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United States Music


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Author Topic: United States Music  (Read 18929 times)
kyjo
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« Reply #45 on: November 24, 2012, 03:04:16 am »

Ah, we all have those "now why didn't I listen to that already" moments-I have plenty of them, in fact Grin! While we're on the topic of Mongolian music (which we should really get off Grin), there is the YT channel "YaponyBagsh", which contains a healthy amount of Mongolian classical music, including more symphonies Smiley. Meanwhile, back on American soil...
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« Reply #46 on: December 01, 2012, 12:18:28 am »

I sent a message to the Mills Music Library (Wisconsin Univ.) asking about the orchestras and conductors of Luckhardt's Symphonies. Matt Appleby answered this:

“I cannot find any information about the recording of Luckhardt's Symphony no. 3, although it is very likely performed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Orchestra, Otto-Werner Mueller conducting.
The recording of Symphony no. 4 is from a March 1972 performance also by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Orchestra, Otto-Werner Mueller conducting. First performance of the work”
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« Reply #47 on: December 01, 2012, 09:42:05 pm »

Quote
Luckhardt's Symphony No.4 is really quite amazing Smiley

At times in Part 2 the vocal line begins to remind me of the embarrassing dreadfuulness of late Roy Harris...and then seconds later he cancels out that impression with his gorgeous modal, string lines Grin Grin

I am not sure what it all amounts to but my first impressions are of a quite lovely piece to which I shall return with huge pleasure Smiley Smiley

I quite agree, Colin. I listened to both symphonies this week while driving to and from work, and was very impressed with Luckhardt's writing. He clearly was a very skilled, proficient, well-taught, and talented composer. However, I got the impression that he didn't really have anything memorable to say. I enjoyed the ride, though. I was reminded of an old maxim from many years ago -- "Mahler had nothing to say, but knew how to say it. Bruckner had much to say, but didn't know how to say it." Simplistic, but with some grain of truth.

The main problem with Luckhardt's 4th Symphony, in my view, is the rather ponderous, silly, and unpoetic text. Well-intentioned, to be sure, but a bit juvenile. I think that contributes to your impression, Colin. And, a not-quite-professional performance. Quite solid for a university group, and held together by a fine conductor, but lacking the last bit of polish and experience that a major orchestra might bring.

To sum up, I liked both pieces very much, with some great moments and excellent writing, but I'm a bit too aware of their shortcomings as well. I will listen again, though, and I'm grateful to have had this fine composer (of whom I was completely unaware) brought to my attention. Our Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA is a bit past now, but I want to reiterate how grateful I am for the opportunity to have become acquainted with so many previously unknown composers and works I've encountered both here and in the former version of Unsung Composers. What a glorious treasure both have been, and I hope will continue to be.
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« Reply #48 on: December 06, 2012, 01:32:42 pm »

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Joe Hill by Charles Frink
Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra
Victor Norman, Conductor
Radio broadcast, Date Unknown

Thanks to jowcol for this rarity! I did a little searching and discovered that this performance most likely dates from August 14, 1982, in New London, Connecticut, as part of a concert of American music. The piece itself was written in 1967. The composer was born in 1928 and is still alive, living in New London and still offering piano lessons. Apparently he's a graduate of Yale University and has had a long career in music education.
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« Reply #49 on: December 06, 2012, 03:51:48 pm »

Latvian-- thanks for the update.  I'll post them.

I've found an email for his wife/partner, and wrote them, wishing to see if they would want to share any other recordings, or get a copy of this one.  If I don't hear from them in a few days, I'll pick up the can't-tell-you and call.

He also teaches composition (at half the going rate that our children's cello/viola teachers charge). I hope he is getting all the students he can handle.
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« Reply #50 on: December 06, 2012, 04:28:28 pm »

Joe Hill by Charles Frink (1967)


Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra
Victor Norman, Conductor
Radio broadcast, August 14, 1982, New London, CT, USA

From the collection of Karl Miller


Charles Frink sounds like a very colorful , stubbornly individualistic  character, and this work  is a very enjoyable neo-romantic work.  Among the  other things about him that have attracted my attention, , Frink  seemed to engage on a personal war with television---
http://articles.courant.com/1999-08-29/news/9910070076_1_zenith-long-island-sound-espinosa

Article about “Songs for Travelers”  Edited to help get in size limits
Composer Charles Frink is ...

www.theday.com, 11 Dec 2008 [cached]
Composer Charles Frink is living every minute to its fullest as he awaits the West Coast debut of his "Songs for Travelers."
Charles Frink explains, simply and matter-of-factly, why it's so ironic that one of his compositions - one about death - is going to be performed on the West Coast.

