NIELSON: Little Suite, Op. 1. SIBELIUS: Rakastava. WARLOCK: Serenade: “To Frederick Delius on his Sixtieth Birthday”

Program Notes
Nielsen: Little Suite, Op. 1
Sibelius: Rakastava
Warlock: Serenade: “To Frederick Delius on his Sixtieth Birthday”

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), the great Danish sym­phonist, was born in the small town of Nerre Lynd­else, the son of a poor house-painter. As a child he learned to play several musical instruments from local teachers and, when he was 19, the help of friends enabled him to enter the Royal Conserva­tory at Copenhagen, where he became a compos­ition student of the erstwhile luminary Niels Gade. However, after only two years at the Conservatory, Nielsen left to take a job as second violinist in the Theatre Royal orchestra, which enabled him to pursue composition on his own.

Despite the convenient historical categories of music appreciation classes, the aesthetic poles of romanticism and classicism have always co-existed simultaneously in a dialectical tension. Of course, one may predominate at a particular time, but never to the exclusion of the other. Hence, although the 19th century is conventionally known as the “Romantic” period, a strong classical tradition persevered throughout the century at the hands of many composers, both great and mediocre. This tradition, with its emphases on formal structure, the regulation of intuitive impulse, and the re­jection of extra-musical encumbrance, can be traced from Beethoven, through Brahms and Reger, into the 20th century. The six extraordinarily individ­ual symphonies of Carl Nielsen, with their dynamic, streamlined vigor, also represent this aesthetic outlook, setting them apart from much of the music composed at the turn of the 20th century.

However, to suggest that these qualities can be found in Nielsen’s Little Suite for Strings, Op. 1, would be rather far-fetched. Not by any means Nielsen’s first work, it was composed in 1888, just two years after he left the Conservatory, and four years before the completion of his first symphony. Premiered that same year at Tivoli, the Little Suite was well received from the first, and it is still one of Nielsen’s most popular pieces with Danish audiences, despite the fact that few of his distinctive melodic and harmonic traits are evident in the work. Nevertheless, its elegance and graceful poise are instantly ingratiating, and the appearance of a waltz in the second movement initiates a fre­quent Nielsen device for creating a moment of relief.

The Little Suite  isin three movements: a brief, slightly elegiac “Praludium,”in which the cellos introduce the main theme of the work; “Intermezzo,”a waltz in rondo form; and “Finale,”in which a somber introduction is followed by an exuberant allegro in sonata form. Nielsen’s concern with formal integration can be observed in the skillful manner by which the cello theme from the first movement is recalled in the introduction to the third movement, and then in the development section of the allegro. Even more subtle is the way the central episode of the “Intermezzo”is trans­formed in the “Finale”into the main theme of the allegro.

While the Little Suite is anearly and less de­manding entry among Nielsen’s works, Rakastava, Op. 14, of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), dates from the period of that composer’s most demanding work, his Symphony No. 4. Despite its dimin­utive dimensions and its less-frequent appearance on concert programs, it is ranked by Sibelius authorities as of comparable artistic stature. Actu­ally, Rakastava provides a unique insight into Sibelius’ development as a composer, as its them­atic substance derivesfrom 1893, the period when he was occupied with Karelia and other works inspired by Finnish mythology. In fact, Rakastava (The Lover) was originally composed as a setting for male chorus a cappella of selections from Lönnrot’s 1840 collection of Finnish folk-poetry, Kanteletar. Entered in a choral competition, the work won second prize, and in the following year Sibelius rearranged it, adding strings. In 1898 the composer rearranged it again, this time for mixed chorus a cappella, and in this version the work became popular throughout Finland. Then in 1911, while at the zenith of both his product­ivity and his international popularity, Sibelius re-wrote Rakastava completely, scoring it this time for only strings, with triangle and timpani. While retaining the original thematic material, this final version clearly reflects the terse understatement and laconic austerity that characterize the inscrut­able Fourth SymphonyThe three movements of Rakastava are entitled: Where is My Beloved?; The Path of My Beloved; and Good Night, My Love! Farewell!

When the 17-year old musician Philip Heseltine heard Sibelius’ Fourth Symphony inthe year of its composition, he found it “absolutely original… genuine ‘Nature music’…very strange and myster­ious, but at the same time a work of great beauty …” However, his older friend Frederick Delius dismissed the work, finding it “too complicated and thought out…The English like that sort of thing…Now it’s Sibelius, and when they’re tired of him they’ll boost up Mahler and Bruckner.”

Actually, the personal relationship between Philip Heseltine (1894-1930), who composed under the name “Peter Warlock”, and Frederick Delius (1862-1934) is part of one of the most fascinating stories in musical history. Not until the age of 16, when he heard a performance of Delius’ unaccom­panied part-song On Craig Dhu, did music hold any interest for young Heseltine. But the discovery of Delius’ music was a revelation for the boy, who had until then lived a sheltered, isolated and lonely existence. From then on, music became Philip’s consuming passion. He began a correspondence with the elder composer that lasted for years. Delius, greatly impressed by the perceptiveness of the young man’s musical observations, recip­rocated Philip’s enthusiastic interest. Their relation­ship grew to resemble that of a father and son, and Delius counseled the young man on matters of religion, sex, and other problems of adolescence, as well as music. He praised Philip’s first insecure compositional efforts and encouraged him to follow his natural inclinations at all cost, in an effort to foster the boy’s self-confidence as well as his development as an independent individual.

Too uncertain of his own creative gifts, however, Heseltine turned toward music criticism. But his unconventional idealism, his withdrawn personality, and unfortunate circumstances brought him little but frustration and discouragement, both profes­sionally and personally.

