About this Recording
8.559856 - OAKLEY, G.: Chamber Works - Toccata / Cello Sonata / Remembrance (Wanderer) (O'Connell, Rist, Ramishvili, Kashakashvili, Gadeliya, Mikeladze)

George Oakley (b. 1979)
Wanderer: Chamber Works


Toccata (2008)

This was my first published work after a year-long break from composition. It was written in 2008 and premiered by pianist Inga Kashakashvili at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall in 2009. It is a virtuosic piece that combines both classical and jazz elements.

Sonata for Cello and Piano (2013)

This composition was commissioned by my dear friend, James Carlson, and is dedicated to his son Dylan. It is program music written in three movements and inspired by a poem by James Carlson. The work was completed in 2013 and premiered the following year at Merkin Concert Hall in the Kaufman Music Center by cellist Jay Campbell and pianist Inga Kashakashvili.

The first movement begins in a state of struggle and doubt, with the theme introduced by solo cello representing the main character. After the opening, the music plunges into an intense chromaticism with technical and rhythmical challenges that create a sense of struggle. The movement ends dramatically, leaving the problem unresolved.

The second movement, Prayer, seeks resolution. It took me a while to find the right musical language to express the underlying emotion. Inspiration came to me on hearing a recording of Orthodox Christian church bells; this idea also became the basis for the next movement.

Writing the third movement was in some ways easy, because I knew that it would be cheerful and victorious. Nonetheless, there was the usual challenge of expressing “happy” emotions without being superficial.

The poem:

The sun’s face—no longer
Only cold, and cold foreboding
Of joy’s destruction, of struggle
Against a future dark and silent.

Then, the pure tone of a gong,
The sound of ancient chants,
Incantations of hope,
Armor against despair.

A dream no doubt, a trick
Played by the suffering soul.
Or magic that cannot work,
An illusion.

When day comes, it is gone,
Like a half-forgotten fevered night.
There was cold, but no sense of foreboding,
Was it illusion dispelled, prayers answered?
I shall not know.

James Carlson

Four Songs on Shakespeare Sonnets (2011)

I completed this cycle of songs in 2011 for a premiere at Weill Recital Hall. It was commissioned by soprano Nika Leoni, who suggested Shakespeare’s Sonnets as lyrics. I welcomed this idea, as I had always been inspired by Shakespeare’s works and their deep philosophy. To me, as a non-native English speaker, the special challenge was to work with Shakespeare’s original language, which I have always admired.

An important task was to select the poems that would resonate with my own melodic style, and which had an abundance of vowels that could be used for singing through long musical phrases. I chose the four sonnets—101, 111, 116 and 56—so as to contrast with one another, both thematically and emotionally, and thereby to create more colourful and stylistically diverse music. Finally, I drew inspiration for my writing style from the musical language of Shakespeare’s era, so that each song would somehow become a bridge connecting the Renaissance with modernity.

Remembrance (2014)

This piece is written for Anton Rist, currently principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, who premiered it at Merkin Concert Hall in the Kaufman Music Center in 2014. It is composed in one movement with three sections. The first section, Daydream, is very slow music, written in the manner of a five-part fugue. The main theme is a descending scale in A major that depicts a journey into the past. The second section, Dream, enters suddenly without preparation. The music is fast and chromatic with no central key. The third section, Awakening, mirrors the beginning and is based on a similar texture. However, the original theme appears only at the very end, in some way representing the awakening from sleep.

Sonata-Fantasia (2010)

This single-movement work for solo piano was written in September of 2010. As a concert pianist myself, I was always interested in creating a substantial work for piano solo that would demonstrate the variety of technical possibilities of the instrument. This music became my personal response to a life conflict for which I was trying to find an answer through musical composition. Nonetheless, the piece ends with the expectation of finding the answer in my following works. The musical material represents two contrasting characters that interact with each other throughout the compositions. It uses elements of Georgian folk music in combination with the musical language of the Classical-Romantic tradition.

George Oakley

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