"It's interesting," the New London resident says, "that the Festival Chorale Oregon is going to do this piece because I have a terminal illness."
He goes on to describe what has happened to him since last winter. In March, a 100-percent bowel blockage almost killed him. Frink was then diagnosed with a very rare condition called sclerotizing mesenteritis, a progressive infection of the mesentery, which is the network of connected tissue and nerves that keeps intestines in place and provides the nerve impulses that tell the intestines what to do.

A doctor cut out the blockage and spliced two pieces of intestine together. But something else was discovered: a 4-inch mass in Frink's abdomen. Although there's no evidence it's cancerous, it cannot be removed.

Frink, 80, recalls what the doctor said about the sclerotizing mesenteritis: "'If it progresses far enough, it's fatal.

The idea of trying to do something of value every minute is hardly a new or foreign concept to Frink.

For three decades, he taught social studies at New London High School. He became a playwright. In 1980, he and Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra conductor Victor Norman co-founded the William Billings Institute of American Music, to focus on unsung composers and work in the area. Out of that grew the community theater group Performers' Co-op.

Frink even spent time in city politics, serving on the New London City Council from 2005 to '07.

Music, though, remains his singular passion. Performances of his work have been confined to New England for the most part, so the prospect of being sung in Oregon is particularly exhilarating.

Frink jokingly says that some people have told him over the course of his career, "You'll be acknowledged when you're safely dead," but then he adds, "I may be around for a quite a while. You can't tell."

And he remains heartened by the message of all this: that a new level of recognition can come even late in life.

Holmquist says Frink's music "is approachable without being trite.

Kolwicz fondly recalls his time singing for Frink.

For Frink, composing is not really a choice.

"The simplest answer is, I write because I have to. It is in my heart. That's speaking metaphorically. It's the best that I can do. I began thinking up music when I was 4 years old," says Frink, who lived in Norwich until moving to New London when he was 6.

That first song was inspired by a visit to a local farm, and it was a short, childlike piece with lyrics about a boy riding a goat.

"This delighted everybody. I didn't talk, by the way, not a word, until I was almost 3 years old ... but I sang," he says.

Frink also stuttered badly. When he was a sophomore in high school, he had to speak in front of his class. He didn't think he could do it, but his teacher told him, "Look, you have things to say, and we're going to listen. It doesn't matter if you struggle or not. We'll listen."

Frink says, "Gradually, I learned how to be able to talk without that stammer.

Frink studied at the Yale School of Music before deciding he didn't want to become a professional musician and ended up majoring in philosophy instead. He later earned a master's degree and a doctorate in education from Yale as well.

Much of his music is now archived at the Yale Music Library.

Frink doesn't usually compose at the piano. Instead, he sits at a table by his front window and writes it all down. He will go to the piano - there are actually two in that room - when he hits a snag or things get so complicated that he needs to hear how they sound from outside.

When Frink heard that Holmquist has asked where he had been hiding, his response was: He hadn't been hiding. He had been hidden.

"You see, I've been kind of strange in the kind of music I've written all my life because I have not joined what I call the orthodoxy of the pseudo-avant-garde. And that is a powerful force," Frink says.

Ultimately, Frink says, that orthodoxy tends to regard music as an occasion for analysis instead of as a source of spiritual communication.

Years ago, he met with the concert music director for a performance licensing agency that puts compositions in the hands of performers, and showed him one of his compositions.

"He opened it, very briefly to the first page, glanced and said, 'Simple,' and closed it," Frink says. "He was right. It's not really simple, but compared with the so-called new music, because of the traditional element, it's easy to understand."

But Holmquist, and others, have happily found the "hidden" Frink.