Around 1921, shortly after a sojourn in Ireland where he involved himself in the occult, he began writing music under the name “Peter Warlock.” At first the pseudonym was only a professional convenience. But gradually a whole new person­ality began to emerge with the new name. This new persona was the antithesis of everything that Philip Heseltine had represented. Peter Warlock was a reckless carouser—cynical, bitter and brash. Remarkably, not only did his new compositions win great praise, even from those who had- been his musical enemies (until his identity became known), but Peter Warlock became the social success that Philip Heseltine had never been. Despite the fact that Heseltine completed one of the major studies of the music of Frederick Delius, the Warlock persona began to despise Delius’ music. These two personalities continued to co­exist in a strange alternating conflict, though toward the end Warlock had taken over almost completely. Finally, at the age of 36, during one of many periods of depression, he took his own life.

It is extraordinary that on this psychological battle-ground a musical career that lasted barely a dozen years could have produced so much of value in the fields of musicology and criticism as well as composition. In addition to writing the book on Delius, Heseltine collaborated with Cecil Gray on the first investigation of the life and work of the then-unknown master Don Carlo Gesualdo. Warlock’s own music reflected his interest in the pre-Baroque, and he discovered and transcribed much music of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. His main contribution as a composer lies in his songs, which have been compared to those of Wolf and Fauré, and number more than one hundred. In addition are a score of choral and instrumental works.

The Serenade: “To Frederick Delius on his sixtieth birthday” was composed in 1922, during Warlock’s most fertile creative period, a period that saw the completion of the book on Delius, the song cycle The Curlew—one of his most ambitious works—twenty-five songs, and many piano arrangements of pieces by Delius. The touching Serenade naturally emulates Delius’ style more than do Warlock’s other mature compositions, yet his approach, even in this work, is more linear and less coloristic than Delius’. The Serenade stands as a charming piece on its own, and as an enduring testament to the unique friendship of these two unusual men.

Liner Notes-The Music of Harry Partch

The work that I have been doing these many years parallels much in the attitudes and actions of primitive man. He found sound-magic in the common materials around him. He then proceeded to make the vehicle, the instrument, as visually beautiful as he could. Finally, he involved the sound-magic and the visual beauty in his everyday words and experiences, his ritual and drama, in order to lend greater meaning to his life. This is my trinity: sound-magic, visual beauty, experience-ritual.

Harry Partch

The twentieth century has produced many composers who fashioned themselves iconoclasts or radicals, only to find themselves in an institutionalized avant-garde where they bask in the prestige of their professorial rank. Few have taken a route as isolated as Harry Partch, who renounced not only the conventional styles of Western music, but also its instruments, its tuning system, and its fundamental aesthetic assumptions. Partch acted from the deep convic­tion that there is an important alternative to the basic premises and definitions upon which Western art music is predicated.

The key feature of traditional music against which Partch reacted is what he termed “Abstractionism,” or the per­ception of music as a pure, autonomous structure. This is the fundamental principle underlying the German classi­cal tradition, epitomized by the music of Bach and, to some extent, implicit in most of “classical” music. In contrast, Partch proposed the principle of “Corporealism,” a term by which he signified a kind of expressive chanting based on speech inflections, which unites the singer and the words into an organic whole. His ideal was “a manner of impres­sing the intangible beauty of tone into the vital power of the spoken word, without impairing either.” Partch found precedents for this ideal in ancient Greek drama, early Florentine opera, and much of the world’s folk music. But he felt that the Western art music- tradition, under the influence of Christianity, had suppressed this organic “Corporeal” ideal by isolating the abstract or “spiritual” qualities of music from the human beings who created it.

As Partch sought to develop an appropriate musical language through which to realize his ideal, he was forced to con­front the inadequacy of equal temperament—the piano scale, which consists of twelve equidistant pitches. In order to achieve the subtle inflections required for the type of music he envisioned, a means of producing minute divisions of pitch, called microtones, was necessary. Since most con­ventional instruments are incapable of producing these subtle pitch distinctions, Partch began to design and build instruments himself.

“I am not an instrument builder, but a philosophic music man seduced into carpentry.”

Over a period of forty years, Harry Partch created approxi­mately thirty different instruments, mostly stringed or per­cussion instruments, designed according to a tuning system of forty-three tones to the octave. Not only do these instru­ments, built from an extraordinary array of materials, create a wealth of captivating sonorities, but they are constructed to evoke a visual response as well, further illustrat­ing the organic notion of Corporeality.

For obvious reasons, the opportunity of hearing a performance of Harry Partch’s music was rare indeed. Not only did musicians have to undergo long and arduous apprentice­ships in order to learn how to play his instruments, but the size and delicacy of the instruments made them all but untransportable. Consequently, Partch’s reputation grew very slowly. Yet, during the last years of his life, he began to receive the recognition he had been denied so long, and today he is recognized as one of the most profound and far-reaching musical visionaries of our time. The noted critic Jacques Barzun has stated that Partch’s work represents “the most original and powerful contribution to dramatic music on this continent.”

Despite the small number of performances of Partch’s music that have taken place, posterity is fortunate that Partch recorded much of his own music and that several excellent films have been made about the man himself and as documents of some of these performances. Another invaluable source of information concerning the composer and his music is Partch’s own book, Genesis of a Music (New York: Da Capo Press, 1974), which contains one of the most lucid, challenging, and articulate aesthetic mani­festoes ever penned by a composer. Also included are exhaustive explanations of the acoustical rationales upon which Partch’s concepts of intonation are based.

In 1973, the film The Dreamer That Remains: A Portrait of Harry Partch was produced by Whitelight-Tantalus Productions, under the direction of Stephen Pouliot. Part One of this sound filmstrip set presents an abridged adapta­tion of this film.

Film-maker Madeline Tourtelot produced six films dealing with Harry Partch and his music. They are: Windsong, Music Studio—Harry Partch, Rotate the Body, Revelation in the Courthouse Park, U.S. Highball, and Delusion of the Fury. Part Two offers excerpts from three of these films.
As a result of Partch’s experience as a hobo during the 1930s, the culture of hobo life became a significant source of inspiration for much of his work. U.S. Highball, written in 1943, is a hobo’s account of a trip from San Francisco to Chicago, presented in an almost surrealistic style. Part Two includes a brief excerpt of Madeline Tourtelot’s film version of this composition.

