The Great American Symphony; Reality; Possibility; Illusion

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The Great American Symphony; Reality; Possibility; Illusion

Post by pizza » Fri Jan 26, 2007 3:32 am

Many years ago I bought a Mercury mono LP of Roy Harris' 3rd Symphony with the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra conducted by Howard Hanson. It was my first exposure to a serious American symphonic work and I was overwhelmed. It started me on my personal quest for the "Great American Symphony". I never found it.

Through the many years that followed, and through many more exposures to the symphonies of American composers, I vacillated between the Harris and Copland's 3rd, Piston's 2nd, Schuman's 3rd, Diamond's 2nd, Ives' 4th, Creston's 2nd, Mennin's 7th and Gould's 3rd, while considering many others, mostly compositions of the '30s and '40s --a period that seemed to produce the best of the genre. The fact finally sank in that there is no single greatest symphony -- that there can't be one for the simple reason that each great symphony stands on its own merit, speaks its own individual language, and comparisons are ultimately meaningless and reveal nothing.

However, others may disagree. Does anyone think they found it? If so, why? Any thoughts?

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Post by moldyoldie » Fri Jan 26, 2007 4:18 am

I've always pointed to Copland's Third as being the quintessential American symphony. Though not very complex musically, at least to my untrained ear, listening to it evokes the post-war American landscape as well as anything, plus it has that marvelous Fanfare for the Common Man motif that's become so hackneyed in other contexts.

"The Great American Symphony" -- sounds like one of those unattainable paradigms.

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Post by piston » Fri Jan 26, 2007 7:33 am

I enjoy all of these works, pizza, along with Hanson's and Rorem's, even some of Hovhaness'. It isn't clear to me why there should stand out one very great American symphony. I don't find such a work exists in Russia/Soviet Union for example. A personal favorite is not synonymous to a collective consensus on the ultimate, perfect master piece. I am curious now. Do you consider any of Vaughan Williams' symphonies to be the "great symphony", something vastly superior to the American symphonies you have selected?
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Post by James » Fri Jan 26, 2007 7:33 am

Yeah, I'd go with Copland's 3rd also.

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Post by pizza » Fri Jan 26, 2007 7:53 am

piston wrote: I am curious now. Do you consider any of Vaughan Williams' symphonies to be the "great symphony", something vastly superior to the American symphonies you have selected?
No, and even if I thought VW's symphonies to be superior to the American symphonies, which I certainly do not, I wouldn't consider any single symphony to be the "great symphony" for the same reasons.

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Re: The Great American Symphony; Reality; Possibility; Illus

Post by diegobueno » Fri Jan 26, 2007 7:55 am

pizza wrote: I vacillated between the Harris and Copland's 3rd, Piston's 2nd, Schuman's 3rd, Diamond's 2nd, Ives' 4th, Creston's 2nd, Mennin's 7th and Gould's 3rd, while considering many others, mostly compositions of the '30s and '40s --a period that seemed to produce the best of the genre. The fact finally sank in that there is no single greatest symphony
Don't you think it's better this way? Rather than one superlative example, there's a whole stable of exemplary works, a repertory we should be ashamed for neglecting.
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Post by pizza » Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:00 am

piston wrote: It isn't clear to me why there should stand out one very great American symphony.
If you read Joseph Horowitz' excellent Classical Music in America -- A History of its Rise and Fall, there's a very interesting explanation of a similar quest by musicologists for the so-called "Great American Symphony" that was contemporary with the time in which many if not most of these works appeared. It was a cultural reaction away from the emphasis on Eurocentricity.

My interest in the subject doesn't go back that far, but almost! :wink:

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Post by piston » Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:08 am

pizza wrote:
piston wrote: It isn't clear to me why there should stand out one very great American symphony.
If you read Joseph Horowitz' excellent Classical Music in America -- A History of its Rise and Fall, there's a very interesting explanation of a similar quest by musicologists for the so-called "Great American Symphony" that was contemporary with the time in which many if not most of these works appeared. It was a cultural reaction away from the emphasis on Eurocentricity.

