About this Recording
8.559349 - HUTTER, G.: Orchestral and Solo Piano Works

Gregory Hutter (b.1971)
Electric Traction • Fantasy Pieces • Still Life
Skyscrapers • The Melancholy Rags, Book 1


Electric Traction (2002) is the second installment of a trilogy of urban-inspired symphonic works, which was preceded by Skyscrapers (2001), and followed by Urban Collision (2003). The work was inspired by my frequent travels from Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana via the Chicago South Shore Line — which actually holds a unique title in American railroad history as the last surviving electric interurban commuter railway left in the United States. The 88-mile line runs from Chicago's bustling loop, through the Northern Indiana industrial complex, to South Bend, Indiana. Train sounds are to some degree depicted musically, but they are certainly not the only basis for composition. The essence of pastoral and urban settings is also suggested; rolling sand dunes and prairie landscapes are juxtaposed with the more mechanical "urban" imagery of steels mills and towering skyscrapers.

The five Fantasy Pieces (2001) are manifestations of the piano in its sundry traditions. The Prelude is a response to the instrument's mechanical side and timbral possibilities; the Free Invention is a wild study in twopart counterpoint; the Intermezzo contains many dense harmonic textures; the Passacaglia is a demonstration of pianistic virtuosity, and the Postlude explores the instrument's resonance and acoustical properties.

Still Life (2004) is based on the concept of a still life painting in which a group of objects are brought together for their pleasing contrasts of shape, color and texture. This work employs traditional harmonic and melodic techniques throughout: elements of the Baroque passacaglia and chaconne are juxtaposed with lush "impressionistic" textures to achieve the contrasts mentioned above.

Skyscrapers was inspired by the architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. His steel and glass structures, and the influence he had on future generations of architects, forever changed the face of city landscapes around the world. In composing Skyscrapers, it was my intention to create an orchestral work that would reflect these urban corporate trophies. For this, I treated the orchestra on a large scale, much like the buildings themselves. Perhaps this work does not always reflect van der Rohe's philosophy of "less is more" as the music is often very angular, always highly charged with energy, and filled with mechanical imagery.

My interest in composing piano rags began while I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. This interest was in no small part due to my exposure to the composers William Bolcom and William Albright. The three rags that appear on this recording are from my Melancholy Rags series (2000), which is a collection of 12 rags in minor keys. Moonlight in the Duneland is dedicated to one of my first composition teachers, C. Curtis-Smith. The Farewell Rag was composed shortly after the passing of William Albright. The title of the third rag, The Redline Shuffle, refers to the Chicago Transit Authority's "Redline" elevated train.

Gregory Hutter


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