William Mayer, contemporary classical composer


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Voices from Lost Realms CD
Order online from Albany Records or from Amazon, ArkivMusic, etc.

Voices from Lost Realms
Gerard Schwarz conducts “Inner and Outer Strings,” one of eleven compositions on this all-Mayer disc. Other works include “Abandoned Bells” for piano (Steven Mayer) and excerpts from “A Death in the Family.”
~ Albany Records (1992)
~ Learn more about this recording   ~ Listen to excerpts

“... touching, mesmerizing music. All the performances are praiseworthy, as are the recordings. ... This is a lovely disc; just sit back in your rocking chair and enjoy it.”¯ Fanfare

William Mayer CD
Order online from New World Records or from Amazon, ArkivMusic, etc.

William Mayer
Eight instrumental and vocal works by Mayer: The Eve of St. Agnes for four soloists, chorus and orchestra (Gregg Smith); Dream’s End for mixed sextet (members of St. Paul Chamber Orchestra); Miniatures for soprano and six players; Brass Quintet, etc.
~ New World-CRI (2007)
~ Learn more about this recording   ~ Listen to excerpts

“This instrumental sextet [Dream’s End] was written to memorialize a young family member, and its blend of pain, joy and acceptance is very moving.”¯ — John Rockwell, New York Times

“The Brass Quintet is a very spunky piece that spits in your face the instant you put it on.”¯ — Edward Canby, Audio

A Death in the Family CD
Order online from Albany Records or from Amazon, ArkivMusic, etc.

A Death in the Family
The Manhattan School of Music performs William Mayer’s prize-winning opera based on two classics: James Agee’s A Death in the Family and Tad Mosel’s All the Way Home.
~ Albany Records (2000)
~ Learn more about this opera   ~ Listen to excerpts (located on “Voices from Lost Realms” CD)

“Mayer has struck a fine balance between the ordinary and the rare, between colloquial prose and high poetry, between fantasy and reality, between humor and tragedy, between folk material and ‘classical’ material ... When I first heard this recording I found it difficult to take notes or even to listen to the work objectively. I was surprised to find my eyes welling up with tears at the ineffable beauty of the wedding of text and music.”¯ — Charles Parsons, American Record Guide

William Mayer CD
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William Mayer / Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
Mayer: Two Pastels; Andante for Strings
Minnesota Orchestra, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, conductor
~ Phoenix (1991)
~ Listen to excerpts

“Mayer’s Andante for Strings would make an excellent alternative to Samuel Barber’s oft recorded Adagio. This is the work on the disc that I most often return to, finding it more affecting with every hearing.”¯
   — Scott Wheeler, Fanfare

William Mayer CD
Order online from New World Records or from Amazon, ArkivMusic, etc.

William Masselos plays Mayer and Rudhyar
“Recording of Special Merit” — Stereo Review
Mayer: Octagon for piano and orchestra (1971);
Piano Sonata
~ New World-CRI (2007)
~ Learn more about this recording   ~ Listen to excerpts

“Mayer’s Octagon is a superbly crafted, powerful work for piano and orchestra.”¯ — Karl Miller, American Record Guide

“I love Octagon. It’s original, beautiful, very serious and makes marvelous sounds.”¯ — Ned Rorem

“... a gorgeous aural splash.”¯ — David Hall, Stereo Review

William Mayer CD
Order online from Amazon or ArkivMusic, or by mail from Newport Classic, 11 Willow St., Newport, RI 02840

Distant Playing Fields
20th Century Vocal Chamber Works by Amy Beach & William Mayer
Mary Callahan, Angelina Reaux, sopranos; Robert Guarino, Christopher Pfund, tenor; Charles Neidich, clarinet, Christopher Oldfather, piano; Gregg Smith Singers; St. Luke’s Chamber Players
~ Newport Classic (1997)

“... a very listenable program that will make you think as well as enjoy.”¯
   — D. Moore, American Record Guide

About Enter Ariel for soprano, clarinet and piano: “... an eloquent, imagist song cycle.”¯ — Tim Page, New York Times

William Mayer CD
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Bobby Burns
Music celebrating the Poetry of Robert Burns
Robert De Cormier conducts Mayer’s “Ae Fond Kiss” for chorus, flute, cello and piano.
~ Arabesque Recordings (1998)
~ Listen to excerpt

Composer’s notes: “Robert Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss’ (One More Kiss) appears to be biographical—a poem of love and farewell to a married woman (‘Clarinda’) with whom Burns had been involved. The farewell marks their last meeting before she sails to the West Indies to rejoin her husband.
   “I have tried to evoke the vain hope of staving off an irreversible parting, the need to have just one more kiss (and another).”

William Mayer CD
Order online from New World Records or from Amazon, etc.