Perhaps the work that represents the culmination of Partch’s creative activity is the drama entitled Delusion of the Fury, completed in 1966. It is in two acts, and features dance, mime, and the dramatic participation of the musicians, who are costumed. The first act is based on an ancient Japanese story. The second act, based on an African tale, concerns a young vagabond, about to build a fire and cook a meal. An old woman enters, looking for her lost goat. She soon finds the goat, but becomes involved in a quarrel with the vagabond. Villagers congregate about, and the couple is finally brought before the Justice of the Peace. The filmstrip presents the scene called “Arrest, Trial, and Judgment.” After listening to the case, the Justice, who is deaf and nearsighted, utters these words: “Young man, take your beautiful young wife and your charming child and go home!” The members of the chorus then sing their song, “0 How Did We Ever Get By Without Justice?”

Liner Notes- Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

 Few works are as clearly—almost mythically—identified with a musical era as is Igor Stravinsky’s 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring with the dawn of the “modern” period. As time has passed, and our understanding of the music of the first two decades of this century has deepened, the work appears less to have sprung without antecedents. This, however, does not diminish the significance of the impact made by the work on the music world at the time—especially on the music of other composers.

Stravinsky, not yet thirty years old, had collaborated successfully in 1910 on the ballet The Firebird with the dance impresario Sergei Diaghilev, a pioneer in the modern dance movement. The composer wrote:

The idea of The Rite of Spring came to me while I was still composing The Firebird.  I had dreamed a scene of pagan ritual in which a chosen sacrificial virgin dances herself to death.

Stravinsky discussed this vision as the subject of a ballet with Diaghilev and developed a scenario with costume and set designer Nicolas Roerich. The choreography was undertaken by Vaslav Nijinsky. Stravinsky began composing the music in Russia during the summer of 1911 and completed the orchestration in Switzerland during March of 1913.

The ballet was presented two months later at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, under the direction of Pierre Monteux. The performance provoked one of the most celebrated scandals in music history. Carl Van Vechten, who attended the première, described it thus:

A certain part of the audience, thrilled by what it considered to be a blasphemous attempt to destroy music as an art … began very soon after the rise of the curtain to whistle, to make catcalls, and to offer audible suggestions as to how the performance should proceed. Others of us who liked the music and felt that the principles of free speech were at stake bellowed defiance. The orchestra played on unheard, except occasionally when a slight lull occurred. The figures on the stage danced in time to music that they had to imagine they heard, and beautifully out of rhythm with the uproar in the auditorium…. One young man … behind me … stood up during the course of the ballet to enable himself to see more clearly. The intense excitement under which he was laboring, thanks to the potent force of the music, betrayed itself presently when he began to beat rhythmically on the top of my head with his fists. My emotion was so great that I did not feel the blows for some time.

Fist fights broke out; duels were arranged; many luminaries of the Parisian musical scene were present and uttered partisan statements that have been widely quoted ever since. Stravinsky himself reported:

I have never again been that angry. The music was so familiar to me: I loved it and I could not understand why people who had not yet heard it wanted to protest in advance.

Yet shortly after the première, The Rite was performed again, as a concert piece minus the choreography, and it was very favorably received. Since then it has usually been performed this way, and Stravinsky himself stated his preference for it as a concert work. Today The Rite of Spring is one of the most popular and widely performed works in the orchestral repertoire.

What was it about The Rite of Spring that aroused such controversy, and why does the work hold such a significant position in contemporary music? It did pioneer many novel techniques, such as the use of melodies in different keys at the same time (polytonality) and the juxtaposition of several meters simultaneously (polyrhythm and polymeter)—techniques later adopted by many other composers. The work calls for an exceptionally large orchestra, including a number of unusual instruments. In addition, it uses conventional instruments in some unconventional ways, as in the haunting solo with which the work opens, featuring the bassoon in an uncharacteristically high register. But orchestral effects and technical innovations are rarely sufficient in themselves to merit controversy or enduring interest.

Perhaps the key to the significance of The Rite of Spring lies in the words of a critic who commented after the English première, later in 1913, “A crowd of savages … might have produced such noises.”

European music by the beginning of the twentieth century had brought the romantic style to a point of great complexity and refinement, capable of embodying the most rarefied and profound aesthetic and sensual nuances. This complexity and refinement, however, was wholly rooted in the Western European notion of appropriate, civilized artistic concerns, and as such was filtered through accepted philosophical, intellectual, or poetic imagery.

The Rite of Spring was a shattering assault on this sensibility on two levels: For one, it exalted harsh, dissonant harmony as a sonic experience in its own right. Extreme dissonance was not new in 1913: other composers had explored comparable harmonic qualities. But these composers worked within a carefully graded system, in which dissonance represented extremes of emotion and was always resolved to a lesser level of harmonic tension. For Stravinsky, dissonance did not necessarily represent extreme emotion; it simply existed for its own value as a sonority. Even this was not a true innovation: Debussy had explored the free use of dissonance for two decades, but his music was realized in passive, atmospheric textures that were easier to accept. In contrast, Stravinsky’s dissonance was expressed in violent, animalistic outbursts that suggested the unleashing of forces that Freud termed the Id: the basic, universal, primitive drives of sex and violence. In this sense the effect of The Rite of Spring on cultivated European society was similar to the impact of rock ‘n’ roll on white American adult society during the mid 1950s.

