Stanley Grill: What My Grandfather Taught Me, from Ahimsa – Marek Stilec conducting the Czech Chamber Philharmonic, Pardubice – 2022
I confess to not being familiar with the music of Stanley Grill. Not that I am avoiding music from the current crop of composers, but that I’ve been so focused on what we may have missed during the later years of the 20th century that I’ve scarcely noticed the 21st. My fault and I hope to rectify that over the coming months.
Listening to Ahisma, a piece with four movements, I was struck by the powerful simplicity and serenity of the piece. How, perhaps, we’ve entered a time where modern music is moving toward a contemplative state – where overblown heroics and cinematic tirades are falling out of vogue and being replaced by works of a deeper philosophical and spiritual nature. It would be nice.
I have come to realize that everyone hears the same piece of music differently. Grill’s music brings sweeping panoramas and pastoral landscapes to mind, much the same as Roy Harris or Alan Hovhaness. But I don’t want to draw outright comparisons because that immediately sets up an expectation and, in a weird way, shuts the door to other possibilities. I only bring up those two composers because their music evokes the same serene nature. I come away from their music moved, and I have come away from the music of Stanley Grill moved as well.
Some information about Stanley Grill – I will let his bio speak for itself:
Raised in the Bronx, Stan has been obsessed with music since the age of six, when his mother took him to Carnegie Hall and he was astonished and awestruck by a performance of “La Mer.” While that obsession first took the form of playing piano at every possible moment (when not otherwise engaged in activities typical of a kid growing up in the Bronx of the 1950s and ‘60s), it was Stan’s music theory studies at the Manhattan School of Music that converted that obsession to writing music – and to finding his own musical voice.
He learned the craft from extraordinary musicians: among others – Robert Helps, Leon Kushner, Ursula Mamlok and Joseph Prostakoff. Stan’s passion for medieval and Renaissance music has greatly influenced his writing – a contemporary expression of ageless techniques based on melody, modal harmonies, and contrapuntal, extended, interweaving lines. Two main themes permeate many of his works – music composed in an attempt to translate something about the nature of the physical world, and music composed to inspire and promote world peace.
Stan’s music has been performed the world over – from Ecuador to Poland; Toulouse to Tokyo; Brooklyn to Vienna – by such artists as Camerata Philadelphia, Camerata Arkos, Englewinds, the Pandolfis Consort, the Bronx Arts Ensemble, One World Symphony, violists Brett Deubner and Ralph Farris, and violinist Jorge Avila. Major works include three symphonies, ten string quartets, a nonet, concerti for violin, viola and cello, and numerous song cycles for voice and various instruments.
Stan’s discography includes “Und das Lied bleibt schön” with Pandofis Consort, “Transfiguration” with violist Brett Debuner, “Remember” with violist Brett Deubner and pianist Thomas Steigerwald, “Afterwards…” and “and I paint stars with wings” with Camerata Philadelphia, “Rustling Flights of Wings” with soprano Nancy Allen Lundy, pianist Stephen Gosling and violinist Ralph Farris and “At the Center of All Things” with music performed by the Diderot String Quartet.
I hope this whets a few appetites and stimulates curiosities for more. He does have a website which features much of his other music – he is quite prolific, and that’s a good sign.
In any event – enjoy What My Grandfather Taught Me from Ahisma with The Czech Chamber Philharmonic, Pardubice conducted by Marek Stilec from earlier this year and be on the lookout for more.
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