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Sharing releases, present and past, to brighten your day. WXXI Classical has its eyes and ears on the latest releases from classical artists working today. When we come across a story or a release we think you might enjoy, we’ll be sharing it with you on CD Spotlight. You’ll learn more about the artists online at WXXI Classical, and you’ll hear selections from these artists on FM 91.5. CD Spotlight shares new releases by artists that you’ll want to know and some by great artists and ensembles that deserve to be in the spotlight again.

CD Spotlight: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Piano Works by Luke Welch

Cover of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Piano Works by Luke Welch
Cover of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Piano Works by Luke Welch

We’ve taken a journey through Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s orchestral music with an earlier CD Spotlight by Chineke!; this time around, we dive into his piano pieces. Our swimming coach is Canadian pianist Luke Welch. In November 2022, Welch spent two days in a Toronto church recording Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Piano Works, a tribute to this African-British composer who was famous in his day, only to be forgotten after his death. Produced by Welch with the support of the City of Toronto and the Toronto Arts Council Black Arts Project, it is a project that shines a light on lesser-known pieces and amplifies our understanding of Coleridge-Taylor’s musical gifts.

Hailed as the “African Mahler,” Coleridge-Taylor was born in London, the son of a Black African father and a white English mother. His musical talents were spotted early on, and his family arranged for the 15-year-old to begin studies at the Royal College of Music where his teachers would include Charles Villiers Stanford. Post-graduation, he became a professional musician and professor, conducting the Croydon Conservatoire Orchestra and teaching at the Crystal Palace School of Music. He would also tour America and research African music, embracing his heritage, drawing on Negro spirituals and incorporating African rhythms into his compositions. And while the greater world of classical music would forget him, he was not forgotten; Coleridge-Taylor became a major influence on Florence Price, R. Nathaniel Dett, and Harry T. Burleigh, among others.

While multiple releases are available of Coleridge-Taylor’s orchestral music, it is wonderful to have this CD of rare and world-premiere recordings of his solo piano works to add to the catalog. Welch plays with a grace and a sense of ease that draws you in from the first note to the last. It is a gift well worth unwrapping.

A Strong Memorial baby and Greece Arcadia grad, Julia Figueras was the Music Director and mid-day host for WXXI Classical until June 30, 2023 when she retired after more than 26 years of service. She also hosted the award-winning monthly interview/performance show, Backstage Pass.