Lessons:
Also interesting is this web site that was last updated in 2011, where Frink was giving piano, voice, and composition lessons for a very modest rate of 25$ an hour.  (That’s about half the going rate where I live)  He must be doing this out of the love of music.    I hope some promising people have come to him for composition lessons--
http://www.findproz.com/music-lessons/connecticut/new-london/charles-frink




I have another letter by Frink I'll post in another reply. .


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« Reply #51 on: December 06, 2012, 04:29:17 pm »

More on Frink

Words of composer Charles Frink
He sent these notes to the festival performing Songs for Travelers, and  I am reproducing the second half has his musings on music, including his interactions with Hindemeth.

Notes of my composition, Songs for Travelers, for its West Premiere by Festival Chorale Oregon on March 7, 2010

(II) Charles’ Music

Although I began creating music at the age of four – (I was unable to write it until age nine) – and have continued composing all my life, except for a hiatus of seven years from my late teens to mid-twenties, and although audiences have loved performances of my music since I was fifteen, my work has never been accepted by the music establishment. This is not due to inadequate quality, but to the fact that I have consistently refused to comply with the orthodoxy of the self-proclaimed avant-garde, enshrined by twentieth-century academia and the performance-licensing oligopoly.

I find it fascinating that Solveig has programmed Songs For Travelers with Hindemith’s In Praise of Music, for I concur with the basic premise of Hindemith’s conception that music theory is a branch of physics. This relationship was first perceived two-and-a-half millennia ago by Pythagoras, and emphatically confirmed by the nineteenth-century German physicist and physiologist Hermann Von Helmholtz, who demonstrated that harmony is rooted in the overtone series. The twentieth-century fads of serialism (Schönberg et al) and randomness (John Cage et al) violate nature – and human nature – and are understandably rejected by the majority of listeners. However, since these pseudo-theories result in complex, unintelligible networks of sound, they have been beloved by a dominant cadre of academicians for whom works of art are occasions for pseudo-analysis.

When, in spite of this discouraging environment, I resumed composing at age twenty-five, I wrote a love song with which I was immediately dissatisfied; I could not get the words right, so I tore it up. However, the melody survived in a submerged portion of my mind. When, at age thirty-five, I began writing Songs For Travelers, I realized that the melody expresses the soul’s ‘free flight into the wordless.’

I am delighted beyond words by Solveig’s recognition of the value of my work. I am confident that the performance will be a worthy experience for all (at least for most) concerned. I hope that you will be able to send me a tape. I am always fascinated by performance, and I welcome the divergence of the performers’ interpretation from what I hear in my head. Inevitable errors do not trouble me. What I seek in performance is expression of the spirit of the work, and I find that expression is rooted in dynamics and rubato. Close attention to, and forceful presentation of, dynamics is essential – far more important than note-by-note accuracy. And I regard rubato as the essence of rhythm. Rhythm must breathe. Metronomic regularity is not rhythm for me – it is mechanical death.

The foregoing is the closest I can come now to providing the information you request. If you have questions, please let me know.

P.S.

Resurrección tells me that I should relate the following. Hindemith’s presence at Yale in the 1940’s was my reason for entering the Yale School of Music at age 17. He tested me for placement in music theory. He quickly concluded that I should pass over introductory theory and harmony, and be enrolled in counterpoint; my teacher there was H. L. Baumgarter, with whom I spent a fruitful year.

I did not study with Hindemith. I read his Craft of Musical Composition, and found therein confirmation and clarification of my instructive perceptions. I audited a few of his classes, and was quickly aware that his teaching was not for me. He imposed his style on students to such an extent that many became disciples.

Before the end of my first semester I had decided not to become a professional musician. I doubted that my individuality would allow me to gain tenure in academic music, and my experience with commercial music had convinced me that it was hopelessly trivial. I therefore set out on the hard road for composers who make their living outside of music – the road travelled by my predecessor at Yale, Charles Ives.

