Press Reviews


Parlour Favorites
Tom Salvatori
2016 / Salvatori Productions, Inc.
41 minutes

Parlour Favorites is a collection of eleven peaceful acoustic guitar solos performed by Tom Salvatori. Six of the eleven pieces are original compositions and the other five are by Jan Akkerman, Robert Fripp, Steve Hackett (2) and Steve Howe. (All of the cover tunes came from albums that were released in the early- to mid-1970’s.) Several of Salvatori’s recent albums were collaborations with the late British pianist/composer/mathematician Iris Litchfield (1938-2014), but he has also released an impressive number of solo albums before and after that music partnership. The Salvatori Productions website explains their mission: “Salvatori Productions, Inc. (established in 1995) is a record label specializing in quiet and minimal ensemble music that features original compositions recorded with real players on real instruments at all times.” Salvatori performs on and composes for nylon string guitar and his music has strong classical influences. He likes to compose late at night, so many of his works have the feeling of a gentle lullaby – very soothing and relaxing.

Parlour Favorites begins with “Summer Suitino in G,” a suite of three pieces. “Suite I: Optimistic Thoughts” is light and positive with strong Baroque influences. “Suite II: On the Boulevard of Hopes and Dreams” is very reflective and spare with lots of open space between the notes. “Suite III: What’s Left is Threadbare” is darker with some bluesy accents here and there. “Low Tide” is slow, peaceful, and more than a little bit melancholy. As its title suggests, “Wandering” meanders without a specific goal or purpose, but I really like the way it expresses a relaxed state and a sense of freedom to go wherever it wants. “Looking Back” is structured more like a ballad and would easily support lyrics, although words are certainly not needed. Poignant and nostalgic, many emotions are expressed in this lovely piece. “Le Clochard” translates as “the homeless man” or “the tramp,” but it is also the name of several restaurants that come up with a Google search, so who knows where the inspiration for this beautiful piece by Jan Akkerman came from? Simple but bittersweet and evocative, it’s a highlight of the album. I also really like “Horizons” by Steve Hackett. The opening theme recalls JS Bach, but then the piece comes right up to the present with a gentle, lyrical melody. “Hands of the Priestess,” also composed by Hackett has a slowly-flowing melody with a haunting quality that I find very affecting. The final track on the album combines two pieces by Steve Howe: an excerpt from “The Ancient” and “Mood For a Day.” Somewhat more dramatic than most of the other tracks, it’s a great ending for the album.

Parlour Favorites is an excellent choice for relaxation, sleep, studying, a quiet meal, and any number of other activities. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

10/19/16

 

A Year in the Life
Tom Salvatori
2013 / Salvatori Productions, Inc.
48 minutes

A Year In the Life is the first solo acoustic guitar album from Tom Salvatori in quite a few years. He has recently collaborated with British pianist/composer Iris Litchfield on two albums, When Evening Falls (2007) and Ever Ever On (2010), but this time he is on his own. Twelve of the thirteen original compositions are designated for specific months, with the thirteenth for New Year’s Eve. As would be expected, the moods of the pieces vary from month to month, but the overall feel of the album is somewhat subdued and introspective. An accomplished classical guitarist, Salvatori’s own compositions follow classical traditions, but rather than being “showy,” he prefers a more relaxing and soothing approach that people can unwind with as they listen. The sound quality of the recording is beautiful and intimate.

Appropriately enough, A Year in the Life opens with “Resolutions.” Light and optimistic, the piece conveys the feelings of making a fresh start as well as hope for the future. The shortest month has the shortest song, as “Wouldn’t It Be Great” clocks in at just over a minute. Warm and conversational, an idea is being shared with someone trusted. The gentle but melancholy “Evening Waltz” (April) feels very much like late-night musings while working through the cares of the day. “Springtime Suite in E Minor” (May) is an ambitious four-movement piece. The first movement, “Impressions of Satie,” is rather dark and forlorn; the second, “Yes Riffin’” is much lighter and more playful; “Turtle Crawl” is kind of an extension of the second movement with some changes in mood and direction; and “Sad Ending” is, well, sad, but very beautiful – a favorite. I love the title “Head Fake, Low Shot” (June), but I don’t know what it means! “Waiting On Tomorrow” (August) has a folk-rock feeling in some places and an introspective, haunting quality in others. “Father Time is Calling” (September) conveys a sense of urgency but is also playful – an interesting dichotomy! “Reminiscing” (November) is dreamy but somber and hurting – possibly another late night soul-searching set to music. I really like this one, too! “Almost Christmas” (December) is lighter and cleverly incorporates snippets of “Good King Wenceslas,” “O Tannenbaum,” and “Deck the Halls.” “Turning Into New Year’s Day” is warmly reflective as one year ends and another begins, bringing this lovely album to a close with a sigh.

A Year in the Life provides a gentle soundtrack to your own reflections, daydreams, and other quiet moments. It is available from www.SalvatoriProductions.com, Amazon,
iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

11/18/13

 

Life’s Journey
Iris Litchfield
2013 / Salvatori Productions, Inc.
44 minutes

Life’s Journey is the latest solo piano release from British pianist/composer Iris Litchfield. This collection of fourteen original classically-styled pieces is relaxing, uplifting, and a joy to listen to. Six of the tracks are new compositions and eight are newly-recorded versions of pieces previously released. Iris’ style is direct and sincere without a lot of flash and fanfare – heartfelt musical interpretations of nature’s beauty, new experiences, and reflections on a life well-lived. The music is immediately accessible and very melodic, with layers of depth that reveal themselves the more you listen. Fellow pianists will be delighted to know that a companion sheet music book is also available.

Life’s Journey begins with “First Steps,” a delicate confection that expresses the tentative emotions of doing something completely new. Graceful and hopeful, it’s a lovely opening. “Dancing Dolls” is light and carefree with the sweetness and innocence of a child captivated by her imagination. “Clear Waters” is a favorite, evoking images of sunlight dancing on a rippling stream as it gently flows to no particular destination – so peaceful! I also really like “Dancing Shadows,” a lively minor-key waltz with a bittersweet Russian flavor. “Nature’s Serenade” first appeared Litchfield’s 2007 award-winning album with Tom Salvatori, When Evening Falls, and this new version has been expanded a bit – another beauty! “Colours of the Rainbow” has the warm and wistful feeling of a pleasant daydream. “A Mountain to Climb” is another favorite, conveying gentle strength and determination. I love the way the piece picks up momentum as it evolves and develops, always moving forward. “Reminiscing” recalls the joys and sorrows of life, softened by time and distance. “Summers of Long Ago” is more bittersweet and melancholy, but oh so beautiful! I love this one, too! “Twilight Time” brings this wonderful collection to a quiet and dreamy close with a melody so clear you can almost hear the piano singing lyrics.