My interest in the subject doesn't go back that far, but almost! :wink:
Interesting, this 1930s(?) musicological quest in the USA. Any reference then to what musicologists considered the greatest European symphonies?
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Post by Ralph » Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:17 am

I'm not sure how to "find" greatness in a relatively recent works since so much of that attribute seems to depend upon age, acceptance and performance ubiquity. But I just played Harris's Third Symphony conducted by Bernstein and it is an outstanding work.

I'm also partial to some of Bernstein's pieces because each time I listen to one, his symphonies for instance, I hear something new.
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Re: The Great American Symphony; Reality; Possibility; Illus

Post by karlhenning » Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:45 am

pizza wrote:Many years ago I bought a Mercury mono LP of Roy Harris' 3rd Symphony with the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra conducted by Howard Hanson. It was my first exposure to a serious American symphonic work and I was overwhelmed. It started me on my personal quest for the "Great American Symphony". I never found it.

Through the many years that followed, and through many more exposures to the symphonies of American composers, I vacillated between the Harris and Copland's 3rd, Piston's 2nd, Schuman's 3rd, Diamond's 2nd, Ives' 4th, Creston's 2nd, Mennin's 7th and Gould's 3rd, while considering many others, mostly compositions of the '30s and '40s --a period that seemed to produce the best of the genre. The fact finally sank in that there is no single greatest symphony -- that there can't be one for the simple reason that each great symphony stands on its own merit, speaks its own individual language, and comparisons are ultimately meaningless and reveal nothing.

However, others may disagree. Does anyone think they found it? If so, why? Any thoughts?
Very interesting post, pizza.

What would The Great American Symphony be, that you feel you have not found it, and that you despair of finding it?

(For reference, is there The Great German, French, English or Russian Symphony?)

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Post by pizza » Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:48 am

Ralph wrote:I'm not sure how to "find" greatness in a relatively recent works since so much of that attribute seems to depend upon age, acceptance and performance ubiquity. But I just played Harris's Third Symphony conducted by Bernstein and it is an outstanding work.
He recorded it twice that I know of. I prefer his live DG 1985 recording to the studio Sony, not only because of the better sound but because the live performance is a fine example of how Bernstein could allow himself to be completely spontaneous before an audience and go for broke.

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Re: The Great American Symphony; Reality; Possibility; Illus

Post by pizza » Fri Jan 26, 2007 9:13 am

karlhenning wrote:
pizza wrote:Many years ago I bought a Mercury mono LP of Roy Harris' 3rd Symphony with the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra conducted by Howard Hanson. It was my first exposure to a serious American symphonic work and I was overwhelmed. It started me on my personal quest for the "Great American Symphony". I never found it.

Through the many years that followed, and through many more exposures to the symphonies of American composers, I vacillated between the Harris and Copland's 3rd, Piston's 2nd, Schuman's 3rd, Diamond's 2nd, Ives' 4th, Creston's 2nd, Mennin's 7th and Gould's 3rd, while considering many others, mostly compositions of the '30s and '40s --a period that seemed to produce the best of the genre. The fact finally sank in that there is no single greatest symphony -- that there can't be one for the simple reason that each great symphony stands on its own merit, speaks its own individual language, and comparisons are ultimately meaningless and reveal nothing.

However, others may disagree. Does anyone think they found it? If so, why? Any thoughts?
Very interesting post, pizza.

What would The Great American Symphony be, that you feel you have not found it, and that you despair of finding it?

(For reference, is there The Great German, French, English or Russian Symphony?)
First, let me correct the impression that I "despair" of finding it. As I mentioned earlier, each great work stands on its own merit, speaks its own language and has to be taken on its own terms. After having gone through the search on a personal level, I'm completely at ease with that approach.