Charles Frink
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« Reply #52 on: December 06, 2012, 04:39:35 pm »

Prelude for Orchestra, by Martha Beck Carragan

Albany Symphony Orchestra
Julius Hegyi
Private recording of live performance
(Date Unknown, but must be between 1965 and 1988, according to the Albany Symphony Orchestra. )

From the collection of Karl Miller

I have been unable to find out much about Martha Beck (or Martha Beck Dillard, or Martha Beck Carragan- she was evidently married twice ), but she was a composer and educator in New York, and started the Friends of Chamber Music to promote playing of new chamber works in 1949.  I can say that she was not the 1940s serial killer Martha Beck  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Fernandez_and_Martha_Beck, nor is she the self-help guru Martha Beck http://marthabeck.com/.  She does seem to have been a fine composer.

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« Reply #53 on: December 12, 2012, 10:49:50 am »

Update on Charles Frink:


I spoke to him on the can't-tell-you yesterday.  It doesn't look there are many performances he has recordings of. He doesn't have anything  commercially released, and doesn't make a point of keeping recordings - around.  He only cited two performances of his that are caught on tape-- on one of them, he didnt' care for the performance,  I may be able to get a copy of the other.   I'll be sending him a copy of "Joe Hill", which he will be happy to hear, although he says that he doesn't listen to music much since he is still actively composing at the age of 85.  Most recently, he's been doing theater-based work, and songs for voice and piano, but he has written a few symphonies and other orchestral works, and is working on collecting the scores and plans to leave them to the Yale Music Archive.   

If my retirement is half as eventful as his, I'll be very happy.


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« Reply #54 on: December 19, 2012, 01:34:26 pm »

Finally got round to listening to the Gene Pritsker "Cloud Atlas Symphony" Smiley

Very post-modernist symphony........but I must admit to rather liking it Grin

No......I will go a little further than that....I like it a lot Grin  It comes to a splendidly affirmative conclusion which, rightly, earns a really enthusiastic reception from the German audience Smiley

Thanks, Atsushi Smiley
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« Reply #55 on: January 08, 2013, 04:08:43 am »

1.  Gene Pritsker played electric guitar on one of the versions of In C I posted a while back.
2.  It's interesting that I could not find Pritsker's name listed on conjunction with the "Cloud Atlas" soundtrack, but on his site he said he did much of the orchestration.  I'm wondering if the symphony has a lot of material he wrote for the movie that wasn't used.
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« Reply #56 on: January 20, 2013, 12:02:29 am »

Music of John Vincent


1. Symphony in D (Original version)
Louisville Orchestra
Robert Whitney, conductor
LP Transfer-- LOU 57-2
From the collection of Karl Miller

Yes, - this is the same source as has been posted twice to UC.  I don't know how the transfer compares to the to other ones.



2-3:The Music of John Vincent –Radio Broadcast KPFA, August 6, 1973

From the Other Minds Radio Archive (Creative Commons 3.0, Non-Commercial, Attribution, No Derivative Works)
Interview with composer, revised Version of Symphony in D, Symphonic Poem after Descartes(1958), String Quartet #2(1967), “Benjamin Franklin Suite for String Orchestra and Glass Harmonica Obbligato” (1963, piano used in the recording)


This radio broadcast has a very lengthy interview with John Vincent 4 years before his death- you'll hear about the two versions of his symphony, reminiscences about Arnold Schoenberg and Eugene Ormandy, and more details on  all of the recordings in the broadcast.


Description of Radio Broadcast from Other Minds Radio Archive
Composer John Vincent (b. 1902, Birmingham, Alabama) is best known for his “Symphony in D” which was recorded and often played by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His music is exuberant and joyful and makes for some fine listening in this program which also includes an interview recorded in Los Angeles. You will hear his “Symphony in D,” “Quartet No. 2 for Strings” (1967), “Symphonic Poem after Descartes” (1958), and the “Benjamin Franklin Suite for String Orchestra and Glass Harmonica Obbligato” (1963). The recording of the “Benjamin Franklin Suite” utilizes a piano in place of the glass harmonica.



Wikipedia bio
John Vincent (composer)


John Nathaniel Vincent, Jr (May 17, 1902 – January 21, 1977) was an American composer, conductor, and music educator.