Iris Litchfield has composed a very impressive body of music over the past several years and just keeps getting better. if you are new to her music and looking for some gentle, sweet solo piano, be sure check this one out. If you are a longtime fan, you won’t be disappointed with Life’s Journey. It is available from Salvatori Productions, Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby, and Tutti (UK and Europe). Recommended!!!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com, 8/10/13

 

FANFARE MAGAZINE FEATURE ARTICLE:

MEANT FOR EACH OTHER: A CONVERSATION WITH IRIS LITCHFIELD AND TOM SALVATORI – BY ROBERT SCHULSLAPER ON FEBRUARY 10, 2013

Q: Iris, I’d like to open our conversation to learn what brought you and Tom together.

IL: We met through Broadjam.com—a website where composers and performers meet to discuss and play their work for one another. Actually, I think Tom would be the best one to answer this question, but I will say that I’m so very happy that Broadjam existed and that Tom heard my music there and asked if I would do a CD with him. I’ve never looked back musically since that moment. It is wonderful working with Tom!!

Q: Before turning to Tom, I just want to add that his meeting you might have almost been preordained, in the sense that both of you write in such a similar style that an uninformed listener would probably assume that only one composer was responsible for all the music. This aesthetic unity must make you ideal collaborators. So, Tom…

TS: My friendship and our record company relationship with Iris started in 2004. We were both members of the independent artist community Broadjam.com where composers and musicians across many genres post their work and participate in a community-styled dialogue, which includes peer reviews to encourage growth and development for each other. When I reviewed an original version of Iris’s composition Autumn Colours (that subsequently became the opening track of our 2007 When Evening Falls CD release published by Salvatori Productions, Inc.), I was spellbound by its clarity, purity, and emotion. My review of her piece provided the highest critic marks possible, which caught her attention. She wrote to me with many thanks for the flattering review, and our wonderful friendship and ongoing dialogue led to her signing to our label and to bringing her CD releases to a worldwide audience. I felt both as a composer and record producer that her style meshed beautifully with my own, and our first collaborative release in 2007 reflects an ebb and flow between her compositions and mine, as if it were a gentle conversation. It was and is simpatico indeed: The piano pieces and guitar pieces alternate, woven together with the brilliantly mellifluous cello lines of John Catchings.

Q: Have you two ever met in person?

IL: I have met Tom once—he came to visit me on his way back from visiting his parents in Italy. We immediately “hit it off.” It felt like we had been friends for years!

Q: Iris, you had already released a number of CDs before your fortuitous meeting with Tom.

IL: During the last 12 years I have composed nearly 120 piano pieces. I started out creating a CD called Lazy Days (piano and synth strings, available on CDBaby.com), followed by Autumn Shadows and Nature’s Symphony (again for piano and synth strings). Since then, several important musical events have happened in my life. First of all, I became good friends with Robin Alciatore, who is an award-winning classical pianist from California. She loved my music and produced a CD of some of my pieces, which is called Reflections (solo piano, performed by Robin). I am honored that she should wish to do this. I also signed a publishing contract with a large U.K. company called North Star Music. They have signed 20 of my tracks and hope to get my music into films, radio, and TV. They, too, have produced a CD of my music called Pause to Music.

Q: Tom, of course, is an established “pro,” with his own studio, record label, and innovative projects. He’s also a busy composer, both on his own and together with his brother Mike, who’s written many scores for video games. By the way, even though I won’t be reviewing the CDs, I was favorably impressed by the audio quality as well as by every aspect of the finished product.

TS: Thanks. My brother Mike and I have done our work in a studio in Chicago called Resolution Productions, where Mike, a studio engineering pro for over 25 years, has managed the recording, mixing, and mastering of our CD releases. I’m pleased to say that when he’s involved, the projects will always be high quality releases. He takes on the role of editor as well and has a relentless pursuit of relevance within his quality focus. If a piece Iris or I present to him doesn’t move him emotionally, it won’t make it on to the record. And I trust his judgment when it comes to being edited.

Beyond our CD releases, our body of recorded works has become the basis for a technology development alliance that I’m involved with—it’s a project-based initiative that develops art and music content for flat screen TVs—especially useful for public and commercial spaces when running active programming on flat screens is problematic. Fluid Stills® technology is unique and patented. The art and digital music content we produce delivers the look and feel of “still art,” while constant change at the pixel level goes unnoticed by the naked eye. Our music is placed in sync with the digital art panel transitions. Readers can learn more about this art and music technology by visiting us at LongGlanceMedia.com.

Q: I understand that not only does your brother write music in his own right but that the two of you frequently collaborate as composers. How do two people write music together? I imagine a sort of back and forth with one proposing a tune, the other maybe adding harmony or suggesting instrumentation, figuration, etc.

TS: All of my compositions, including the pieces that have found their way to being accompanied by a chamber string ensemble arrangement, were composed first and foremost as guitar solos. In fact, they all have initially been conceived as solo guitar. With that in mind, I’m happy to turn my more melodic pieces over to my brother or to string arranger John Catchings for ensemble arrangement considerations.

Q: You’ve cited John Catchings several times for his fine arrangements and beautiful playing. Could you tell me a bit more about him?

TS: John is the consummate professional when it comes to adding just the right touches to string ensemble arrangements to support the little nylon string guitar and grand piano compositions we send him. He has well over 600 project credits to his legacy and musical arrangement resume, and has such wonderful and tasteful instincts for adding a palette of accompaniment to our pieces. We work with him time and time again, and it is our distinct pleasure and honor to do so. He’s based in Nashville but nothing about our work together is associated with the country music activities there. Nashville has grown to be much more cross-genre in its reputation, so we have found it to be an excellent place to record such things as a chamber string ensemble. John has wonderful connections with vast resources to support our very specific and particular needs.

