITIES, which also featured the Canadian-born pianist Jeri-Mae Astolfi. This new album opens with an imaginative rumination on the sounds of rain and thunder. In Phantasmagoria, Wishart employs both atonality and tonality to depict anxious sleeplessness, which is eventually eased into peaceful repose as the storm subsides. Variations on Shenandoah, as the name suggests, explores a series of variations on the famous folk tune. We hear the melody reharmonized, reimagined, and even catch a retrograde variation.

Preludes: In Memoriam is another innovative piece; each prelude recalls a historic cultural or political figure and their characteristics. The music embodies the unique personalities of people like Audrey Hepburn, Amelia Earhart, Winston Churchill, and more. Vibes is a surreal and abstract piece. Broken into three movements, the composer borrows from jazz and other styles to recreate her observations of a peaceful day at New York’s Central Park. The album concludes with Illusions. This piece uses dynamics, phrasing, tone decay, pedal techniques, and more to conjure an array of strange and wonderful sonorities. Wishart recalls waking in the dead of night to scrawl down this composition from beginning to end without revision. This raw prolific power permeates MOODS.

MOODS offers listeners an opportunity to reconsider what is possible when it comes to solo piano music. Each piece simultaneously challenges the hearer while also inviting him or her to a higher perceptive plane—if they choose to accept the invitation, they are richly rewarded. Evocative and highly inventive, this latest release from Wishart makes a powerful artistic statement and will no doubt prefigure even more midnight compositions to come.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Phantasmagoria Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 6:10
02 Atmospheres: No. 1, Apprehensive Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 1:31
03 Atmospheres: No. 2, Frustrated Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 1:03
04 Atmospheres: No. 3, Self-Confident Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 0:37
05 Atmospheres: No. 4, Tranquil Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 0:58
06 Variations on Shenandoah Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 5:27
07 Preludes "In Memoriam": No. 1, Audrey Hepburn Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 2:49
08 Preludes "In Memoriam": No. 2, Amelia Earhart Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 2:06
09 Preludes "In Memoriam": No. 3, Winston Churchill Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 1:58
10 Preludes "In Memoriam": No. 4, Jane Austen Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 1:43
11 Preludes "In Memoriam": No. 5, Henry David Thoreau Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 2:13
12 Preludes "In Memoriam": No. 6, Lewis & Clark Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 2:53
13 Preludes "In Memoriam": No. 7, Sylvia Plath Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 2:02
14 Preludes "In Memoriam": No. 8, Anna Pavlova Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 1:36
15 Divertissement Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 4:06
16 Vibes: No. 1, Blue Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 1:24
17 Vibes: No. 2, Quiescent Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 2:02
18 Vibes: No. 3, Ebullient Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 1:06
19 Celebration Prelude Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 7:33
20 Illusions: No. 1, Clouded Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 0:42
21 Illusions: No. 2, Restless Time Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 1:08
22 Illusions: No. 3, Interplanetary Visit Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 0:41
23 Illusions: No. 4, Goodbye (À demain) Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 0:43
24 Illusions: No. 5, Dawn Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 1:23
25 Illusions: No. 6, The End Betty R. Wishart Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi, piano 0:48

All tracks recorded April 18-19, 2020 at Piedmont College Conservatory of Music Concert Hall

Piano Steinway D
Recording Engineer Byargeon Media
Piano Technician Jonathan W. Edwards

This recording was made possible with a Regional Artist Project Support Grant from the Arts Council of Fayetteville and Cumberland County.

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Danielle Lewis

VP, Audio Production Jeff LeRoy
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Mastering Shaun Michaud

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Betty R. Wishart

Composer

Betty R. Wishart and music are synonymous. Her earliest memories involve singing in church choirs and playing the piano. She was introduced to contemporary music while studying with Richard Bunger at Queens University. At the end of her junior year, she wrote her first composition, submitted it to a music fraternity and was invited to perform a mini-recital of her music at their international conference. That event inspired her to continue composing while earning an M.M. degree in piano performance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While pursuing further study in piano and composition in New York City, she accepted and won a challenge from a writer to see who could get published first.