He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and studied at the New England Conservatory of Music under Frederick Converse and George Chadwick graduating with a diploma in 1927. He continued his studies at George Peabody College where he earned a bachelors and a masters degree followed by doctoral studies at Harvard University from 1933–1935. While at Harvard studying under Walter Piston he won the John Knowles Paine Traveling Fellowship for two years of study with Nadia Boulanger. After transferring to Cornell University he earned his PhD in 1942. Vincent was head of the music department at Western Kentucky University from 1937–1945 and Schoenberg’s successor as professor of composition at UCLA, a position he held from 1946–1969. He died in Santa Monica, California in 1977.

As a composer, Vincent's music is known for its rhythmic vitality and lyricism. Although his music is essentially classical in form it is distinctly individual. The free tonality of his work makes use of what he calls ‘paratonality’: the predominance of a diatonic element in a polytonal or atonal passage. Vincent wrote numerous orchestral works, chamber music pieces, art songs, and choral works. He also wrote one ballet, 3 Jacks (1942), a film score, Red Cross (1948), and an opera, Primeval Void (1969).

In 1951 his book The Diatonic Modes in Modern Music was published. He also conducted orchestras throughout the USA and South America, and he was a director of the Huntington Hartford Foundation from 1952–1965.

Biography by Barnes and Noble

A century after his birth, the reputation of John Vincent rests on two orchestral works: the "Symphony in D," written for and recorded by the Louisville Orchestra (1952, revised 1956), and "Symphonic Poem after Descartes," premiered and recorded in 1958 by Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra (who also made another recording of "Symphony in D"). A "Second Symphony" for piano and strings was arranged by Vincent a year before his death from a 1960 work called "Consort" for the same components "in a neo-Elizabethan style." Born the same year as Richard Rodgers and Stefan Wolpe, Vincent was a student at New England Conservatory, where his teachers from 1922 - 1927 included Frederick Converse and George Chadwick. Awarded a diploma, he earned his B.A. and M.A. at George Peabody College in Nashville in 1933, and for the next two years studied with Walter Piston at Harvard. The John Knowles Paine Traveling Scholarship enabled him to attend l'École Normale de Musique in Paris for two more years (1935 - 1937), where he also received private tuition from the school's doyenne, Nadia Boulanger. In 1942 he earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University. Vincent began a career of teaching after the NE Conservatory: first in public schools at El Paso, TX (1927 - 1930), then at George Peabody while studying there (1930 - 1933). In 1937 he became head of the music department at Western Kentucky State University, and in 1946 was appointed to the composition department at UCLA, where he succeeded Arnold Schoenberg as professor of composition, until his retirement in 1969. He also conducted in North and South America, and from 1952 to 1965 was a director of the Huntington Hartford Foundation. In 1942, Vincent wrote a ballet, "Three Jacks," that he revised for piano and strings in 1954 as "Jack Spratt," in turn revised as "Orchestral Suite from the Three Jacks," and reworked as "The House that Jack Built" in 1957 for speaker and orchestra. In 1948 he wrote the film score for Red Cross, and in 1954 incidental music for The Hallow'd Time. On a text by H.C. Reese (who provided words for "The House that Jack Built"), Vincent composed an "opera buffa" in 1969 called "Primeval Void." His vocal music otherwise was mostly choral. In addition to the symphonies cited and the "Symphonic Poem after Descartes," he wrote a very early "Folk Song Symphony" (1931) and symphonic poem called "Songs of the Chattahoochee." In 1959 he wrote "La Jolla Concerto" for chamber orchestra, revising it twice (in 1966 and 1973). A "Rondo Rhapsody" was premiered in May 1965, and in 1966 he added "Nude Descending Staircase" for strings (arranged in 1974 for xylophone with piano or string accompaniment), also "The Phoenix, Fabulous Bird," for the city of Phoenix, AZ. From 1925 until the end of his life Vincent produced a variety of chamber music. In 1951, he published The Diatonic Modes in Modern Music, cited by Nicolas Slonimsky as "valuable." Stylistically, his music was rooted in Classical forms, notable for rhythmic asymmetry and lyrical melodies (which is not to say memorable). He employed a vocabulary called "paratonality," based freely but not surprisingly on diatonicism -- widespread among composers of his generation, and the later one influenced by Hindemith's residency in the U.S. after 1940. He used some atonal elements, but preferred polytonality in the more complex works.
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« Reply #57 on: January 20, 2013, 01:06:03 am »

1978 Friedheim Award Concert
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts


From the collection of Karl Miller
Radio broadcast


This was the first in a series of competitions that ran about 15 years awarded composers of instrumental music. The five composers listed below were the finalists.
I'm not going to spoil the surprise of who one if you don't already know.