Q: Now for the flashbacks: Iris, how did you get started in music?

IL: I started piano lessons at the age of five with Miss Piper, who was quite a colorful person. She was a very large lady with a large black cat, who would sit on her lap as she taught me. She lived with her elderly mother who had some form of dementia as the mother would sometimes come into my lessons wearing a large corset over her dress saying “Elsie, are these your corsets or are they mine”!!!

Before I went to university, I reached Grade 7 with distinction (eight grades altogether) and because of that award I would have been offered a place to study music at the Royal Academy or Royal College of Music in London. So Miss Piper must have been a good teacher, even though she used to rap me on the knuckles! I was with her until I went to university, aged 18. However, I felt that mathematics was a safer direction to go in as far as work was concerned. (I did not come from a rich family and so I was eager to go out to work and earn some money!) So I read mathematics at London University where I obtained a first-class honors degree. I then took up teaching as a career and climbed my way up the teaching ladder, eventually becoming deputy head teacher of a large comprehensive school. I did continue with piano lessons at university but playing sport (mainly tennis) interfered with my piano practice! About 30 years ago I eventually took—and passed—grade 8. This was when I took up the clarinet. I have to have an aim to make me practice so I took and passed all eight exams with the clarinet. I now play the alto sax as it is easier to blow and the fingering is easier. At present I’ve joined an orchestra with the sax. However, I have never composed for the sax or the clarinet.

Q: One of the four CDs reviewed in Fanfare is Romantic Interludes, a series of classical duets on which you perform with pianist Patrick Meehan.

IL: Patrick is my present piano teacher and he is the best I’ve ever had. He plays so beautifully, which is why I produced the duet CD with some of my favorite duets. It was a pleasure playing with him. Between Miss Piper and Patrick Meehan there have been a few others whose names I forget!

Q: Let’s bring Tom in again: What about your early musical life? Did you grow up in a musical family?

TS: No, although my father of Italian heritage loved listening to Pavarotti and my mother would sing beautiful traditional melodies to herself every night while preparing our family dinners. My father was not very encouraging to my brother and me about considering careers in music, thinking that it wasn’t a sustainable way to make a living. My mother encouraged and loved every single note I’ve ever played on my guitar.

I started playing the nylon string guitar at 13 years of age and have not set the guitar down yet…even after 40 years of playing and composing! My brother Michael initially taught me some basic chords and fingerings as we both embarked on our own personal journeys through music “by ear,” i.e., we learned our favorite pieces of music note for note by repeatedly listening to little sections of our record albums over and over.

I am singularly focused on playing and composing for the nylon string guitar. I simply fell in love with the warmth of tone and the expressive and intimate dialogue that exists between the instrument and the player. Once introduced to the guitar through the beauty of nylon strings, even though I have made attempts to diversify, I always rush back to the nylon strings. I never embraced the other options—the more popular acoustic (steel string) guitar always felt like I was pressing my fingers on barbed wire, and I feel that the strummed steel string guitar serves music more as a percussive instrument.

Q: In a previous conversation, Iris told me that you’re also a classical guitarist and no longer someone who exclusively “plays by ear.”

TS: In my early teens, my high school music teacher, Duane Tutaj, introduced me to classical guitar studies, and started me down the road with the Villa-Lobos Preludes series. I entered and won the Illinois Music Association’s Senior Open for guitar in 1973. In college, I took additional classical guitar lessons from Ray Mueller of the Milwaukee Classical Guitar Society, but spent much more of my time discovering, finding, and then carving out my own unique path to a more minimal and quiet side of the guitar through playing and composing.

Q: Having acquired the technical foundation, are you ever moved to write in a “classical” vein?

This is a bit hard to pin down, because if tonal melodic contours and simplistic chord structures can be incorporated into the definition of classical, then I suppose yes. But my feeling is that I don’t stretch nor do I ever intend to stretch any boundaries at all with regard to speed, complexity, dissonance, or the acerbic, so I would define my works more as contemporary instrumental rather than classical. I like to say that I would love to be remembered as someone who composed the pieces that the virtuoso players out there can quietly play for their loved ones late at night when they relax after they come home from their classical guitar stage performances! I also like to say that my pieces are stripped down to the basic cornerstone of composing; unencumbered by elaboration, unadorned by ornamentation. For any readers who would like to explore my work, Les Productions [Les Productions d’Oz, Quebec Canada, 2004] has published Late Night, a sheet music anthology featuring 11 of my original guitar solos.

There’s a funny story connected with my classical guitar studies that explains in part the direction I’ve taken as a composer: My parents took me to see Andrés Segovia at Orchestra Hall in Chicago in the mid 1970s, which backfired somewhat; I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the event and the patriarchal command inherent in Segovia’s stage presence and performance, which produced the sinking feeling that I would never be able to attain the level of skill, command, or perfection he possessed. This particular revelation had a profound effect on informing the more understated, “less formal study” approach I would take in my playing and composing later in life. After seeing Segovia in concert, I actually gave up the guitar for a short period of time until I realized that I could re-approach it on my own terms and with my own vision of what the guitar meant to me. And with that, I’ve been composing my grade-simple little miniatures ever since.

Q: Iris, have you ever “stretched” your boundaries in a classical direction?

IL: When I studied the piano I only played classical pieces. I have now joined a solo piano group meeting each month to play a prepared piece to each other. At our next meeting I shall be playing a French piece. I love French composers such as Poulenc, Debussy, Ravel—they have such sensitivity and feeling, which is what I mainly go for. As a composer I did once write a piece à la Scott Joplin, admittedly not quite the sort of classical composer you might have been thinking of, but I’ve written two other pieces that would qualify: a Raindrop Study in a very classical style and Scallywag, which sounds as its name suggests!

Q: I’d like to hear them someday. When did you begin to compose?

