Review of EPITAPH & PORTRAITS by Kathy Parsons
Epitaphs and Portraits
1994 / EarthHeart Music
“Epitaphs and Portraits” is an elegant, highly emotional collection of original piano solos that came about from years of coping with the loss of friends and colleagues from AIDS. Dedicated to the Bread and Roses care home in Connecticut, ten of the fourteen pieces are titled “In Memoriam” followed by someone’s initials. Some of the pieces are mournfully sad, and others are more celebratory of a special person’s life - all carry a sense of healing. Although the theme of the album sounds depressing and heavy, the music is well-balanced, placing a lighter piece after a heavy, dark one. Craig Urquhart has had very extensive classical training, and spent five years as Leonard Bernstein’s personal assistant. Well-known as a composer of classical art songs, Urquhart’s composing has evolved into more of a contemporary classical/new age style with a unique and very powerful voice.
“Honor and Remembrance” opens the CD with a lovely, flowing piece that is full of grace and warmth. Gentle and yet deeply passionate, there seems to be a mix of questioning and quiet acceptance. “In Memoriam G.S.” is much darker with chords in the lower registers of the piano that accentuate the pain of loss mixed with frustration and anger. “In Memoriam E.G.” is much lighter - perhaps a tribute to a friend who kept his sense of humor despite his own pain, lightening the load for others. “In Memoriam M.M.” has a dance-like, Celtic quality, full of life and the joy of movement. “Charlie’s Blues” is a bit of a departure from the other works, but Urquhart is a great blues pianist and the piece fits well. “Bread and Roses” is graceful tribute to the compassionate people who care for others with AIDS in a non-institutional setting, making their days more pleasant and loving. “Epitaphs and Portraits” is an outstanding collection that makes me wish I had known about Craig Urquhart’s music several years ago. It’s never too late, however, and I highly recommend this album to those who enjoy and appreciate solo piano at its most personal and heartfelt. “Epitaphs and Portraits” is available from amazon.com and craigurquhart.com."