01 Commentary

02 Concerto for Orchestra - Henri Lazarof

03: Commentary

04 Concerto for English Horn- Vincent Perschetti -I

05: Concerto for English Horn- Vincent Perschetti -II

06  Concerto for English Horn- Vincent Perschetti -III

07 Commentary

08: O Dephonica - Marc Consoli-I

09 O Dephonica - Marc Consoli-II

10 Commentary

11 Ricercari Notturni-Stanislav Skrowaczewski-I

12 : Ricercari Notturni-Stanislav Skrowaczewski-II

13 Ricercari Notturni-Stanislav Skrowaczewski-III

14: Commentary

15 Adios- Aurelio de la Vega

16: Commentary

17 Commentary
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« Reply #58 on: February 13, 2013, 08:10:00 pm »

Music of Leo Sowerby



Thanks to the generosity of Karl Miller, I have the pleasure of sharing a fairly large collection of the works of Leo Sowerby, whom I know is appreciated by some of you.   I have put all of the recordings the  duplicated performances already posted to UC in the first volume, so those of who who have already downloaded them may wish to skip them.  (I've not compared the sources, so you may or may not get an improved version. )  Volumes 2 and 3 should hopefully be a treasure trove for Sowerby fans out there.  



From the collection of Karl Miller

All works are from radio broadcasts or in-house recordings of live performances.  To the best of my knowledge, none have been released for sale in digital form, or are available commercially.


Volume 1.
 (Note-- all recordings in Volume 1 have been previously posted on Unsung Composers.)

Concerto #1 in C for Organ and Orchestra H.231 (1936)
1.  Vigorously, and Moderately Fast
2. Slowly and Wistfully
3. Boldly,  Moderately Fast

E. Power Biggs, Organ
Philadelphia Orchestra
Eugene Ormandy
Academy of Music, Philadelphia  Sept. 29, 1963.

4-6:  Symphony  # 3
Chicago Philharmonic
Henry Weber, Conductor
May, 1947.

7.  Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
Jacques Gordon, Violin
Eastman Rochester Symphony ‘Orchestra
Howard Hanson,  Conductor
April 15, 1943

8.  Piano Concerto #2 in E (“Concerto in Miniature”) 1932

(three interconnected movements:)
I-Moderately Fast
II- Slowly and Rhapsodically
III – Lively

Janice Weber- Piano
Wayne (NJ) Chamber Orchestra
Murray Collissimo, Conductor
William Patterson College, Feb 17, 1995










Volume 2:

1.   Medieval Poem

Composer- organ
Eastman Rochester School Orchestra
Howard Hanson, Conductor
Private recording of live performance

2-3 . Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (2nd and 3rd movements only)
Mary McCvevy (sp?) cello
Eastman Rochester Symphony Orchestra
Howard Hanson, Conductor
Private recording of live performance.

4. Concertpiece for Organ and Orchestra (1951)
Lorenz Maycher, organ
Richmond Symphony
Neil Campbell, Conductor
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
Richmond VA, June 20, 1995

5. Tramping Tune, version for piano and string orchestra (1917)

“Description of political rally themes, off-key bands, street corner harangues, strirring come-along spirit.”

Janice Weber- Piano
Wayne (NJ) Chamber Orchestra
Murray Collissimo, Conductor
William Patterson College, Feb 17, 1995
In-house recording

6. Concertpiece for Organ and Orchestra
7. Dialog for Organ and Piano
8.  Concerto #2 in E Major for Organ and Orchestra


Lorenz Maycher, Organ
Charles Callahan, Piano
Omaha Symphony Orchestra
Ernest Richardson, Conductor
May 5, 2007—in-house recording.




Volume 3:  

1-3: Concerto #1 in C for Organ and Orchestra-
(Note- my notes say that E  Power Biggs was the soloist, and that this was performed with the  Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy—but this sounds much clearer than the ’63 version I have elsewhere in this collection, so I’d welcome any ideas as to the identify of this performance.  I am unaware of this one being commercially available.)