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Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi

Pianist

Jeri-­Mae G. Astolfi is a Canadian-­born pianist whose playing has been lauded as “brilliant” (New Music Connoisseur), “persuasive” (Sequenza21), and “beautiful” (American Record Guide). Her repertoire, ranging from the Renaissance era through the present, clearly affirms her keen interest in new music, which has led her to commission and premiere many new solo and collaborative works—music that has been featured on live radio broadcasts and released by Albany Records, Innova Recordings, Ravello Records’ Capstone Collection, Ravello Records, as well as various recordings for the Society  of Composers Inc. Performers Recording Series.

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Notes

Rain and thunder ignite my imagination. I hear a clarion call to action, not sleep. Fleeting fragments of sound bites create a cinematic kaleidoscope. Beginning with the fortississimo two against three, the kaleidoscope encompasses the full range of the keyboard and strings of the piano as I travel through atonality and tonality. As the storm subsides, I relax. The lyrical wind eases me into a restful sleep.

— Betty Wishart

I find it easier to express my emotions with music instead of words.

— Betty Wishart

Variations On Shenandoah was commissioned by Nancy Bogen for the video Of Wandering Forever. Although the variations occasionally include the entire melody, most only include a section of the song. If you listen carefully, you will only hear the melody of the word “Shenandoah” repeated. It will be easy to silently sing along with the music at times whereas it will be a challenge to follow other variations. (Hint: The first variation is in retrograde.)

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you,
Look away, you rollin’ river.
Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you.
Away, we’re bound away
‘cross the wide Missouri.

— Betty Wishart

Prelude 1. Audrey Hepburn – elegant; classic; nostalgic
Prelude 2. Amelia Earhart – flowing; flying; whimsical
Prelude 3. Winston Churchill – solid; stoic yet compassionate; emotions are buried deep
Prelude 4. Jane Austen – restrained passion that occasionally bursts through
Prelude 5. Henry David Thoreau – introspective; contemplative
Prelude 6. Lewis & Clark – seeking; questioning; unsettled
Prelude 7. Sylvia Plath – poetic; passionate; troubled
Prelude 8. Anna Pavlova – graceful; disciplined; poetic

— Betty Wishart

After Nancy Bogen commissioned me to write variations on this folk tune, I discovered that it was used as a victory song in World War II. In a Warner Bros. cartoon, Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny sing “O Susanna, don’t you cry for me. I’m gonna dig up lots of gold, ‘V’ for Victory.”

— Betty Wishart

Blue – While sitting beside the Boat Pond at Central Park, I listen to a guitarist entertaining tourists.

Quiescence – On a peaceful walk through Central Park, I appreciate the beauty of nature.

Ebullience – The archaic definition of “boiling” aptly describes this piece. Rapid triplets and chromaticism, with only a moment of rest, create fire on the keys.

— Betty Wishart

This piece was commissioned by Margaret Mills for the celebration of her birthday. The opening is large and slowly paced, with persistent use of deep bass octaves and treble chords, along with fortissimo, to produce a striking announcement of grandeur. After the impressive opening, the music shifts into a segment that draws on sounds from American Blues with the addition of polyrhythms.

The music becomes more dissonant, the mood more introspective and serious. A new section emerges that is more mysterious and unsettling. This mood yields to another contrasting expression that is more serene. The underlying major and minor harmonies, peppered with “blue notes,” evoke a jazz flavor.

A suddenly chromatic transition leads to a much more dissonant section that retains folk-like melodic fragments. The mood is contemplative, getting away from the charm and peacefulness of the folk song. The dissonance intensifies, along with increasingly complex rhythms as the music comes into the final section. “Blue notes” are intensified with strong dissonances and a persistent triplet rhythm, conveying a driving excitement as well as a feeling of agitation. The melodic shaping in this final section moves up and down considerably. The final measures slow the rhythm and return to the chordal sonority of the opening.

Celebration Prelude takes us through a wide range of emotional expressions: grandeur, serenity, mystery, reflection and excitement. It is not only a celebration for a person, but also of music and of life.

— Richard McKee

Let your imagination take over as you listen to Illusions. Dynamics, phrasing, tone decay, pedaled staccatos, and half pedals create a variety of sonorities in this miniature suite.

I wrote Illusions after learning that my piano professor would not be returning the following year. Awaking in the middle of the night, I wrote the piece from beginning to end without a single erasure. Although I heard the music in my head, I did not play it until the next afternoon.*

This piece began my interest in composition.

*I utilized the extra notes of the Bosendorfer piano in Restless Time and Dawn. The notes were changed for performance on a Steinway.

— Betty Wishart