The question is one of cultural context. As I recall, you mentioned that you read Joseph Horowitz' book, and so you may remember the reasons for the search -- it was a matter of pride and mainly served to raise American consciousness in the accomplishments of American composers while at the same time hoping to increase the level of performances of these works by American orchestras. The search itself, and ensuing debates were of primary importance, and the fact that no consensus was or ever could be reached was secondary. In other words, the process itself outweighed the result. I think everyone interested in symphonic music goes through the process on a personal level with those works of interest to them. Many discussions on these boards are involved with comparisons and seem to validate that fact.

I think the same is true of the works of composers of other countries; there is no single greatest symphony, although I often hear that Beethoven's 9th is considered by some to be the pinnacle of symphonic achievement. I personally disagree for the same reason.

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Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Jan 26, 2007 10:26 am

The "Great American Symphony" is Elliott Carter's Concerto for Orchestra. I have little use for "cowboy" symphonies from the 1930's.

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Re: The Great American Symphony; Reality; Possibility; Illus

Post by Heck148 » Fri Jan 26, 2007 10:31 am

pizza wrote: The fact finally sank in that there is no single greatest symphony -- that there can't be one for the simple reason that each great symphony stands on its own merit, speaks its own individual language, and comparisons are ultimately meaningless and reveal nothing.

However, others may disagree. Does anyone think they found it? If so, why? Any thoughts?
I tend to agree that there is no single "greatest American symphony" just as there isn't a "greatest Russian" or "German symphony", etc...

however, there are certainly some very viable contenders -

Schuman #3 probably comes closest for me.
Copland #3 and Hanson #3 are very strong also...

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Post by piston » Fri Jan 26, 2007 10:58 am

BWV 1080 wrote:The "Great American Symphony" is Elliott Carter's Concerto for Orchestra. I have little use for "cowboy" symphonies from the 1930's.
An American cowboy in Paris, that should yield pretty good results :) And, then, he got himself into hot water with the good Senator from Wisconsin during the 1950's. "O Roy, what have you done! Why couldn't you just forget about what the Depression did to the OKlahoma farmers?" I'm listening to his "Gettysburg" at the moment and it's an original too.
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Post by Joe Barron » Fri Jan 26, 2007 12:11 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:The "Great American Symphony" is Elliott Carter's Concerto for Orchestra. I have little use for "cowboy" symphonies from the 1930's.
I'll second that. Interestingly, David Schiff has written that Mr. Carter's Variations for Orchestra really belongs as much to the conservative, great-Amercan-symphony school of Copland, Schuman, and Harris as it does to the 1950s avant garde. In his estimation, it is more successful than any of them. I must say I agree.

There are many great American symphonies, though, as BWV's example shows, some are not called symphonies. I'd place Ives's Third and Fourth near the top of the list. Ives's First, too, is the best American symphony of the 19th century, imho, and there were many.

Coplands' Third starts off well enough, but the ending is overblown, I think. I prefer his ballets and his movie music.

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Post by diegobueno » Fri Jan 26, 2007 12:30 pm

BWV 1080 wrote: I have little use for "cowboy" symphonies from the 1930's.
A rather simplistic characterization of a whole decade, don't you think?

I find I can appreciate Carter perfectly well without having to denigrate his forebears.
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Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Jan 26, 2007 12:48 pm

diegobueno wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote: I have little use for "cowboy" symphonies from the 1930's.
A rather simplistic characterization of a whole decade, don't you think?
Yep. The 30's were a wasted decade where fear of the soup line sent a whole generation of composers to whoring themselves by writing cowboy music for government grants
I find I can appreciate Carter perfectly well without having to denigrate his forebears.
I find that denigration of Copland, Piston etc actually enhances my appreciation of Carter.