4.  Synconata (first performed Dec. 28, 1924)
5-8: Monotony: A Symphony for Metronome and Jazz Orchestra
 (First performed Nov. 10, 1925 by the Paul Whiteman band. )
Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble
November 20, 1994

9. Money Musk
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
Fabien Sevizky, Conductor
March 12, 1943

10.  Ballade “King Estmere” for Two Pianos and Orchestra
George MacNabb, Harry Watts, Piano
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Howard Hanson, Conductor
Jan 24, 1935

11-13: Homage to England’s Country Folk
Three songs from Somerset (1916)
School of Orchestral Studies  NYS
Russell Stranger,  Conductor
Sept. 12, 1990

14-16: Sinfonietta for Strings (1933)
Washington Chamber Orchestra
Ivan Romanenko, Conductor
Date unknown

17: Te Deum
Gloria Del Cantores
Patterson (?) Conductor

18-20: Concerto #1 in C for Organ and Orchestra
Robert Parris, Organ
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Alexander Mickelthwate, Conductor
July 9, 2004
In house recording of live performance..




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« Reply #59 on: February 13, 2013, 08:11:54 pm »

I also thought I'd pass along this article written on the centennial of his birth by Harold Stover.


Leo Sowerby at 100*
by Harold Stover


American organ journals from the period between the two world wars give a vivid picture of the vitality of the organ world in this country in those days. Its practitioners may not have enjoyed the wider historical overview of the instrument which the much more rigorous scholarship of our own time affords us, but they enjoyed an acceptance by the society in which they lived which we cannot help but envy. As we mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of their world's most distinguished member, it is worth stopping to consider what of his life and times has been lost, what remains, and what may be ripe for revival.

Leo Sowerby came of age at the same time as did American music. With a few isolated exceptions, American composers before the 1920s had merely tried to imitate the voices of their Central European teachers, but Sowerby's generation, led by such men as George Gershwin, Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, and Walter Piston, took the old European forms and poured into them music which sounded distinctly American in its melody, harmony, and rhythm. Like the writers of the period in search of The Great American Novel, many composers dreamed of writing The Great American Symphony. Beyond the mere quotation of folk tunes, this "American-ness" was a subconscious evocation of a national soul, as unquantifiable-but-real as the "French-ness" of Debussy and Messiaen of the "English-ness" of Elgar and Vaughan Williams.

They did so at a time when the organ not only fulfilled its traditional role as an instrument of worship, but was a central part of the secular musical life of America as well. Big pipe organs in the symphonic style from the shops of Skinner, Austin, and others represented the cutting edge of style and technology, and were everywhere in the 20s and 30s: in movie theaters and hotel ballrooms, in concert halls and high school auditoriums, in the mansions and even the yachts of the well-to-do. Great organists drew audiences that regularly numbered in the thousands and occasionally in the tens of thousands. Even the organ's role as a liturgical instrument was much more prominent in the general consciousness: a major New York newspaper then had a regular column called The Choir Loft which chronicled the news and repertoire of the city's leading church choirs, a situation unimaginable today. It was, as Michael Murray notes in his biography of Marcel Dupre, an era of the grand and consummate, a golden age of the organ.

These two trends, of a distinctly American musical style and of the symphonic organ as an instrument that was central to the American listening experience, came together in the music of Leo Sowerby. To cite one example, the organ's capacity for sustained tone had produced beautiful slow movements from every European school, but now the organ could also sing in a new language: the yearning and nostalgia of the blues, and torch songs, and long lonely nights, as in Sowerby's Arioso or the middle movement (Very Slowly) from the Sonatina. In the school of American symphonic composers, only Sowerby, Paul Creston, and Virgil Thomson were organists (and Thomson for only a short time early in his career). Sowerby was the one who extended the reach of the American symphonists into the mainstream repertoire of his instrument in works which include such landmarks of the symphonic organ literature as Comes Autumn Time, the Suite, the Carillon, and others. His organ catalogue reached its monumental peak in the Symphony in G, that epic portrait of the rural, urban, and mythical America that its symphonists sought to enshrine.