IL: I only started composing when I took early retirement from teaching due to ill health. Like my mother (who died in 1990 at the age of 85, outliving all her contemporaries) I had breast cancer and six years ago I had a double mastectomy. About four years ago the breast cancer spread to my bones and now I am on oral chemotherapy: Every three weeks I have an infusion to strengthen my bones. I feel perfectly fit and healthy and have just taken up golf! The only side effect from the tablets is very dry hands and feet! I feel very positive and enjoy living each day as it comes. Sadly, my mother died before I began to compose, so she never got to hear any of my pieces. I began composing using my keyboard [electronic] but soon switched to the piano. I have had NO lessons in composition but I was born with a good ear for music and this is why I am able to compose. I inherited my love of music from my mother. She came from a VERY poor family in London. Her parents were both alcoholics! When she first went out to work—at the age of 14— she saved every penny to buy a piano! Her parents used it as a drinks cabinet to store their bottles in! My grandfather was in the First World War where he lost an eye and damaged an arm. Every year he had to go and prove he was disabled in order to get his benefit. As usual when he went, his mind was confused with the drink. When they asked him how far he could lift his arm, he put it up in a kind of Hitler salute. Then they asked how far he could raise it before the bullet hit it and he lifted it vertically and promptly lost the benefit!! Quite an amusing but true story!

Q: How did you move from composing for yourself to “putting yourself out there?”

IL: A friend of mine, Sally Morris, is an excellent poet and she read one of her poems at our local church. I spoke to her at the end of the service and told her how much I loved the poem. She said she would like someone to set it to music, so this is how it all started. She gave me her poems and I set them to music. When I ran out of poems I wrote music for her to put words to! Altogether we produced about 40 songs for the church so this is how it all started!

Q: That’s interesting, as your music immediately impressed me with its song-like qualities: All that’s missing are the words.

IL: I TOTALLY agree that most of my pieces could have words. Some already DO have words.

Q: One last question: How would you like people to be affected by your music?

IL: I think that as far as people responding to my music, Tom summed it up perfectly when he wrote about “a ripple effect helping to spread peaceful vibrations throughout the world….”

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN ISSUE 36:4 (MAR/APR 2013) OF FANFARE MAGAZINE.

FEATURE REVIEW BY MARIA NOCKIN

British pianist Iris Litchfield and American guitarist Tom Salvatori have put together several interesting recordings over the last few years. Their 2007 entry, entitled When Evening Falls was named Winner of a New Age Reporter Lifestyle Music Award as the Best Neo-Classical Album of 2007. In 2012 the compositions of both artists still stand up well. I particularly liked the selections combining guitar and cello. Salvatori’s acoustic instrument has great warmth as well as resonance and it blends well with the cello. Cellist John Catchings adds a great deal of spice to these pieces, especially when he brings in other instruments to fill out the harmonies. In Salvatori’s Reflecting Absence, Craig Nelson’s double bass adds deep notes to the guitar and cello. Even more instruments are added to Litchfield’s Come Stay A While which features piano, violin, viola, and cello. This is where New Age meets chamber music and the result is excellent listening.

Their 2010 recording, entitled Ever Ever On, is a two-disc set that features compositions in chamber arrangements on disc 1 and the same works as solo pieces for either piano or guitar on disc 2. It’s an interesting comparison that could be very helpful for amateur musicians and composers. I found the ensemble very pleasant for casual listening. The solo works are more introverted and take more time to analyze, but they are still fun to hear. The title of one piece intrigued me. When Salvatori writes of The Ghosts of Levigliani, a city in Tuscany, is he remembering a visit or is he recounting a ghost story from there? You have to listen to the music and make up your own mind. In Blue Horizon, there is a slight buzz from the cello’s low notes but otherwise the sound is warm and inviting.

Romantic Interludes, a duet recording with Iris Litchfield and Patrick Meehan is the most interesting of the four discs. It contains music for one piano four-hands in the manner that was common in 19th-century middle and upper class homes. Litchfield and Meehan play Elgar’s Salut d’Amour, several delightful pieces by d’Ourville, some tuneful Vaughan Williams, Moszkowski’s justly famous Spanish Dances, Fauré’s delicious Sicilienne, and Schumann’s fascinating Canonic Etudes. It certainly does prove their abilities as pianists and it makes a fine addition to the catalog of music featuring two players at one piano, in this case a 1968 Steinway. There is a comparable 2001 Nuova Era disc with the Schumann etudes played inimitably by Joerg Demus, but it’s part of a set of Schumann’s complete piano works and no one would buy it just for six small pieces.

The fourth compact disc, Iris Litchfield’s Dream Clouds, contains more of her dreamy, emotion filled solo piano pieces. The first work, entitled A New Beginning, has a memorable tune that she develops into a well-structured short work. I love the Irish sounds in her Celtic Lament. Dancing Dreams is a lovely waltz for the budding ballroom dancer and Riding High is another fine tune with an interesting rhythmic underpinning. There are several more great tunes on this disc, too, and I hope Litchfield will think of adding harmony and counterpoint to them at some time in the future. All four of these discs are worthwhile hearing, but I particularly liked some of the lesser-known music by 19th-century composers. Maria Nockin

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN ISSUE 36:4 (MAR/APR 2013) OF FANFARE MAGAZINE.

CD REVIEW BY JERRY DUBINS

A first hearing of [Dream Clouds and Ever Ever On] raises a thorny question. In every respect, this music—unquestionably beautiful and mostly restful, peaceful, nostalgic, misty, wistful, and sentimental in nature—falls into a category we tend to call “easy listening.” So why is it being reviewed in Fanfare, a magazine devoted almost exclusively to classical music? That question opens up an entire avenue of inquiry as to what constitutes classical music. But in the end, music is music; it doesn’t know or care what it is, and its existence doesn’t depend on what we call it. Music has only one purpose, albeit a mixed one, and that is to entertain, edify, move, and improve us. On that score Litchfield’s music does it all. Iris Litchfield hails from England and did not start out to be a composer or musician, at least not professionally. She earned her degree in mathematics from London University and then spent her working career teaching. It wasn’t until she took early retirement due to ill health that she began to compose. Since childhood Iris played piano and later took up the clarinet and alto sax.

