by Bruce Stark
Stark's work has been featured in every concert of the series and for good reason. He has an unusually rare gift in creating a recognizable voice, combining compelling content with forms that make sense and are full of surprises. "Winged," one of his first acknowledged compositions did not fail to deliver in all of these regards. Inspired by the notion of flying angels, it began high in the clouds, aloft, shimmering and luminescent. For the full 10 minutes the piece continuously explored impressionistic canyons and mountains with often beautifully static moments and without for a moment seeming cloying, minimalist or new-agey.
— Jeff Harrington, Sequenza21 (Nov 2006)
A fantasy-like recital piece for professionals and advanced students in which shimmering virtuosic passages alternate with soft, lyrical sections, Winged was composed in 1995 for pianist Yumiko Meguri, who recorded it on her CD Meguri Plays Stark the same year (Live Notes). In 1992 pianist Yuko Mifune recorded it as the title cut of her CD Winged from King Records, and in 2006 British pianist Seann Alderking included Winged in his release from Red Kite Records entitled Vivid. The work was given its U.S. premiere by pianist Tatjana Rankovich as part of the Keys To The Future contemporary piano music festival in New York City in 2006 (reviewed above).
Whether a fantasy based on reality or a reality based on fantasy, the notion of angels has been a source of musical inspiration to me for years. Often the mere thought of other-worldly, high-energy beings in unseen dimensions brings forth a rush of ideas, as though they were eager to share their cosmic music if only I would turn them a listening ear. Winged is in one movement containing essentially two parts. The first and largest part represents a visitation by angels from invisible worlds, depicted in materials ranging from swirling figures to gentle melodic passages to ecstatic outpourings. After their disappearance, the last part (introduced by a low drone in the bass) represents a reminiscence from the human perspective on having witnessed these wondrous creatures. Here I quote the famous Christmas song Angels We Have Heard On High in fragments, with a slight reference to its "Gloria" section as the work closes. The text of the first verse of the original song is as follows:
Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
— Bruce Stark (1995)