The second aspect of the significance of The Rite of Spring was its elevation of the rhythmic element to prime importance. Up to this time, Western European classical music had concentrated primarily on harmony, melody, and counterpoint as the main areas for development. Rhythm served a subsidiary function at best and often was treated in the most rudimentary way by composers who otherwise applied the most sophisticated techniques. In The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky deliberately simplified the melodic material, bringing the rhythmic element to the foreground and presenting it with a direct, physical immediacy that concealed an unprecedented complexity of technical manipulation. The listener who hears The Rite for the first time is far more likely to come away remembering thrilling moments of rhythmic excitement than a particular melodic theme. But this very rhythmic excitement further contributed to the impression of a wild, primitive orgy.

These two milestones—the violent emancipation of dissonance and the elevation of the rhythmic element—had immediate and far-reaching consequences. Young composers throughout the classical music world were galvanized by the impact of The Rite, and neo-primitivist imitations and derivations sprang up almost instantly. Stravinsky himself soon abandoned this direction, but the course of musical history was irrevocably altered; nearly all subsequent composers have, in one way or another, absorbed these features into their musical language.

The innovations of The Rite of Spring were really only new in relation to the society in which it appeared. Its roots lie in folk ritual, and its reliance on the hypnotic, trance-inducing qualities of rhythmic and melodic repetition derive clearly from this tradition. The Rite is a ritual dance to spring, the symbol of rebirth and life. Stravinsky suggested his source of inspiration when he fondly recalled “the violent Russian spring that seemed to begin in an hour and was like the whole earth cracking. That was the most wonderful event every year of my childhood.”

GIANNINI: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1934) Symphony No. 4 (1959)

Liner Notes

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1934)
Symphony No. 4 (1959)
by Vittorio Giannini
NAXOS 8.559352

Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966) was born in Philadelphia, to a distinguished musical family. Not only were both his parents professional musicians, but his sister, Dusolina, was one of the world’s leading operatic sopranos during the 1930s and 40s, and another sister, Euphemia, was a member of the vocal faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music for many years. Today Vittorio is perhaps best known as a teacher, having spent decades on the composition faculties of the Juilliard School, Curtis Institute, and Manhattan School of Music, and ending his educational career as the founding president of the North Carolina School of the Arts. Among his students are John Corigliano, David Amram, Adolphus Hailstork, Alfred Reed, Nicolas Flagello, and Thomas Pasatieri. 

However, Giannini was a prolific composer as well, one of the many Italian-Americans who flourished during the 20th century, contributing to a distinguished repertoire shaped along traditional tonal, formal, and developmental lines. His output includes more than a dozen operas, seven symphonies, scores of songs, and a variety of concertos and choral, band, and chamber works. His music is notable for its warm immediacy of expression, its ingratiating lyricism, and its impeccable craftsmanship. A true traditionalist, Giannini had no interest in being a trend-setter. His musical creed is perhaps best embodied in his statement that he was driven by “an unrelenting quest for the beautiful, with the humble hope that I may be privileged to achieve this goal, if only for one precious moment and share this moment with my listeners.” 

Vittorio began taking music lessons from his mother when he was five; after four years he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, where he concentrated on both violin and composition. Returning to the United States, he continued his education at the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied composition with Rubin Goldmark (whose students also included Gershwin and Copland).

Giannini’s creative work embraced all standard musical genres, but he is best known today for his operatic and vocal music, and for his pieces for concert band. During the 1920s, 30s, and early 40s, Giannini’s compositional output centered chiefly around operas and songs. One of his earliest songs became his most famous: “Tell Me, Oh Blue, Blue Sky,” written in 1927, and still frequently performed today, while his operas Lucedia and The Scarlet Letter had successful European premieres during the 1930s. But Giannini also composed instrumental works during that period, among them a piano quintet, a symphony, subtitled, “In Memoriam Theodore Roosevelt,” and the Piano Concerto presented here.

Although Giannini is generally classified among the neo-romantic school of American composers, his Piano Concerto, like his other music from the 1930s, is more accurately characterized simply as “romantic,” as there is little trace in these works of the innovations in harmony and rhythm that appeared toward the beginning of the 20th century, influencing much of the music of even his conservative contemporaries; nor is there any sense of “Americana” in these early works: It is pure European late-romanticism, somewhat similar in effect to the music of the Hungarian-American Ernst von Dohnanyi (who was, admittedly, some 25 years Giannini’s senior). 

Giannini composed his Piano Concerto in 1934; its premiere took place in New York City in 1937. The soloist was none other than the 22-year-old Rosalyn Tureck (later known as the “High Priestess of Bach”). The concerto was well received by both audience and critics. Writing in the New York Times, Olin Downes stated, “There is the sense of a young man who is born to express himself in music, … This concerto is significant of an unmistakable talent, finding itself, … and turning out a very creditable piece of work in so doing.” Francis Perkins (New York Herald Tribune) opined that ‘‘the opulence and expansiveness of Mr. Giannini’s score proved welcome. He did not hesitate to dwell upon frankly expressed melodies, while his orchestral coloring proved warm and vivid.’’ Similarly, Robert Simon (The New Yorker) found it ‘‘full of juicy melodies, and it has a healthy virtuoso bounce,” concluding, “pianists who want a ‘real concerto,’ one that comes off paper and gets to work on an audience, will find an answer in this composition.’’ Yet despite these enthusiastic comments, there is no indication that the work was ever performed again, until now.

The concerto is composed on a grand scale. Much of its bulk derives from Giannini’s propensity for extensive development—including long chains of sequences—throughout the composition. He is also generous with opportunities for the soloist to elaborate the material by means of the full arsenal of standard virtuoso pyrotechnics. The work is cyclical in construction, clearly unified by the motifs presented at the outset, and while the overall texture is relatively simple, the thematic material is combined and manipulated with a thoroughness that is almost compulsive. The overall character of the concerto is extravagantly emotional, from its grimly portentous opening, through its moments of delicacy and sweetness, to its final triumphant peroration.