Childhood Memories: Music for Younger Pianists
Mayer: Subway in the Sunshine and Other Memories
Şahan Arzruni, piano
~ New World Records (2002)
~ Listen to excerpts

“Mayer’s wit provokes our immediate response in colorful and originally phrased pieces such as ‘Rude Bird,’ ‘The Stream That Knew Sadness’ and ‘Subway in the Sunlight’—just a few of the titles that help capture the changing moods of this enchanting volume.”¯ Piano Journal

“I like the brash rhythms and urban zest.”¯ — Jed Distler, Classics Today

William Mayer CD
Order online from North South Recordings, Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Traveling West
Mayer: Messages for flute, string trio and percussion
Lisa Hansen, flute/piccolo; North/South Consonance Ensemble (Max Lifchitz, conductor)
~ North South Recordings (2004)
~ Listen to excerpts

“The recording emphasizes the fun side of Mayer’s writing ... before a haunting homage to Ravel rounds off a work of real imaginative scope ... Slivers of humor light up this piece.”¯ — Colin Clarke, Fanfare

“... inventive and exciting.”¯ — Michael Manning, Boston Globe

William Mayer CD
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DreamScape: Lullabies from Around the World
Mayer: Zoom-bah
Heidi Grant Murphy with Auréole (flute, viola and harp)
~ Koch (1999)
~ Listen to excerpts

“This is not child’s play, but a sophisticated collection of lullabies, both traditional and new, composed and arranged by some of the best composers working today ... The Greek lullaby of George Tsontakis and Williiam Mayer’s enchanting ‘Zoom-bah’ are but [two] of the wonderful selections on this unusual and enchanting recording. The musicians of Aureole and the angelic voice of Heidi Grant Murphy cooperate beautifully to create a compelling recording.”¯ — One of eight five-star reviews received by Amazon

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Brief Candle (Milton Feist)
Three-act opera in six minutes
Princeton Chamber Chorus and Orchestra (Harsanyi)
~ Desto
~ Listen to excerpt

“It was an evening of short, contemporary operas, and the shortest, ‘Brief Candle,’ was the best.”¯
   — Ainslee Cox, Music Journal

Program note: ‘Brief Candle’ is a satiric micro-opera, believed to be the shortest three-act opera ever written. Its wry libretto by Milton Feist has a mime hurtling through infancy, marriage and death at breakneck speed with a coda condensing all three of these states into ten seconds. Lukas Foss and the Brooklyn Philharmonic combined with the Center for Contemporary Music to give ‘Brief Candle’ its New York premiere at Cooper Union Hall in 1985.

William Mayer CD
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Summer Glints
Chamber Work (2002) in three movements for flute, oboe, string quartet, harpsichord and countertenor
The Queen's Chamber Band (Elaine Comparone, director)
~ private recording
~ Listen to excerpts (second and third movements)

“Mr. Mayer has provided us with a work of great originality ... the shifting colors of his instrumental writing convey the sensuous beauty of late summer.”¯ — Elaine Comparone, Director of the commissioning group: The Queen’s Chamber Band

William Mayer CD
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Jam Session
Mayer: Yankee Doodle Fanfare
The Boehm Quintette
American Winds, Volume Two
~ Premier Recordings (1994)
~ Listen to excerpt

“... provocative and humorous ... William Mayer cleverly combines the melodies of ‘Yankee Doodle Fanfare,’ ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ and ‘Dixie’ ... The interest lies not only in the interlacing, but in the rhythmic and dynamic elements as well.”¯ International Trumpet Guild Journal

William Mayer LP

Siegmeister/Mayer LP
Mayer: Overture for an American (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Russell Stanger, conductor)

Program note: The “American” in Overture for an American is Theodore Roosevelt. The composition was commissioned for the President’s Centennial (1958).

Two Historical Recordings:

William Mayer LP

Eleanor Roosevelt narrates Hello, World! (Mayer and Otto)
Also The Greatest Sound Around
The Little Orchestra Society (Thomas Scherman, conductor)
~ RCA Victor (1959)

William Mayer LP

Burl Ives sings Bongo and His Baboon Drum (Mayer and Otto)
from the album “Capt. Burl Ives’ Ark”
~ Decca
~ Listen to excerpt

A baboon swallows Bongo’s drum. Bongo is devastated at losing his drum and weeps bitter tears. The baboon, chagrined at what he has done, lies down (stomach upwards) and offers to be Bongo’s drum instead.

audio Listen to excerpts
from many of these recordings

“The revelation is ‘Inner and Outer Strings,’ which juxtaposes the throbbing warmth of a string quartet with the indifferent chilliness of a string orchestra — a metaphor for life in the ongoing American wilderness, if there ever was one.”
   New York Observer

“The poetry of The Eve of St. Agnes is evocative, romantic, ethereal and sensuous. The composer manages to convey all these moods—especially the romantic.”¯
   — Gregg Smith, conductor

“Mayer’s music is warm and expressive.”¯
   — Scott Wheeler, Fanfare

“Octagon is a shattering, bold and strangely beautiful piece of music.”¯
   — Robert Weinstein, reporting on 1971 premiere with Stokowski, conductor, and Masselos, piano, for Music Journal

“Mayer’s settings of e.e. cummings, Sara Teasdale and Langston Hughes were sensitive, actually augmenting the power of the texts, something not always true today.”¯
   — Byron Belt, The Star-Ledger

About Messages: “The last movement ‘Light Years (Ravel Remembered)’ is a songlike meditation of great poignancy and sweetness.”¯
   — Ellen Pfieifer, Boston Herald

© 2009 William Mayer