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Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Jan 26, 2007 12:58 pm

Joe Barron wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:The "Great American Symphony" is Elliott Carter's Concerto for Orchestra. I have little use for "cowboy" symphonies from the 1930's.
I'll second that. Interestingly, David Schiff has written that Mr. Carter's Variations for Orchestra really belongs as much to the conservative, great-Amercan-symphony school of Copland, Schuman, and Harris as it does to the 1950s avant garde. In his estimation, it is more successful than any of them. I must say I agree.

There are many great American symphonies, though, as BWV's example shows, some are not called symphonies. I'd place Ives's Third and Fourth near the top of the list. Ives's First, too, is the best American symphony of the 19th century, imho, and there were many.

Coplands' Third starts off well enough, but the ending is overblown, I think. I prefer his ballets and his movie music.
The Cto for Orch. took a poem entitled Vents by St. John Perse, which describes winds both destroying and renewing America (an apt theme for a work written in the late 1960's) - so the piece does have the context of a specifically American work

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Post by diegobueno » Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:00 pm

Elliott Carter once said he was tired of music where "first you do a little of this and then you do a little of that", adding that he wanted to mix up the "this" and "that". The trouble is once you mix them up so thoroughly as Carter has done, it all turns into one gray blob of "thisthat". No one is more skillful than Carter at delineating the various strands of ideas in his music, but ultimately his compositions all have a wearying sameness to them, especially the more recent, mass-produced scores. For this reason I find his accomplishments to rate well below that of Copland.

BUT....

Of Carter's orchestral scores I too would put Concerto for Orchestra and Variations for Orchestra as contenders for "Great American" symphony-like-object.

Carter's clarinet writing is always effective, and never adds undue awkwardness to the intrinsic difficulty of the ideas. I just recently got his "Hiyoku" for 2 clarinets and hope to find another player with a mind to learn it with me.
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Post by diegobueno » Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:28 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:
I find that denigration of Copland, Piston etc actually enhances my appreciation of Carter.
I find that statements like this diminish my appreciation of Carter

... not to mention my respect for the people who make them.
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Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:30 pm

diegobueno wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:
I find that denigration of Copland, Piston etc actually enhances my appreciation of Carter.
I find that statements like this diminish my appreciation of Carter

... not to mention my respect for the people who make them.
You are taking these statements way too seriously. My tongue was firmly planted in my cheek there.

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Post by diegobueno » Fri Jan 26, 2007 10:54 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:
Yep. The 30's were a wasted decade where fear of the soup line sent a whole generation of composers to whoring themselves by writing cowboy music for government grants
And this statement? Just a joke, right?
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Post by BWV 1080 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 10:02 am

diegobueno wrote:
BWV 1080 wrote:
Yep. The 30's were a wasted decade where fear of the soup line sent a whole generation of composers to whoring themselves by writing cowboy music for government grants
And this statement? Just a joke, right?
Hyperbole at least

Anyway, Barber is the great composer of that group, but do not know of a candidate of his for The Great American Symphony (tm) (perhaps that is why he is the greatest of the bunch - he did not think in these terms)

James

Post by James » Sat Jan 27, 2007 1:33 pm

er, lots of bs floating around in this thread (i.e. BWV 1080's comments), anyway....
Joe Barron wrote:Coplands' Third starts off well enough, but the ending is overblown, I think. I prefer his ballets and his movie music.
The whole thing is dynamite imo. The last movement is probably my fave. The ballets are really good, particularly Appalachian Spring...but one of Copland's greatest works is the Symphonic Ode. A masterpiece. Dig his Concertos (Piano & Clarinet) & Piano Music (Variations, Sonata, Fantasy) a whole lot too.

Carter's Symphony No. 1, is a legit symphony with a distinctly American sound but it pales with Copland's 3rd.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 1:50 pm

I hope everyone realizes that there is some lurker here who is laughing us off the face of the planet because he has no problem identifying Svoerlingsbjorglundhalgeland's Fourth as the great Icelandic national symphony.