The first movement, Sostenuto, introduces the stern primary motif of the concerto, while clearly establishing a tonality of D minor. After considerable elaboration by the solo piano, a second idea—plaintively pleading—is introduced, Allegro moderato, still part of the first theme group. After considerable further elaboration, the solo piano introduces the second thematic idea, Andante cantabile, a seductively yearning melody in F-sharp major. After this theme has been explored by both soloist and orchestra, the development section subjects the thematic material to still further elaboration, as the soloist takes every opportunity to emote instrumentally over each motif. Finally, at Largamente, the recapitulation is announced by a richly chordal statement of the second theme, but this builds with apparent spontaneity to a passionate lyrical outburst in which all the thematic ideas are combined in quasi-operatic ecstasy. This is the passage of the concerto in which Giannini’s own individual voice emerges most clearly. But ecstasy is suddenly interrupted as the motifs in their original guises bring the movement to a stormy conclusion.

The second movement, an Adagio in D-flat major, is built around a sweetly tender, pensive melody whose derivation from the concerto’s opening motif is unmistakable. This melody gradually builds to a rapturous climax, before receding.

The finale, Allegro vigoroso, opens in B minor, with a theme whose descending four-note pattern with dotted-rhythm identifies its source in the second portion of the first theme group of the first movement. After extensive elaboration of this theme, a scherzoso section highlights swirling figurations in the piano. A “new” theme in D-flat major suddenly appears, with a slightly Mediterranean flavor, although it is based on an inversion of that second part of the first theme of the first movement. A reprise of the B-minor opening section of the movement follows, and on its heels a fugato based on that descending four-note motif, followed by merging of that motif with the scherzoso material. The “Mediterranean” melody then comes to the fore, Allegro Marziale, in D major, bringing the concerto to a grandly triumphant conclusion.

Giannini composed a total of seven symphonies: The first two date from the 1930s, and were not numbered; five numbered symphonies were then composed between 1950 and 1964.

The Symphony No. 4, composed 25 years after the Piano Concerto, is the creation of a far more mature and sophisticated composer. Concise and tightly integrated, it is truly a “neo-romantic” symphony: a highly cohesive work in which heartfelt emotional expression is balanced by solid structural values, including touches of modernism, such as basing both melodic and harmonic material on the interval of a fourth, and even some toying with twelve-tone ideas. The work was composed in 1959, and dedicated to Jean Morel, who conducted the first performance with the Juilliard Orchestra in May of the following year. There is no record of the work’s having been performed again, until the appearance of this recording.

The first movement, Allegro con passione, opens with themes—three in this case—of widely contrasting character: the first, restless and tonally vague; the second, tender and warm, introduced by the oboe; and a closing theme, passionate and triumphant. However, a closer examination reveals that all the thematic material is derived from the opening theme, a series of ascending fourths and descending fifths (disguised by octave shifts) and including all twelve tones. From the very beginning, the familiar conventions of sonata allegro form take place on the surface of a densely concentrated developmental fabric of contrapuntal interrelationships involving the interval of the fourth. 

The second movement, Sostenuto e calmo, is the emotional core of the symphony, with an opening theme that displays considerable chromatic range, though it too is based on a sequence of perfect fourths, initially divided between the clarinet and the horn. A central section, based on an augmented fourth, blossoms into a gorgeously impassioned melody, heard against a background texture composed of the symphony’s opening motif. A quiet return of the opening material brings the movement to an end.

The final movement, Allegro, begins in the manner of a scherzo in Giannini’s skittish buffa mode, dominated by intervals of the fourth and fifth and permeated by references to the symphony’s chief thematic ideas. After much development of this material, a slow epilogue recalls the melodic material from the second movement, building to a grand apotheosis, before a brief coda recalls the scherzo material and brings the work to a terse conclusion.

In his Fourth Symphony, Giannini achieved the dual accomplishment of a cohesive, tightly-shaped developmental structure and an emotionally gratifying work in the symphonic subgenre of mid-twentieth-century American neo-romanticism. As such, it stands alongside the contemporaneous symphonic works of such composers as Howard Hanson, Paul Creston, and Samuel Barber.

FLAGELLO: Piano Sonata; Violin Sonata; Declamation for Violin and Piano; Nocturne for Violin and Piano; Prelude, Ostinato, and Fugue; Suite for Harp and String Trio

Flagello: Piano Sonata; Violin Sonata; Declamation for Violin and Piano; Nocturne for Violin and Piano; Prelude, Ostinato, and Fugue; Suite for Harp and String Trio (Setsuko Nagata, violin; Peter Vinograde, piano). Albany TROY-234

Nicolas Flagello was one of the 20th century’s leading exponents of traditional late-Romantic musical values. Without ever repudiating this aesthetic outlook, he forged a personal musical language and a distinctive body of work shaped by his own temperament and embodying his own perspective on life.

Born in New York City in 1928, Flagello grew up in a musical family with deep roots in Old-World traditions. Something of a prodigy, young Nicolas was composing and performing publicly as a pianist before the age of ten. While still a child, he began a long and intensive apprenticeship with composer Vittorio Giannini, who further imbued him with the enduring values of the grand European tradition. His study continued at the Manhattan School of Music, where he earned both his Bachelor’s (1949) and Master’s (1950) Degrees, joining the faculty immediately upon graduation and remaining there until 1977. During the early 1950s, he won a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Rome, and earned the Diploma di Studi Superiori in 1956 from the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, under the tutelage of Ildebrando Pizzetti.

During the years that followed, Flagello composed at a prodigious rate, producing a body of work that includes six operas, two symphonies, eight concertos, and numerous orchestral, choral, chamber, and vocal works. In addition, he was active as a pianist and conductor, making dozens of recordings of a wide range of repertoire, from the Baroque period to the 20th century. In 1985 a deteriorating illness brought his musical career to an end prematurely. He died in 1994 at the age of 66.

