Albany's George Walker: Great American Chamber Music includes the Son Sonora String Quartet in the first recording of Walker's String Quartet No. 1 (1946). That work's central movement a piece subsequently reorchestrated as Lyric for Strings (also 1946), Walker's best-known and most often programmed orchestral work. It is a mournful, poignant movement, that communicates with immediacy and drama.
Pianist Frederick Moyer ably pulls off the Piano Sonata No. 4 (1985), which is a fine, concise, and rhythmically imaginative piece, reconciling Walker's dissonant idiom with a more intuitive and natural kind of writing than that of the String Quartet No. 2; the piece even includes some Lisztian flourishes that call to mind Walker's own impressive pianism. Walker's playing is heard in support of baritone James Martin in three songs at the close of the program; "Take, O Take Those Lips Away" and "And Wilt Thou Leave Me" both date from 2002 and "Lament" is undated. The first setting, of Shakespeare, is especially fine. However, the brief piano solo Song Without Words is the best of this group; it is in the vein of Duke Ellington, with slightly tarter harmonies, and provides a classy and congenial closing statement for this disc. Great American Chamber Music is a companion to Walker's other Albany disc, Great American Orchestral Music.