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Post by diegobueno » Sat Jan 27, 2007 2:05 pm

James wrote:
Carter's Symphony No. 1, is a legit symphony with a distinctly American sound but it pales with Copland's 3rd.
Carter would probably agree with you here. He surely realized at some point that he wasn't cut out to write this type of music, and that's why he changed his style. I can't blame him for that.
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Post by BWV 1080 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 2:32 pm

I guess to choose a great American symphony you have to define an American sound. What is the American sound? Does it merely entail some folk music references? What about jazz or blues?

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Post by Wallingford » Sat Jan 27, 2007 2:41 pm

Harris' Third, hands down. Even after all these years. It moves me in a way no other GAS (that's the acronym for the thread title above) manages to.
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Post by pizza » Sat Jan 27, 2007 2:57 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:I guess to choose a great American symphony you have to define an American sound. What is the American sound? Does it merely entail some folk music references? What about jazz or blues?
That's been one of the great debates among composers, critics and musicologists going back to the time of Dvorak's "New World Symphony" and the arguments among the musical tastemakers of Boston and New York.

Then there's Roger Sessions' taciturn remark that just because he's an American doesn't mean he's required to write American music. At least it implies that he recognized some kind of American sound or sounds that he didn't feel compelled to emulate.

Of course it includes jazz, blues and folk, but like the famous remark by Supreme Court Justice Stewart, trying to explain "hard-core" pornography, or what is obscene, by saying, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . ut I know it when I see it . . . ", I think the same rationale applies to the "American Sound". I can't clearly define it but I know it when I hear it.

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Post by diegobueno » Sat Jan 27, 2007 5:50 pm

What we call the "American sound" might actually be better called the "Boulanger sound". A generation of composers went to study with this one teacher and they all came back with a recognizable sound. Since they were all Americans, and they sounded different from the previous generation of American composers who were decidedly of Germanic orientation, it was decided that they had discovered an American sound.

And lest it be forgotten, Copland and Piston and their fellow Boulanger classmates were the modernists of American music in the 30s and 40s, the ones updating the language of American music. Copland came under particular fire from conservatives like Daniel Gregory Mason, whose writings state that music was being debased by the Jews through the influence of "negro savages"*.

* his racism may have been a little more veiled than that (he himself was the author of a String Quartet on Negro Themes), but his anti-semitism was out there for all to see.
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Post by piston » Sat Jan 27, 2007 5:58 pm

Not to be a pain in the neck, diegobueno, but it was almost three generations of American composers. Her last American students, like Michael Viens, were born in the 1950's.
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Post by diegobueno » Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:05 pm

piston wrote:Not to be a pain in the neck, diegobueno, but it was almost three generations of American composers. Her last American students, like Michael Viens, were born in the 1950's.
cheers
True.
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Post by piston » Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:37 pm

Aaron Copland sounds more "American" because so much of his work is "national" in terms of folkloric or even social or historical inspiration. Barber is not so easily identified but some of his work, like Knoxville..., is also very American. Harris, "the cowboy," absolutely American in his inspiration and, in some works, in his use of folklore. Thomson, clearly American in sound and in inspiration. L. Bernstein too! Lots of them, as far as I can hear and tell.
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:55 pm

piston wrote:Aaron Copland sounds more "American" because so much of his work is "national" in terms of folkloric or even social or historical inspiration. Barber is not so easily identified but some of his work, like Knoxville..., is also very American. Harris, "the cowboy," absolutely American in his inspiration and, in some works, in his use of folklore. Thomson, clearly American in sound and in inspiration. L. Bernstein too! Lots of them, as far as I can hear and tell.
I keep coming back to Sessions' Second Symphony, and while he is perhaps less, er. folkloric than some others his sound is also distinctly American.