As a composer, Flagello held with unswerving conviction to a view of music as a personal medium for emotional and spiritual expression. This unfashionable view, together with his vehement rejection of the academic formalism that dominated musical composition for several decades after World War II, prevented him from winning acceptance from the reigning arbiters of taste for many years. However, gradually Flagello’s works have begun to win enthusiastic advocacy, as his music is recorded and performed with increasing frequency.

Flagello’s early works–approximately a third of his total output–are unabashedly romantic in style. He made no attempt to conceal their obvious roots in the styles of Puccini, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, and others—the music he loved. But even these early works display an intensity of conviction and a structural mastery that elevate them above the level of mere imitation.

In 1959 Flagello arrived at a more mature compositional voice, ushering in the most productive period of his life. During the 1960s alone, he composed more than 30 works, maintaining a remarkable consistency of both vision and craftsmanship. The luxuriant romanticism of his youth now gave way to a sort of Italianate expressionism, with a tighter phraseology, greater density of texture, astringency of harmonic language, and asymmetry of rhythm. But most important, a deeper, more personal quality emerges–dark, brooding, restless, and often agitated. There is a tremendous emotional intensity and concentration of effect, as every element is focused toward the fullest realization of the intended expression. It was during this decade that all the works on this recording were composed.

Declamation for violin and piano, which dates from 1967, is both concentrated in expression and meticulous in construction, packing a remarkable density of musical activity into a mere nine minutes. All the thematic material is derived from the declamatory cadenza with which the work opens (hence, the title) and the solemn incantation that follows. The body of the work is an agitated Allegro which subjects the motivic material to extensive development. The Allegro culminates in another, more elaborate, cadenza, followed by a return of the incantation, bringing the work to a majestic conclusion.

Prelude, Ostinato, and Fugue, written in 1960, is the first purely instrumental work of Flagello’s compositional maturity. While revealing the composer’s profound reverence for traditional musical forms, it also displays a harsher, more angular, less symmetrical language than one finds in his earlier works. The Prelude begins with a restless, searching quality, before building quickly to a massive climax and then subsiding. Ostinato consists of a set of variations over an ascending minor scale, which functions as a basso ostinato, appearing in several different keys. Beginning with a melancholy lyricism, it too builds to a tempestuous climax. TheFugue is a propulsive piece that makes enormous demands on the virtuosity of the performer. A three-voice exposition is followed by several developmental episodes, culminating in a chordal augmentation of the subject, marked furiosamente, which leads to a hair-raising coda.

Flagello composed the Nocturne for violin and piano in 1969. It is an example of “night music” in the manner of Ernest Bloch—a composer whom Flagello greatly admired, and who wrote many haunting pieces of this kind. Though beginning and ending unambiguously in B minor, the body of the piece maintains a rather tenuous hold on tonality, creating a somber mood of uneasy disquietude.

Suite for Harp and String Trio, dating from 1965, is unusual in being one of Flagello’s few lighter, diverting works from this period. It is also something of a rare stylistic excursion into the realm of French neo-classicism along the lines of “Les Six”. The Suite opens with a vigorous Petite Overture in simple sonatina form. This is followed by a gently wistful Valse, based on a piano piece originally composed in 1953. The work concludes with a lively Rondino alla Giga.

Sonata for Violin and Piano was composed in 1963. The first movement, an Andantino mossoin sonata-allegro form, is built around a theme first presented in a wistful, somewhat melancholy manner, but then transformed into an ardent, surging, declaration. This theme is developed, along with other material, through a course that is alternately agitated and intensely lyrical. The second movement opens with a somber recitative in the violin, punctuated by tolling bell effects in the piano. This soon leads to an aria, Movendo ma andante, suggesting a dark, brooding barcarolle—a type of mood-piece of which Flagello was especially fond. The brief finale is marked Allegro giusto and is a modified sonatina with the character of a burlesque in perpetual motion, bringing the work to a whirlwind finish.

Flagello wrote his Sonata for Piano in 1962. Like the Violin Sonata, it is a thoroughly traditional work in three movements, wholeheartedly embracing the rhetoric and ethos of the romantic virtuoso legacy, but with a turbulent emotional intensity uniquely Flagello’s own. Tightly constructed with an eye toward both expressive and motivic unity, all three movements are based on material that emphasizes the interval of a half-step.

The first movement, Andante con moto e rubato, is a standard sonata-allegro form, except that instead of the usual two themes, one idea in F minor, built from two short motifs, serves to fill the roles of both, appearing at times restless and searching, at others, bold and defiant, and at still others, introspective and ruminative. The second movement begins with a soulful, recitative-like passage, which leads into a gloomy, nocturnal barcarolle. This soon builds to a tremendous climax, which then subsides in dark resignation. The final movement, Allegro vivace guanto possibile, is a whirlwind perpetual-motion toccata that happens to be a full sonata-allegro form, two themes and all.

NICOLAS FLAGELLO: Missa Sinfonica

NICOLAS FLAGELLO (1928-1994)

Missa Sinfonica (1957)

1 Kyrie (6:31)
2 Gloria (6:52)
3 Credo (6:51)
4 Sanctus et Benedictus (7:10)
5 Agnus Dei (7:02)
Total———–(34:38)


World Premiere Recording

National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
John McLaughlin Williams, conductor

Walter Simmons, Executive Producer
Alexander Hornostai, Session Producer
Andrij Mokrytsky, Recording Engineer
Anthony J. Casuccio, Mastering Engineer
Large Concert Studio, National Radio Company of Ukraine (Kiev), June 14-18, 2006

Publishers: (European-American Music Distributors [www.eamdllc.com])
Flagello: Missa Sinfonica

Program Notes

Nicolas Flagello was born in New York City to a family that had been musically active for generations. He studied both piano and violin as a child, and began composing on his own before the age of ten. He was soon brought to the attention of Vittorio Giannini, a highly esteemed composer and teacher known for his adherence to traditional musical values. Giannini became Flagello’s mentor, and the two developed a close professional and personal friendship that lasted until the older man’s death in 1966. In 1945 Flagello entered the Manhattan School of Music, where Giannini served on the faculty. Earning both his Bachelor’s (1949) and Master’s (1950) degrees there, he joined the faculty himself upon graduating, and remained there for more than 25 years. (For a time during the 1960s he also taught at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.) Winning a Fulbright Fellowship in 1955, he took a leave to study for a year at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, working under the elderly Ildebrando Pizzetti, and earning the Diploma di Studi Superiori. 