During the last 12 years, Litchfield has composed 120 piano pieces and, during that time, she has connected with others in the music and recording industries to produce solo albums, work on collaborative projects, and sign a contract with a U.K. publishing firm. In her biographical note, Iris does not reveal whether she is self-taught in composition, but skill at the piano, a natural ear for music, and an intuitive feeling for melody and harmony come together in a serendipitous combination of 14 absolutely fetching pieces on her album, the first listed above, titled Dream Clouds. All of these pieces are similar in style, straightforward in construction, fairly uncomplicated in their use of harmony and rhythm, and convey a relatively circumscribed range of feelings and moods that can be described as dreamy, pastoral, and reflective. But by no means are they indistinguishable from one another. Litchfield’s muse often turns to modal scales, as in Riding High, which has about it the sound of a Celtic harp. And perhaps the most daring piece on the disc is Dancing Dreams, in which passing bi-tonal dissonances create a surreal atmosphere.

The two-disc album that follows is titled “Ever Ever On” and contains more of Litchfield’s pieces in alternation with pieces by Tom Salvatori in a similar style, but now the settings are more varied in terms of their instrumentation. Between the two discs, in total, there are 12 distinct pieces but 24 tracks. That’s because each piece is presented twice, once on disc 1 in some ensemble combination of piano and guitar with strings, oboe, and/or horn, and again on disc 2, either for solo piano or solo guitar. It’s really quite fascinating to hear the effect the different scorings have on each piece. It’s not just the context that changes but the expressive character.

Again, I want to emphasize that this is very beautiful music, even if it’s not what we would typically identify as falling into the classical category. These are the kind of CDs you’d put on when you’re feeling a bit blue and just want to be soothed, succored, and salved. Technically speaking, these are not difficult pieces to play, so I would expect all of the participating musicians to handle their parts without strain, and they do, playing with ease and easefully. Should you be in the mood for some comforting and caressing, I can think of no better music to fill the bill than what you’ll find on these albums. Jerry Dubins

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN ISSUE 36:5 (MAY/JUNE 2013) OF FANFARE MAGAZINE.

CD REVIEW BY JERRY DUBINS

If you happen to have acquired one or the other or both of the Iris Litchfield CDs reviewed in the last issue, and enjoyed the simple yet beautiful gifts of her music, here are two more releases guaranteed to give pleasure. The first, When Evening Falls, offers another 14 pieces in the same style as those found on the previously covered Ever Ever On album. Numbers by Litchfield alternate with those by Tom Salvatori, with violinist Pamela Sixfin and violist Monisa Angell joining Litchfield in an ensemble arrangement of Come Stay a While, and double bassist Craig Nelson joining Salvatori in a duo arrangement of his Reflecting Absence. Cellist John Catchings arranged and plays in most of the numbers.

From the haunting harp-like arpeggios of Litchfield’s Autumn Colors, to the soothing strains of Salvatori’s Sleepy Eyes Lullaby, this is a collection of easy-listening, mainly easeful pieces sure to tug at your heartstrings as they wash your troubles away. Two of Salvatori’s pieces in particular stand out: Church Song, for the way in which it perfectly captures the essence of the American pioneers’ revivalist spirit, and Labyrinth 2, in which, true to its title, the music takes a circuitous route through a maze of uncertain harmonies and modulations.

The second album, Romantic Interludes, differs from the first, as well as from the two previously reviewed releases, in that not one of these pieces is an original composition by Litchfield or Salvatori. Rather, these are pieces by five well-known “name” composers, some as written, for piano four hands. Elgar’s famous Salut d’amour, originally composed for violin and piano, exists in a version for piano four hands that has been around since the turn of the 20th century. The mystery man here with a big question mark over his head is Leon D’Ourville. I found next to nothing about him, not even the most basic biographical data. From his name, one gathers that he was French, and he seems to have been a 19th-century composer and arranger who wrote piano duets for four hands. In presenting these four short D’Ourville pieces, Litchfield and Patrick Meehan seem to have pulled off quite a coup, for I find nothing else by D’Ourville currently listed.

Back in 1996 (issue 19:6), Peter J. Rabinowitz reviewed a recording of piano duets on Albany, performed by Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow; and on that disc was one of the pieces from D’Ourville’s Soirées musicales, In the Garden, performed here by Litchfield and Meehan. But perhaps Rabinowitz wasn’t able to dig up any information on D’Ourville either, because he mentions neither the composer nor the piece in the body of his review. If there are four numbers in D’Ourville’s Soirées musicales—the four included on this disc—there are probably more. How many make up this collection and who D’Ourville was, I, for one, would like to know, because these modest pieces are lovely gems that would have been perfectly suited to amateur players in the private parlors of 19th-century homes.

Moszkowski’s Spanish Dances, five in all, first published around 1910, were enormously popular with the public and brought the composer a good deal of acclaim. Essentially salon pieces, the dances epitomize Moszkowski’s modesty and self-deprecating character, said by one critic to be reflected in music which is “devoid of the masculine and the feminine.” I’m not sure what genetic mutation would account for such an abnormality, but it seems not to have prevented Moszkowski from writing some very attractive music, of which the Spanish Dances are certainly an example.

Vaughan Williams’ Prelude on Rhosymedre is one of a set of three preludes on Welsh hymn tunes originally written for organ. Of the three numbers, Rhosymedre is the most popular, having been recorded many times, including in an orchestral arrangement. The album note doesn’t name the arranger of this piano four-hands version, but I don’t think it was Vaughan Williams. Might it be Iris Litchfield? In contrast, the composer’s Fantasia on Greensleeves has been transcribed and arranged for so many different instruments and ensembles it wouldn’t surprise me to find a recording of it performed by mynah bird and vacuum cleaner.

Adjacent to it on the previous track is Fauré’s famous Sicilienne from his incidental music to Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande, which Fauré had actually composed earlier for his unfinished score to LeBourgeois gentilhomme. The juxtaposition of the Vaughan Williams and Fauré pieces is fascinating because their opening melodies are so similar. Quite a few years separate the two pieces, however. Though originally written in 1893, Fauré’s Sicilienne made its debut in Pelléas et Mélisande in 1898. Vaughan Williams didn’t adapt the Greensleeves music, originally from his 1928 opera, Sir John in Love, for his beloved Fantasia until 1934.

Finally, we come to Schumann’s Six Studies (or Etudes) in Canonic Form, op. 56. These too, like Vaughan Williams’ Rhosymedre Prelude, were originally written for organ. But several arrangements exist, including one for piano four hands by Bizet, published in 1873. Whether this is the arrangement used by Litchfield and Meehan, I can’t say. It would have been helpful to have an insert note that provided some details about these pieces and their arrangers.

