Letter to Sarah

Total Time — 61:18

  1. Letter to Sarah 2:35
  2. Repeatedly 7:56
  3. Ups and Downs 5:55
  4. New Life 2:39
  5. Dear Sarah 1:28
  6. A Father’s Love 9:05
  7. Kindhearted Soul 4:06
  8. Mitzvah 2:15
  9. First Birthday Blues 4:31
  10. Your Warm Smile 5:33
  11. Places Unknown 4:03
  12. Imagination 1:25
  13. Unconditionally 3:56
  14. Blues for Sarah 2:34
  15. Sarah’s Lullabye 2:53
  • All compositions by Paul Hofmann – PBH Music BMI
  • Produced by Paul Hofmann
  • Recorded August 9, 2005 at Soundtrek Studio I, Kansas City, MO
  • Engineered by Ron Ubel
  • Digital editing by Jeff Schiller
  • Art direction and design by Keith Kavanaugh

Letter to Sarah



Howard Spindler

Chairman, Piano Department
Eastman Community Music School
Eastman School of Music

With this new set of fifteen piano pieces, Paul Hofmann evokes Claude Debussy and Robert Schumann, composers who were inspired by children to compose some of their most evocative and intimate piano music (“Children’s Corner Suite” and “Scenes from Childhood,” respectively). And like Hofmann, these two composers were doting fathers of adorable daughters.

A letter dated June 23, 2005 from Paul to his darling Sarah serves as fountainhead for the suite: in the first piece, Paul sets his own words as a recitative (we don’t hear the words, but they are in the score), set in a relaxed and conversational style. Several of the following pieces derive their titles and even their musical motives from the letter. It can be fun here to play musical detective, but suffice it to note that the interplay of tenderness, pride, playfulness and affection expressed in the letter provides ample inspiration for an hour’s worth of music!

Some parallels to classic piano composers – besides those spiritual parallels to Debussy and Schumann – inevitably spring to a classical musician’s mind. The two-part inventions of J.S. Bach are not far removed from the two blues pieces, First Birthday Blues (no. 9) and the fabulous Blues for Sarah (no. 14). Chopin would feel right at home with the nocturne-like Imagination (no. 12) or the Ups and Downs waltz (no. 3). Sarah’s cat Mitzvah, musically portrayed in no. 8, would be instant friends with a cat of Samuel Barber; and a modern-day Carl Czerny would love to see budding pianist Sarah try her hand at Dear Sarah (no. 5). The set ends with Sarah’s Lullabye, closely approaching Robert Schumann’s style, and even quoting (likely unconsciously) the opening motif of Träumerei.

Paul’s piano playing is better than ever, and the recorded piano sound has excellent presence. This CD is a treat!

Paul, SarahFor a decade now, I have intermittently been composing little piano pieces for Sarah, beginning with New Life (written as Sarah was still in utero). Of the other early tunes, Sarah’s Lullabye and Kindhearted Soul both appear in early versions on “A Child Is Born.” The remainder of the album was written in stages, most recently A Father’s Love and Letter to Sarah – the full text of which appears on this booklet’s back panel.

Less than a year ago, with Sarah’s all-important tenth birthday quickly approaching (in March 2006), I thought it would be great fun to record an hour-long program of various ‘songs for Sarah.’ And so, in August 2005 I made another fruitful trip back to Kansas City’s Soundtrek Studio, where Ron Ubel and Jeff Schiller provided me with their usual wonderful engineering. Keith Kavanaugh subsequently came up with another terrific package commemorating the results; and here we are.

These compositions run the gamut from fully-composed (Letter to Sarah; Dear Sarah) to mainly- or all-improvised (Repeatedly; Imagination). As Howard has previously mentioned, many titles stem directly from the letter’s text. Stylistically, the music – all ‘jazz’ in the general sense, I suppose – ranges from jazz to classical to blues to Latin to...things in between?

Certain musical influences on the playing and/or writing (and sometimes both) are as follows:

My thanks to all these artists (among many others) who have so enriched my life, and who continue to. My thanks also to quite a few of my Eastman students who have enjoyed using many of these musical sketches as springboards for their own uniquely wonderful compositions.

To those of you who are already acquainted with Sarah, I know you are well aware of how special she is. To those of you who will only get the chance to ‘know’ Sarah through these musical impressions, I hope my playing and writing comes even a little close to accurately representing her extraordinary personality.

And, of course, to Sarah: Happy Tenth Birthday to the most wonderful daughter in the world! You are loved more than I can ever express in words.

Paul Hofmann