Sowerby was born on May 1, 1895 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and spent most of his adult life in Chicago. He was thus one of the authentic musical voices of the Midwest, of the great American heartland. His talent blossomed early - his violin concerto was premiered in 1913, when the composer was 18 years old and his orchestral works were featured on programs by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from his early 20s on. He went on to produce a catalogue of more than 550 works, including other concertos (for piano, organ, cello, and harp), five symphonies, and music in every other genre with the sole exception of opera. He was the first winner of the American Prix de Rome, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946 for his cantata The Canticle of the Sun, and his orchestral music was played not only by the Chicago Symphony, but by the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and many others. His success extended beyond the traditional classical concert stage. How many people who associate Sowerby only with organ and choral music know that when bandleader Paul Whiteman sought new works in the jazz idiom after his great success with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, one of the first composers he turned to was Sowerby? (He wrote two works for Whiteman's band, one called Synconata and the other called Monotony, a piece for metronome and jazz band). His music could indeed vibrate with the syncopated urban accents of the Jazz Age, but he painted vivid musical landscapes, such as the tone poems Prairie and Comes Autumn Time (in both its orchestral and organ versions), or From the Northland, his evocation of the forests and Great Lakes of his native Michigan. His reputation as a specialist in sophisticated liturgical music was balanced by the fact that two of his best-sellers during his lifetime were his instrumental settings of The Irish Washerwoman and Pop Goes the Weasel.

With the sole exception of his pupil Ned Rorem, Sowerby was the last American composer with a national reputation in the world of concert music to display any more than a token interest in church music. He was organist of St .James' Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago for more than 40 years, and his liturgical music occupies a central place in his life's work and in the history of American church music. He produced a long list of anthems, each of which is a master class in the techniques of writing choral music. They illuminate the sacred texts in a truly symphonic style, and feature organ accompaniments that make integral and idiomatic contributions to the texture of the music - real organ music: no one-size-sort -of-fits-all "keyboard" parts like those which so many church music programs seem to demand today.

Many of Sowerby's anthems are difficult for both choir and organist. They were written for some of the top choirs of his time, including those of David McK. Williams at St. Bartholomew's, New York, Paul Callaway at the Washington Cathedral, and his own choir at St. James, Chicago. These anthems, however, were in print almost as soon as they were written and were performed by many other choirs across the nation, both amateur and professional, a wide acceptance which speaks to the standards of musical education in the period. There are some easier ones, too, and they include Love Came Down at Christmas, the beautiful I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes, the unison Jubilate Deo in C Major, and the set of SAB anthems which includes Jesu, Bright and Morning Star, Martyr of God, and All Hail, Adored Trinity.

What is the outlook for Sowerby's work in his 100th year? Current trends seem to be moving church music further and further away from Sowerby's liturgical esthetic, and many of the best anthems have gone out of print. Despite this, organists who are unfamiliar with the more difficult choral works should investigate them even if they do not direct choirs that are able to do these works justice. Merely playing through them at the piano can take us back to a time when one of the best that America had to offer was also one of our own, and can encourage our listeners to not be satisfied with music that aims at only the lowest common denominator of musical literacy and skill. The outlook for the organ works seems brighter, thanks in part to the revival of interest in the American symphonic organ. Many are back in print, moving out of the limbo into which they were forced by the American Orgelbewegung. Gail Quillman's recordings of Sowerby piano and chamber works have opened a window onto this large area of his output, and we can hope that the recent spate of recording activity on behalf of the American symphonists will extend to Sowerby's orchestral music. The Leo Sowerby Society is engaged in an ongoing effort to publish and promote his complete works, which can now be seen as representing a unique and accomplished voice that sings the song of its exhilarating time and place, an America in which our instrument and the people who play it were central parts of the public's musical experience. If that time evokes a nostalgic yearning in those of us who have inherited a very different world, there is that quality, too, in the music. Let us hope that the centenary celebrations of this American original will set fast his place in the history of his country's music.


Harold Stover (Stovorg@worldnet.att.net) is Organist and Director of Music of Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland, Maine. The Leo Sowerby Society can be contacted at 135 Wintergreen Way, Rochester, NY 14618 (716-461-2331)





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