Throughout his career Flagello’s music embodied traditional romantic musical values, although his later works were intensified by modernist innovations in harmony and rhythm, but without the irony or detachment of postmodernism. For him music remained a personal medium for spiritual and emotional expression. His large and varied body of work includes six operas, two symphonies, eight concertos, and numerous orchestral, choral, chamber, and vocal works. 

When Flagello’s music first appeared on recording, The New Records commented, “If this is not great music, we will gladly turn in our typewriter and quit.” Years later, Mark Lehman wrote in the American Record Guide, “What Flagello brings to his art is, first of all, an absolute conviction in the primacy of emotion: the music throbs with vitality. It can be exciting or turbulent, sweetly melancholy or tragic — but it is always openly and fiercely passionate.” And in Classical Music (Backbeat Books, 2002), Brett Johnson states, “Flagello was perhaps the most effective exponent of the American lyrical post-romantic ideal in the generation that followed Barber. His profound belief in the expressive power of music is manifest in every piece.”

In addition to composing, Flagello was active as a pianist and conductor, and made dozens of recordings of a wide range of repertoire, from the Baroque period to the twentieth century. In 1985 a degenerative illness brought his musical career to an end prematurely. He died in 1994, at the age of 66.

Although much of Flagello’s music remained unheard at the time of his death, in recent years his work has been performed and recorded at an increasing rate, attracting the attention of a new generation of listeners. Violinists Elmar Oliveira and Midori, and conductors Semyon Bychkov and James DePreist are just a few of today’s leading performers who have found in Flagello’s work deeply felt musical content, presented in a clear, comprehensible manner. 

Flagello’s personality and life-style were far from puritanical, yet religious feelings ran strongly within him and he attributed great importance to the role they played in his life. Indeed, he considered all his compositions to be fundamentally spiritual in nature—some pieces more explicitly than others. The Missa Sinfonica was composed in 1957. Along with the 1956 Theme, Variations, and Fugue (Naxos 8.559148), it is the most ambitious purely orchestral work of his early period, which lasted until 1959. Although plainchant provides some of the work’s thematic material, Flagello did not adapt his musical style to suit these ancient modal melodies. Not unlike Paul Creston, whose Third Symphony (Naxos 8.559034) is an emotional response to the Nativity, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and draws its thematic material entirely from Gregorian Chant, in Missa Sinfonica Flagello expressed his devotional feelings in his own natural musical idiom, with its impassioned, hyper-emotional rhetoric and richly romantic harmonic language. (And, like Creston’s symphony, Flagello’s Missa was criticized after its premiere as insufficiently pious.)

As its title indicates, Missa Sinfonica reflects elements of both the Mass and the symphony. Of its five movements, the first, third, and fifth suggest hymn-like orchestral arias, while the second and fourth are rather scherzoso in character. The work was first performed in November, 1957, by the symphony orchestra of the Manhattan School of Music, under the direction of Jonel Perlea.

FLAGELLO: Violin Concerto; Six Songs; Symphonic Aria; Mirra: Interlude and Dance; The Sisters: Interludio.

Nicolas FLAGELLO: Violin Concerto (Elmar Oliveira, violin); Six Songs (Susan Gonzalez, soprano); Symphonic Aria; Mirra: Interlude and DanceThe Sisters: Interludio. (National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, John McLaughlin Williams, cond) Artek AR 0036-2

NICOLAS FLAGELLO (1928-1994)

1— Symphonic Aria (1951)
(5:54)
Mirra (1955): Interlude and Dance(10:52)
2— Interlude(7:30)
3— Dance(3:17)
4— The Sisters (1958): Interludio(6:37)
Violin Concerto (1956) 
(orchestrated by Anthony Sbordoni)
(29:36)
5— Allegro giusto(13:45)
6— Andante con moto(8:20)
7— Allegro comodo 
Elmar Oliveira, violin
(7:21)

Songs (orchestrated by Anthony Sbordoni)

8— The Rainy Day (1958) 

(4:59)

9— The Brook (1978)

(3:21)

10— Ruth’s Aria (1973)

(3:05)
from Beyond the Horizon, Act III
11– Canto (1978) (4:57)
12– Polo I (1979) (2:29)
13— Polo II (1980) 
Susan Gonzalez, soprano
Total Timing (74:02)
(2:13)

World Premiere Recordings

Recorded at the Large Concert Studio, National Radio Company of Ukraine (Kiev), June 22-26, 2005 [1-4, 11]; June 12-17, 2006 [5-10, 12-13]
Walter Simmons, executive producer
Alexander Hornostai, session producer
Andrij Mokrytsky, recording engineer
Publishers: European-American Music Dist. [1-4]; Maelos Music, Inc. (P.O. Box 363, New Rochelle, NY 10805) [5-13]

Liner Notes

Nicolas Flagello was one of the 20th century’s leading exponents of traditional late-romantic musical values. He held firmly to this aesthetic throughout his life, forging a personal musical language and a distinctive body of work shaped by his own temperament and embodying his own unique perspective on life.

Born in New York City in 1928, Flagello grew up in a musical family with deep roots in Old-World traditions. Something of a prodigy, young Nicolas was composing and performing publicly as a pianist before the age of ten. While still a child, he began a long and intensive apprenticeship with composer Vittorio Giannini, who further imbued him with the enduring values of the grand European tradition. His study continued at the Manhattan School of Music, where he earned both his Bachelor’s (1949) and Master’s (1950) degrees, joining the faculty immediately upon graduation and remaining there until 1977. During the early l950s, he won a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Rome, and earned the Diploma di Studi Superiori in 1956 from the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, under the tutelage of Ildebrando Pizzetti.

