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Music Media Review Print



Frederic Hand's Across Time Will Sweep You Away

May 15, 2022 - Durham, NC:


Across Time; Frederic Hand (b. 1947); "Renewal," "Ballad for Astor Piazzolla," "The Passionate Pilgrim" (recorded in Area 52 Studios, Saugerties, NY, October, 2021); "The Poet's Eye," "I Am," "There Is a Splendor," "Cooper Lake," "Romantic Etude" (recorded mid-1990s, Woodstock, NY); "A Waltz for Maurice," "Simple Gifts" (recorded at Dreamland Recording Studio, West Hurley, NY, July 2000); Trilogy, "Late One Night" (recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, September, 1982, digital transfer Gregory Squires, September 2001); Frederic Hand, guitar (classical guitars, John Gilbert, 1981, Gary Lee, 2012; steel string guitar, Bill Wright, 1987), Lesley Hand, vocals (tracks 4, 5, & 9); ReEntrant REN02 P & © 2022, FH; TT 51:54. $10.00 for digital download, New Focus; $16.99 for CD, Amazon.

A composition professor in my hometown once spoke about his thoughts on guiding twenty-first century graduate students: he gives them freedom to work and develop on their own terms. Frederic Hand seems to have instinctively adopted this philosophy on his own. This album does not push boundaries or set your teeth on edge. It is a retrospective – a collection of his favorite works.

Frederic Hand, composer, performer, and teacher, has played with the great vocalists of our time: Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Renée Fleming, and others. He has performed with great orchestras for both film and television. His compositions have been performed by John Williams, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and more. He was appointed by the Metropolitan Opera as guitarist and luteist in 1984. Formerly head of the guitar department at SUNY Purchase and Bennington College, he currently serves on the faculty of Mannes College of Music at the New School. He is a graduate of Mannes College of Music and studied with Julian Bream while a Fulbright Scholar in England.

Hand studied the classics, including the music of the Renaissance; he listened to modern jazz greats and in the 1980s he started his own fusion performing group Jazzantiqua. The music on this compilation reflects these, and within his eight pages of liner notes, he tips his hat to several influential composers and musicians: Brazilian guitarist Joao Luiz; Aaron Copland, Astor Piazzolla, and Maurice Ravel.

From the cover photo by Zaksheuskaya, the photo of Cooper Lake (FH), with design by Marc Wolf, Hand invites us into his sound world imbued with a rich harmonic vocabulary. It feels like a down comforter, warm but not heavy, sweet without a saccharine after-taste.

Lesley Hand trained at the North Carolina School of the Arts where she studied dance, music and drama. She has a crystal clear soprano voice; especially suited to the Renaissance style called for in "The Poet's Eye," "There is a Splendor," and the poetry of "I Am." The collaboration of voice and guitar adds more color to the palette. I daydreamed about love songs of the troubadours and trouvères.

"Passionate Pilgrim," a commissioned piece, was originally intended for lute. This version for guitar is short and memorable. Placed before "The Poet's Eye," it works like a programmed interlude.

It is impossible to choose a favorite selection, but I was particularly drawn to Hand's most recent works, including the stunning "Renewal" and "Ballad for Astor Piazzola." The rhythmic feel of the Latin influence is stylized, but right there; and I loved the improvisational quality of the ballad. Viva, Nuevo Tango! There is more to enjoy, including the reissued Trilogy (1982). This is beautiful guitar music to savor and listen to again and again. It will occupy a prominent space along with my favorite guitar CDs; I recommend it.