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Post by piston » Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:25 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
piston wrote:Aaron Copland sounds more "American" because so much of his work is "national" in terms of folkloric or even social or historical inspiration. Barber is not so easily identified but some of his work, like Knoxville..., is also very American. Harris, "the cowboy," absolutely American in his inspiration and, in some works, in his use of folklore. Thomson, clearly American in sound and in inspiration. L. Bernstein too! Lots of them, as far as I can hear and tell.
I keep coming back to Sessions' Second Symphony, and while he is perhaps less, er. folkloric than some others his sound is also distinctly American.
I can only plead ignorance on that one, jb (is that ok?). Sessions' work is not exactly widely recorded and the recordings I do know about don't always feature, er, the greatest orchestras. I have before me his fourth and fifth with Badea and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, his Concerto for Orchestra with Ozawa and the BSO, his first with Watanabe and the Japan P.S.O., and the third with Buketoff and the Royal Phil. Orch.. No second! I have read that Sessions' music is quite tricky because it's like a knife edge. If the performers don't get it, completely, it's atrocious. Why is his music not recorded as much as Copland's or Barber's if he is such a creative genius?
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Post by BWV 1080 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:38 pm

Perhaps this discussion is on par with deciding the great German / Austrian symphony and setting a cutoff date of 1760

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Post by BWV 1080 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:43 pm

ISTM the most quintessentially American composers are the lone iconoclasts like Ives, Cage, Harrison, Partch, Varese & Crumb.

Perhaps Partch's Barstow is the Great American Symphony

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:51 pm

piston wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
piston wrote:Aaron Copland sounds more "American" because so much of his work is "national" in terms of folkloric or even social or historical inspiration. Barber is not so easily identified but some of his work, like Knoxville..., is also very American. Harris, "the cowboy," absolutely American in his inspiration and, in some works, in his use of folklore. Thomson, clearly American in sound and in inspiration. L. Bernstein too! Lots of them, as far as I can hear and tell.
I keep coming back to Sessions' Second Symphony, and while he is perhaps less, er. folkloric than some others his sound is also distinctly American.
I can only plead ignorance on that one, jb (is that ok?). Sessions' work is not exactly widely recorded and the recordings I do know about don't always feature, er, the greatest orchestras. I have before me his fourth and fifth with Badea and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, his Concerto for Orchestra with Ozawa and the BSO, his first with Watanabe and the Japan P.S.O., and the third with Buketoff and the Royal Phil. Orch.. No second! I have read that Sessions' music is quite tricky because it's like a knife edge. If the performers don't get it, completely, it's atrocious. Why is his music not recorded as much as Copland's or Barber's if he is such a creative genius?
I wasn't trying to demean any of the other composers (at least not on this thread) but just raise another possibility. But since you brought it up, I do have to think that one of the reasons is that Copland, for example, is sight reading material where Sessions is not. However, if you ever do have a chance, give a listen. It is, as you state, more on an edge, but it is not inaccessible the way, say, some would say Milton Babbitt is.

(I myself BTW have no recording and only remember it from a live performance years ago--by a univeristy orchestra.)

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:54 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:Perhaps this discussion is on par with deciding the great German / Austrian symphony and setting a cutoff date of 1760
I assume you mean a terminus a quo. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:56 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:ISTM the most quintessentially American composers are the lone iconoclasts like Ives, Cage, Harrison, Partch, Varese & Crumb.

Perhaps Partch's Barstow is the Great American Symphony
If Varese was American, then so was Stravinsky.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

piston
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Post by piston » Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:00 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:Perhaps this discussion is on par with deciding the great German / Austrian symphony and setting a cutoff date of 1760
Hey, now, give me a break! :D I don't know if you read some French but allow me to suggest a site under construction about contemporary composers, including some of your favorite ones:
http://www.musiquecontemporaine.info/co ... s-bios.php
There's no cutoff date, of course. The issue, which you previously underscored, is what makes these symphonies "American" to begin with. That's a valid question which I sought to address by emphasizing, in accordance with the site, what's "national" and what is, well, not so national. Bartok is clearly identified with Hungary and the "slavs" because of his imaginative use of folklore. That's no secret. Some American composers not only drew on this source of inspiration but on other unique American features as well (Grand Canyon, Cajuns, the western "plow", Appalachia, etc.) It's national/program music, if you know what I mean. Elsewhere, others like Ohana were equally inspired by such distinct cultural attributes of a people, of a region. Nothing to suggest that I am measuring American-ness. Only a recognition of how twentieth-century composers themselves sought to compose regionally, culturally or nationally relevant music.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by piston » Sat Jan 27, 2007 10:40 pm