Iris Litchfield, who we encountered in Fanfare’s last issue, is both a gifted composer and an accomplished pianist. She is joined here by Patrick Meehan, a classically trained pianist who calls Bromley in the U.K. home and who devotes most of his time and energy to teaching piano to students of all ages and ability levels. This, according to the insert flyer, is Meehan’s first professional recording. He and Litchfield play with such perfect unanimity of timing and musical reciprocity that the impression conveyed is more of one pianist with 20 fingers than it is of two pianists with 10 fingers each. Both of these CDs, so different in content, yet so satisfying, are strongly recommended. Jerry Dubins

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN ISSUE 36:6 (JULY/AUG 2013) OF FANFARE MAGAZINE.

 

 IRIS LITCHFIELD

DREAM CLOUDS – PRESS REVIEW:

After two highly-acclaimed duo releases by pianist/composer Iris Litchfield and guitarist/composer Tom Salvatori, Iris Litchfield has released “Dream Clouds,” her first full-length solo piano CD – and what a joy it is! The fourteen original compositions have a very strong classical influence, but they also have the easy, graceful flow of the best “new age” piano music. A retired math teacher in England, Litchfield has been composing music for about twelve years, although she has been playing the piano since she was five. Salvatori Productions is again the producer of this album, and the sound quality is perfect. Recorded on a Steinway A (6’2″) grand, the piano has a warmth that beautifully conveys all of the nuances and subtleties of Litchfield’s lovely compositions. The title, “Dream Clouds,” very accurately describes the overall mood of this album – light, gentle, and optimistic. It’s not musical “fluff” by any means, but spending some time with Litchfield’s music will definitely elevate your mood and calm your spirit.

The first track is “A New Beginning.” The opening melody has a haunting, bittersweet flavor – reflective and nostalgic. It resolves to a major key which is tentative, but very beautiful, returning to the minor key with more confidence – a lovely start! “Passing Memories” is a graceful and wistful daydream. Several themes weave in and out, creating a wonderful tapestry of musical memories. The title track is very free, moving at the whim of a gentle breeze. I love the visual images this one evokes! “Joy of Summer” is a delight. Dancing lightly and freely in the warm sunshine, it’s a heavenly “ode to joy.” My favorite track is “Dancing Dreams,” a minor key waltz that has just a slight edge to it – not menacing, but not all sweetness and light either. Two graceful major key themes alternate with the main theme, making it a colorful and fascinating piece. “Promise of a New Day” overflows with hope and optimism, providing a soothing musical antidote to the stresses of a long day. My other favorite is the poignant and graceful “Falling Leaves,” which conveys so much emotion so simply and honestly. “End of the Day” is a warm and peaceful lullaby that provides a healing massage for a tired mind and body. “Morning Mist” brings this wonderful album to a dreamy and wistful ending.

I really love Iris Litchfield’s two collaborations with Tom Salvatori, but I really like that this album is just Iris at the piano. It gives us more of a chance to really hear her music and to enjoy the soothing atmosphere she creates with her compositions. Very highly recommended!

– Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano, 2012

TOM SALVATORI & IRIS LITCHFIELD

EVER EVER ON – PRESS REVIEWS:

“Ever Ever On” is the anxiously-awaited new album from Tom Salvatori and Iris Litchfield, following their award-winning 2007 release “When Evening Falls.” This new release is a 2-CD set with one disc featuring solo versions of each of the twelve pieces and the other featuring ensemble versions of the same twelve songs. The ensemble CD is not just a re-recording with someone playing keyboard instrumentation – these are live chamber musicians playing additional parts lovingly created by John Catchings in Nashville. The sound quality is stellar! The CDs alternate between piano pieces composed by Iris Litchfield, a classically-trained pianist and retired math teacher from England, and acoustic guitar pieces by Tom Salvatori, a classically-trained American guitarist. John Catchings appears with his soulful cello on all of the ensemble tracks. The rest of the chamber group includes violins and viola, bass, oboe, and French horn. The music itself is classically-styled with a contemporary attitude – gorgeous and heartfelt. It is difficult to choose which CD I like best. I love the simplicity of the gentle tunes played solo, but the additional musicians on the ensemble CD create so much depth and color that I love that one, too. The good news here is that no one needs to choose a favorite and the only decision to be made is which one to slip into the CD player first! Lucky us!

“Ever Ever On” begins with Ms. Litchfield’s “You’re With Me Still,” a tender love song that is haunting as a piano solo and becomes achingly beautiful with the addition of cello. What a way to start! Next up is Salvatori’s elegant and mysterious “Ghosts of Levigliani,” arranged for nylon string guitar and string quartet. “Escher’s Lullaby” is a fascinating trio for guitar, cello, and oboe – an unusual combination that really works with each instrument’s unique voice. I love both versions of “Blue Horizon” – solo piano and piano with string quintet – graceful, melancholy, and full of longing. “Whirlpool Song” returns to the guitar/cello/oboe trio – enchanting and soulful! “Dark Round” is a lovely slow, somber duet for cello and guitar. “To You With Love” is another favorite, this time a trio for piano, cello, and bass. Tender and gentle yet passionate, it soars while touching the heart. The closing track is the dark and mysterious “Folk Dance” for guitar, violin, cello, and bass. It is a slow and serious dance with a distinct Renaissance flavor. A gorgeous ending to an outstanding album!

“Ever Ever On” is certain to be on my Favorites list for the year! Give your ears and your mind a real treat and check this one out! I give it my highest recommendation!

– Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano, 2010

You’re in for a wonderful treat as the extremely talented artists, Tom Salvatori & Iris Litchfield, release their newest album, “Ever Ever On.” Salvatori, who plays the nylon string guitar, and Litchfield, who plays the grand piano, entice the listeners with their intense precision and magical melodies. The 1st CD contains songs scored for not only the guitar and piano but also an entire Chamber string ensemble with oboe and French horn. The 2nd CD is the same brilliant songs performed with their superb talents on either solo guitar or solo piano. “Cascade,” is a song that is dreamy and delicate as the stirring piano glides across the keys with luxurious style and grace. “Dark Round,” is a song that is somber in tonality as the guitar takes the delicate melody and plays with a serene passionate form. Another song, “Windmills of Time,” is bright and crisp as the sweet and tender strings surround the velvety piano in a moving and melodic fashion. If you’re a person who truly appreciates classical music with exquisite and elegant style, then the magnificent album, “Ever Ever On” is one you will thoroughly enjoy.

