Elaine Keillor, piano

These previously unrecorded piano pieces include the last major completed works for piano, the set of Poetic Sketches and Netscapes, by two of Canada’s most esteemed composers, Oskar Morawetz and John Weinzweig. All of the works included on this recording have as an initial inspiration words or a poetic image. Elma Miller, a former student of Morawetz and Weinzweig at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Music, quotes from the biologist G. Wald for her title, Through a Narrow Window, and from Keats to voice her concern about the deteriorating environment. Patick Cardy quoted from John Milton for the title, Quips and Cranks of his five bagatelles, his last completed work before his untimely death in 2005. A phrase that many of us have uttered, In a Flash, is the title for Alexina Louie’s piano piece written in 2006 that explores her recent approach to the instrument, drawing on jazz-like influences somewhat similar to those pursued by Weinzweig, but allied with flashy, virtuosic writing. Kelly-Marie Murphy takes a somewhat complementary approach in Let Hands Speak, the test piece composed for the Fourth Honens International Piano Competition.

Produced by Anton Kwiatkowski.

Track List:

Five Poetic Sketches (1991)
Oskar Morawetz
1. Prelude to a Drama 2:24
2. Raindrops 3:25
3. Storm 2:55
4. Prayer in Distress 3:40
5. Olympic Sprinter 2:51

6. Netscapes (2000) 8:54
John Weinzweig

7. In a Flash (2006) 5:18
Alexina Louie

8. Through a Narrow Window (1985) 13:00
Elma Miller

Quips and Cranks: Five Bagatelles for piano (2004)
Patrick Cardy
9. Lucky 3:48
10. Dewdrop 1:58
11. Lullaby (for Kevin) 2:35
12. A Lazy Afternoon 2:33
13. Barrels 3:16

14. Let Hands Speak (2003) 9:15
Kelly-Marie Murphy


« Pianist Elaine Keillor appears on an extensive discography of 28 solo and chamber albums. Her newest solo release Poetic Sketches takes its title from Oskar Morawetz’s 1991 composition that includes the rhythmically energetic Prelude to a Drama, Raindrops, Storm, a haunting Prayer in Distress and the lively perpetual motion Olympic Sprinter. Through a Narrow Window is an intense and convincing work by Estonian-Canadian composer Elma Miller that imparts the composer’s concern for the devastation of the environment and our « narrow window » of understanding regarding the ecological destruction of the planet. John Weinzweig’s Netscapes is constructed from repeating motivic fragments that, according to the composer’s program notes, require « no further elaboration. » Having recorded the work on my own CD released last year, I am still intrigued, now as a listener, by the innovative structure of the piece and the integration of jazz-inflected interludes. Although entirely different in compositional technique and style, Alexina Louie’s In a Flash also incorporates jazz-like influences as Keillor’s interpretation brings verve to the composer’s performance direction of « energetically sassy. » From John Milton’s pastoral poem L’Allegro, Patrick Cardy’s humorous Quips and Cranks: Five Bagatelles for piano (2004) was the composer’s last piece written before his untimely death at age 52. Keillor’s clarity of articulation creates vitality as she conveys the charm of these delightful works. Kelly-Marie Murphy’s virtuoso Let Hands Speak (2003) was written for the Honens International Piano Competition and Keillor meets the technical challenges head-on in a spirited driving interpretation as the CD ends with an exciting climax. » – Réa Beaumont, the WholeNote

« All of the music on this CD is challenging and imaginative, has genuine merit and deserves respect in these contexts. Whether any of the works will find their way into the permanent piano repertoire remains to be seen; however, it’s a very real tribute to Canada’s music community, since the mid-20th century, that composers can thrive well enough to produce such works and to have the satisfaction of seeing and hearing them performed and recorded by a pianist of warmth and brilliance such as Elaine Keillor. »– Charles Pope Jr., ConcertoNet.com

« For her recording of Poetic Sketches (June 2015), Elaine Keillor compiled a selection of solo piano works written during the past thirty years by composers based in Ontario, Canada. Keillor lives in Canada and has been honored for her work in promoting music by Canadians. See Report from Canada.) These diverse works use a variety of pianistic techniques to realize their literary or pictorial inspirations. Three of the works on the CD are by award-winning women composers: In a Flash by Alexina Louie, Through a Narrow Window by Elma Miller, and Let Hands Speak by Kelly-Marie Murphy. Alexina Louie’s In a Flash, featuring a pianistic boogie-woogie style, is an exciting piece that includes sparkling scalar passages and incisive rhythms juxtaposed with slower chordal sections. Keillor offers an attractive but more reserved performance than the « energetically » and « sassy » descriptives indicated by the composer. In the atmospheric and dramatic Through a Narrow Window, Elma Miller makes effective use of a broad range of piano techniques, including strumming on the strings, to depict her concern about the devastation of our planet’s environment. Let Hands Speak (2003) by Kelly-Marie Murphy is a virtuosic and affecting work, presenting a variety of pianistic challenges with driving rhythms and intricate passagework. The other pieces on the disc are Five Poetic Sketches by Oskar Morawetz, Netscapes by John Weinzweig, and Quips and Cranks: Five Bagatelles for Piano by Patrick Cardy. The liner notes include concise insights on each work. Overall, Keillor plays with sensitivity and color, and the CD presents an interesting soundscape of contemporary piano repertoire. » – Lucy Mauro, International Alliance for Women in Music Journal