Another take on this interesting topic: the great American symphony is found in relation to what and to how much was being composed when it was composed. By the way, I'm sure I am missing American composers below:

year 1900:
Charles Ives, Symphony no. 2
Alexander Scriabin, Symphony no.1
Hugo Alfven, Symphony no.2
Charles-Marie Widor, symphonie romane pour orgue.
Joseph Jongen, Symphonie.

year 1927:
Roger Sessions, Symphony no. 1
Shostakovich, Symphony no. 2 (not his greatest!)
Havergal Brian, Symphony no.1 "Gothic"
Arthur Shepherd, Symphony no.1 "Horizons"
Nicolai Myaskovsky, Symphony no.9.
Alexander Tcherepnin, Symphony no.1
Lazare Saminsky, Symphony no.4.
Alexander Tansman, Symphony no.1.

year 1939:
Alberto Williams, Symphony no.9 "The Frogs"
Vicente Stea, Sinfonia Autoctona
Arnold Bax, Symphony no.7
Roy Harris, Symphony no.3
Nicolai Myaskovsky, Symphony no. 19
D. Shostakovich, Symphony no.6
David Von Vactor, Symphony in D
Jean Rivier, Symphonie no.3
Lev Knipper, Symphony no. 7 "Military"
Nicolai Lopatnikoff, Symphony no.2
Alexander Gretchaninoff, Symphony no.5
Henry Cowell, Symphony no.2 "Anthropos"
Boris Blacker, Symphony
Vittorio Giannini, Symphony no. 2
William Denny, Symphony no.1
Nino Rota, Symphony no.1
Alexander Tansman, Symphony no.4
Charles Jones, Symphony
Nils-Eric Ringbom, Symphony no.1


Year 1944:
Juan Francisco Garcia, Symphony no.2
H. Villa Lobos, Symphony no.6
Samuel Barber, Symphony no.2
Leonard Bernstein, Jeremiah Symphony, no.1
Elliott Carter, Symphony no.1
David Diamond, Symphony no.2
Roy Harris, Symphony no.6, "Gettysburg"
Walter Piston, Symphony no.2
William Schuman, Symphony no.5
Vissarion Shebalin, Symphony no.3
George Antheil, Symphony no.4
Morton Gould, Symphony on Marching Themes
Joseph Wagner, Symphony no.1
John Hausserman, Symphony no.2
Wallingford Riegger, Symphony no.1
Peter Mennin, Symphony no.2
Gordon Jacob, Symphony no.2
K. Tuukkanen, Symphony no.1
Camargo Guarneri, Symphony no.1
Niels-Eric Ringbom, Symphony no.2
Felix Clapp, Twelfth Symphony
Louis Gruenberg, Symphonies no.2 and 3
Alexander Mosolov, Symphony no.1
Ernst Levy, Symphony no.10
Karl Rankl, Symphony no.3
Alexander Tansman, Symphony no.7
Niels Otto Roasted, Symphony no.3.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by diegobueno » Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:24 am

piston wrote: Sessions' work is not exactly widely recorded and the recordings I do know about don't always feature, er, the greatest orchestras.
This is a real problem, and not just for Sessions (though where is the enterprising conductor who's going to record the whole Sessions symphony cycle?). Most of the other great American composers are poorly represented in performances and recordings. This includes Piston, Menin, Schuman, Harris, the whole gang. As for more recent composers, forget it.