– Diane and the RadioIndy.com Reviewer Team, 2010

TOM SALVATORI & IRIS LITCHFIELD
WHEN EVENING FALLS – AWARDS AND RECOGNITION:

When Evening Falls: Winner, Best Neo-Classical Album of the year, 2007 NAR Lifestyle Music Awards

When Evening Falls debuted at #2 on the Top 100 NAR radio play charts, September, 2007

Bill Binkelman (NAR) recommends When Evening Falls as a Best of 2007 pick

RJ Lannan (NAR) recommends When Evening Falls as a Top 10 Recording for 2007

Kathy Parsons (MainlyPiano.com) recommends When Evening Falls as a 2007 CD Favorites selection

Jelke Bethlehem, Time Trek radio program host (The Netherlands) recommends When Evening Falls as a Best of 2007 pick

Mark Jayne, Program Host, Night Breeze, KCCK Cedar Rapids, IA recommends When Evening Falls as a Top 10 CD of 2007 selection

TOM SALVATORI & IRIS LITCHFIELD
WHEN EVENING FALLS –  PRESS REVIEWS:

When Evening Falls…is a wonderful, dusky dream-filled album with fourteen tracks of pastoral and contemporary tunes that will inspire, relax and alleviate stress. Tom Salvatori and Iris Litchfield, both classical trained composers, have united on this contemporary album in the spirit of harmony in a figurative and literal sense. Tom is from Illinois and Iris is from Kent, England, but the miles could not separate the kindred spirits of these two gifted performers. Additionally, the music is far more mellifluous for the talents of cellist John Catchings who joins them on several cuts. When Evening Falls is pensive, relaxing music that is enjoyable at any hour. The mating of guitar and piano with an infrequent visit by the cello makes for several agreeable duos, while the solos are as welcome as are old friends. For a soothing interlude of warm, peaceful music, you cannot do much better than Tom Salvatori and Iris Litchfield.

-RJ Lannan, The Sounding Board, NAR, 2007

“When Evening Falls” is an utterly charming collection of original solos, duets, and other ensemble works by pianist Iris Litchfield and guitarist Tom Salvatori, often accompanied by cellist John Catchings. The cover artwork gives you a clue that you are beholding something exceptional, and you are. Iris Litchfield is a classically-trained pianist who recently began composing for the piano after retiring from teaching math in England. It is interesting to note that the demo tape she sent to Salvatori Productions was recorded on an upright piano with a squeaky pedal and a ceiling fan humming overhead. Tom heard something special in the music and worked hard to find a studio in Englandwith a good grand piano (a 1934 Steinway D) for Litchfield’s first studio recording. The final take of her music brought the grown men in the studio to tears, and it’s easy to hear why. The music is not overly complex, but is honest and heartfelt, with a slight touch of innocence – truly a fresh voice on the music scene. Litchfield has released CDs in Europe, but “WhenEveningFalls” is her first release in the US. Tom Salvatoriis also classically-trained, and his guitar pieces are equally moving, with their gentle, straightforward messages. Catchings adds just the right contrast to the piano and guitar, and brings a soulful quality that only comes from a masterfully-played cello. “When Evening Falls” will definitely be on my list of favorite CD’s for 2007!

A haunting piano solo called “Autumn Colors” opens the CD. Fall often evokes feelings of melancholy as nature prepares the world for winter. Those feelings are captured perfectly in this piece, and it wonderfully sets the tone for the album. Next is the first duet, “Sleepy Eyes Lullaby,” a soothing, caressing piece for guitar and cello. “Breath of Spring” is a quiet duet for piano and cello, full of hope and optimism. “Guitar Lament” is a gorgeous guitar solo that seems to tell a story. “Nature’s Serenade” is a sweet and graceful piece for all three musicians. Very simple and uncomplicated, it suggests warm sunshine and a gentle breeze – lovely! “Reflecting Absence” is a stunningly beautiful piece for guitar and cello. Comprised of several movements that range from slow and reflective to more impassioned and emotional, this seven-minute masterpiece is worth the price of the CD alone. (I can’t imagine that the studio guys didn’t need their hankies for this one, too!) “Carousel” is mostly a piano solo, but Salvatori comes in for two of the verses, bringing additional charm to this warm, happy little piece. “Labyrinth 2” contrasts the smooth, deep cello with the bright finger picking on guitar, creating an aura of intriguing mystery. The piece ends rather abruptly, intensifying the mystery. “Come Stay a While” is like a hug from a long-lost friend. Violin and viola are added to the piano and cello, making this a chamber piece that overflows with emotion and love.

I can’t sing the praises of “When Evening Falls” enough. It is simply one of the most beautiful CDs I’ve heard in a year of unusually good instrumental CDs. Sure to be a favorite for a long time to come! It is available from cdbaby.com and amazon.com. Samples of the music are also available at www.salvatoriproductions.com. I give “When Evening Falls” my highest recommendation!

– Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano, 2007

Take three talented artists, mix and match them in various combinations and who knows what will result. In the case of When Evening Falls, you end up with a beautiful collection of soothing and introspective instrumental pieces. Featuring the considerable talents of acoustic guitarist Tom Salvatori, pianist Iris Litchfield and cellist John Catchings (with some violin and viola assistance on one track and bass on another one), the fourteen selections on this album are divided up into solo numbers by Salvatori and Litchfield or assorted permutations of one or the other or both with Catchings. The album is cohesive with a consistent mood maintained throughout. The two composers (Salvatori and Litchfield) were obviously simpatico when it came to the aim of When Evening Falls, the title of which aptly portrays the mood evoked by the music. Peaceful, somber, warm, nostalgic and reflective, the CD is emblematic of what I refer to as “autumn afternoon music,” meaning it’s suited for grey skies, falling leaves, and a crisp bite to the air. Whether one bathes in this music while seated before a fire, or perhaps driving through rolling hillsides and small rural towns dressed in gold and red for the season, When Evening Falls weaves a comforting web of warm yet often sad or reflective music.