Copland is well represented, though, much to the jealousy of everyone else, which is why people are always trying to cut him down. Carter is actually not too bad off. A large amount of his enormous output has been committed to disc by very high-profile performers, and in some areas, like the string quartets and piano music, there are several competing versions to choose from.

It's hard to assess the merits of music that can't be heard, or can only be heard in 2nd rate performances. Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony make Piston's 2nd sound like a pretty good piece. MTT and the Boston Symphony make it sound like a masterpiece.
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Post by DavidRoss » Sun Jan 28, 2007 1:13 am

diegobueno wrote:It's hard to assess the merits of music that can't be heard, or can only be heard in 2nd rate performances. Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony make Piston's 2nd sound like a pretty good piece. MTT and the Boston Symphony make it sound like a masterpiece.
I heard Gil Shaham and the SFSO under MTT perform Wm. Schuman's violin concerto this year and was blown away by what a great piece it is. Looking for a recording, I found a Naxos disc highly praised. Not even close!
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

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Post by diegobueno » Sun Jan 28, 2007 1:53 am

DavidRoss wrote:[
I heard Gil Shaham and the SFSO under MTT perform Wm. Schuman's violin concerto this year and was blown away by what a great piece it is. Looking for a recording, I found a Naxos disc highly praised. Not even close!
The original LP release of the Piston 2nd with MTT and the Boston Symphony had the Schuman Violin Concerto with Paul Zukofsky. I wonder if that ever made it onto CD. The Piston was released on CD with Ruggles' Sun Treader and Ives' Three Places in New England
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Post by pizza » Sun Jan 28, 2007 4:47 am

diegobueno wrote:
piston wrote: Sessions' work is not exactly widely recorded and the recordings I do know about don't always feature, er, the greatest orchestras.
This is a real problem, and not just for Sessions (though where is the enterprising conductor who's going to record the whole Sessions symphony cycle?). Most of the other great American composers are poorly represented in performances and recordings.
Sessions' symphonies haven't done too badly recording wise, considering the lousy attitude of the record companies. Nine of his symphonies are on CD. His 6th, 7th and 9th, with the American Composers Orchestra/Dennis Russell Davies on Argo 444 519-2ZH are superb, well-played and the recording itself is almost demonstration quality. It required the assistance of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the National Endowment for the Arts to bring it off, but unfortunately it's now out-of-print. I suspect Decca will eventually re-release it, maybe by license to Brilliant Classics or some other enterprising company as they are doing with many of their cut-outs of interest.

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Post by piston » Sun Jan 28, 2007 8:16 am

diegobueno wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:[
I heard Gil Shaham and the SFSO under MTT perform Wm. Schuman's violin concerto this year and was blown away by what a great piece it is. Looking for a recording, I found a Naxos disc highly praised. Not even close!
The original LP release of the Piston 2nd with MTT and the Boston Symphony had the Schuman Violin Concerto with Paul Zukofsky. I wonder if that ever made it onto CD. The Piston was released on CD with Ruggles' Sun Treader and Ives' Three Places in New England
One of my crown jewels, the Michael Tilson Thomas LP I mean. He is featured on the cover, conducting the orchestra, and looks like a teenager. But, yes, ditto on that recording.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by PJME » Sun Jan 28, 2007 4:28 pm

This is a great recording of Sessions second symphony, and a good example of "happy" ,vigorous twelftone music!

Peter
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It is possibly still available at arkiv.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jan 28, 2007 4:41 pm

PJME wrote:This is a great recording of Sessions second symphony, and a good example of "happy" ,vigorous twelftone music!

Peter
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It is possibly still available at arkiv.
We had to hear about it from a Belgian. :oops: Thank you, Peter.

I do not remember the work being strictly twelve-tone (that was not generally Sessions' thing), but it might fairly be characterized as atonal, though I hope that this does not knee-jerk put anyone off giving it a try.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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