As if the music itself wasn’t enough, the CD’s artfully-designed Digipak (by Stephen Ravenscraft) is a veritable work of art as well. Hell, even the font choices are spot on (you’d be surprised how rare that is). From every perspective, When Evening Falls is a splendid recording and a must have for lovers of gentle “nighttime” acoustic instrumental music.

– Highly recommended. Rating: Excellent  – Bill Binkelman, New Age Reporter, 2007

He’s known as a guitarist’s guitarist, an expert at both classical guitar and the combination of classical with any number of musical genres. Tom Salvatori enchanted listeners with his last album from 2002, Late Night Guitar, which was a children’s album disguised as an excellent, meditative study in the healing power of the nylon string guitar.

In 2007 Tom joins forces with pianist Iris Litchfield for a gorgeous duet album of timeless instrumental music–supplemented by the cello arrangements of John Catchings. A seamless blend of vintage classical music and the curative vibes of the New Age meditation genre that was so popular in the mid-90’s. When Evening Falls is the most appealing outing yet from the versatile guitar imagination of Tom Salvatori.

– Robert Silverstein, 20th Century Guitar Magazine, 2007

When Evening Falls is the perfect CD to cure writer’s block and inspire you. On a sunny autumn afternoon, I sit in Berlin listening to the tender beauty of the guitar caressing ever so gently the piano. It is true, I never took time to contemplate why this should be such an unusual mix, but after I listened, I realized that I had never heard these two instruments in union. It is a marriage made in heaven. Touchingly pure, innocent as all first loves should be. And listening, I’m smiling at its simple beauty. When Evening Falls is the perfect CD for curing writers block and reflecting upon the joys of life! Now I am going to make a cup of tea and start writing the novel I have always dreamed of…thank you Tom and Iris. You have given me the gift of inspiration.

– Kara Johnstad, 2008

I love Iris’s compostions and piano playing and Tom’s compositions and guitar playing so putting the 2 together is for me perfection.

– Dr Catherine Galatola (Turin-Italy), 2007

I am so impressed with Iris Litchfield, Tom Salvatori. Hope there are more coming.

– 5.0 out of 5 stars – Classic – Roberta H. Matzke, 2008

Thoughtful and mature original contemporary compositions, expertly arranged, that bring to the surface deep emotions. Beautiful performances, complemented by excellent sound recording and mixing. Overall, a work which is obviously the result of talent, love of melody, care and meticulous attention to detail in composition, arrangement and production.

Meaningful notes and fine sound reproduction blend to provide pure joy to the listener. You will listen to this CD over and over again. Highly recommended.

– 5.0 out of 5 stars – To listen over and over again – Abraham Bensoussan, 2008

I bought the CD When Evening Falls, to play in my fourth grade classroom during quiet times as background music. Very nice, very relaxing and inobtrusive. The students began asking for it to be played. After school I found myself playing it while grading, and other teachers wandering in to ask what CD that was. I have not found a CD by Tom Salvatori that I didn’t like!

– Denise Aiani, 2006

My mom bought Late Night Guitar for my daughter for lullabies and we like it very much so she got When Evening Falls for my new baby boy to listen to at bedtime. He seems to enjoy it as do I when I rock him to sleep.

– Liz, 2006

So wonderful most enjoyable very delightful listening and pleasurable.

– Web site posting, 2006

TOM SALVATORI
LATE NIGHT GUITAR – AWARDS AND RECOGNITION:

LATE NIGHT GUITAR, WINNER OF 2002 CHILDRENS MUSIC WEB AWARD Classic Recording for Children Category! (www.childrensmusic.org)

LATE NIGHT GUITAR debuts at #2 on the New Age Voice Top 100 Radio Play list and holds its strong position in the coveted “Top 5” through the entire 4th quarter, 2002!

TOM SALVATORI
LATE NIGHT GUITAR – PRESS REVIEWS:

“If it catches you at the right time, I guarantee you’ll have a moment(s) where a tear will well, without you being able to do anything about it.” Tim Panting, Reviews Editor, Classical Guitar Magazine (UK)

“Salvatori’s music has been a darling among children’s music critics…although ‘Late Night Guitar’ also appeals to grown-ups. His sense of musicianship is very high…” Chicago Tribune

“Effortlessly breezes past age barriers…you’d be hard pressed to find a more comforting and melodic acoustic fingerstyle guitar album.” 20th Century Guitar Magazine

“Refreshingly unpretentious…particularly pleasing…gentle guitar lines. [Late Night Guitar is] a quality mainstream release to be welcomed by its target audience.” Classical Guitar Magazine (UK)

“I loved your stuff, very soulful and relaxing. The world needs more music like yours. Sonically top notch, full and warm…well done.” Brian Wittmer, Director, A&R, Universal Music Group

“Tom…Your music has become a staple of my show. Beautifully crafted music that grows deeper and more tuneful with each and every play…and as if the music wasn’t enough, what a striking and beautiful CD jacket. I come from a time when cover art was an important part of the whole “album” experience. Your artwork for “Late Night Guitar” is most impressive…Thanks for enabling us here in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York share your vision…” Ken Harris, WVKR, Walden NY

MakeaStar.com on the song ‘Tucker’s Lullaby’ – “Absolutely beautiful. This piece is chock full of emotion with a soaring melody, mesmerizing theme, and a chord progression that speaks worlds of truth. With just a classical nylon string guitar and a small string and wind section, you’ve managed to assemble quite a moving work here. Some things are best said simply and quietly. Nice…tasteful…warm… rich, and robust sounding. Exquisite. Top performances lead way with perfectly executed passages, perfect intonation, and an exceptional overall feel and mood. Certainly, there are recognizable influences, yet this work emotes an original feel and mood unequaled by the masses. Thus, you have developed you’re own sound far beyond the reaches of the normal bland, stuffy, classical composers/artists. Bravo. A Perfect “10” – Make-A-Star.com

Tom Salvatori
Phone: (312) 519 6470 Fax: (312) 335 9488.
Email: tom@tomsalvatori.com


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