During the years that followed, Flagello composed at a prodigious rate, producing a body of work that includes six operas, two symphonies, eight concertos, and numerous orchestral, choral, chamber, and vocal works. In addition, he was active as a pianist and conductor, making dozens of recordings of a wide range of repertoire from the Baroque period to the 20th century. In 1985 a deteriorating illness brought his musical career to an end prematurely. He died in 1994 at the age of 66.

As a composer, Flagello held with unswerving conviction to a view of music as a personal medium for emotional and spiritual expression. This view, unfashionable at the time, together with his vehement rejection of the academic formalism that dominated musical composition for several decades after World War II, prevented him from winning acceptance from the reigning arbiters of taste for many years. However, gradually Flagello’s works have begun to win enthusiastic advocacy, as his music is recorded and performed with increasing frequency.

This compact disc offers a varied array of first recordings drawn from the full span of Flagello’s compositional career. Symphonic Aria (1951) is, as its title suggests, a short orchestral work that gives expression to an emotional state—in this case, darkly melancholic—with an immediacy that is almost operatic in impact. Flagello was fond of such elegiac movements, and wrote many of them: as individual pieces, such as Symphonic Aria; as interludes within operas, two of which appear on this recording; and as slow movements within larger works, such as the central Andante con moto of the Violin Concerto. Symphonic Aria was first performed in 1953 by the Hartt Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Moshe Paranov.

In 1955 Flagello completed a full-length, three-act opera called Mirra, which he later referred to as “my Gurre-Lieder,” by which he meant the magnum opus of his early period. He based the libretto on a tragedy by the great Italian playwright Vittorio Alfieri (1749–1803). Mirra is a horrifying tale of incestuous love within the royal family of ancient Cyprus. Mirra, Princess of Cyprus, has chosen Pereus, the Prince of Epirus, to be her husband. The marriage is to take place the following day, but, to the bewilderment of the King, Queen, and Pereus himself, Mirra seems visibly distraught, although she will not explain why. As the wedding is about to commence, preceded by an elaborate array of ritual ceremonies, Mirra becomes delirious and Pereus, convinced that she is rejecting him, leaves in anger. The remainder of the ceremony is canceled. Shortly thereafter, Pereus kills himself. Finally, after much hesitation, Mirra ardently reveals the true object of her amorous desires: her father, the King himself. He recoils with horror at this revelation and she, inconsolably hopeless, takes a knife and plunges it into her own chest.

The opera is extravagantly romantic in style, brimful of emotional extremes, and requires a large orchestra, full chorus, dancers, plus an on-stage band. Not surprisingly, Mirra has never been staged. However, two orchestral excerpts have been extracted for concert performance, entitled ‘‘Interlude and Dance.’’ Placed in reverse order from their appearance in the opera, the ‘‘Interlude’’ is taken from the prelude to Act III and sets a solemn mood, seething with passionate intensity, while the ‘‘Dance’’ is a wild, orgiastic frenzy that accompanies the ballet sequence from the abortive nuptial ceremony of Act II. The ‘‘Interlude and Dance’’ from Mirrawas first performed by the Billings (Montana) Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Uri Barnea, in 1990.

Flagello’s next opera was The Sisters, a one-act melodrama based on an original libretto by Dean Mundy. Set during the early 1800s in a small town along the Massachusetts coast, the opera depicts the jealousy and hatred that pervade a family of three sisters—two of whom are in love with the same man—and their tyrannically possessive father. Completed in 1958, The Sistersconsists of two scenes, separated by an orchestral interlude. The work was produced by the Manhattan School Opera Theater in 1961, with the composer conducting and his brother Ezio in the role of the father. In what amounts to a miniature tone poem, the “Interludio” captures the emotions that are in play at the end of the first scene: the father’s brutal, unforgiving cruelty, the pleading of the daughter in love, and the viciousness of her jealous sister. The piece may also be seen as a “study” for the slow movement of Flagello’s Symphony No. 1 (available on Naxos 8.559148).

Flagello composed his Violin Concerto in 1956, during the year he spent in Rome, studying with Pizzetti at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. The work was contemporaneous with the Theme, Variations, and Fugue (also available on Naxos 8.559148), and immediately preceded the Piano Concerto No. 2 (available on Artek AR-0002-2). However, discouraged by the lack of interest in his music, Flagello left many major works, including the Violin Concerto, in short score, intending to orchestrate them if the opportunity for a performance appeared. At the time of his death in 1994, quite a few such works remained in short score, so the Flagello estate engaged the talented composer and music editor Anthony Sbordoni to prepare performing editions of most of these compositions. Although Sbordoni does not claim that his orchestrations are “what Flagello would have done,” he has attempted to score them in a manner that retains the composer’s style, and highlights the inherent character of each piece. The Violin Concerto presented a particular challenge for Sbordoni, as the sole manuscript was badly charred and water-logged from a fire that destroyed many of the composer’s possessions during the late 1970s. However, with painstaking effort, Sbordoni completed the task in 2003. When Elmar Oliveira, who had recorded Flagello’s Credendum (also on Artek AR-0002-2), learned that a performing edition of the Violin Concerto was available, he eagerly agreed to present the first performance, some fifty years after it was composed.

Like Flagello’s other early concertos, the Violin Concerto pursues a conventional—though quite rigorous—approach to form. The first movement, Allegro giusto, is primarily lyrical and dramatic in character, opening with the solo violin’s rather diffident statement of the plaintive main theme, which emphasizes the interval of a fourth in descent, accompanied by gentle punctuating chords in the woodwinds, harp, and celesta. Although the theme is diatonic in its initial presentation, its tonality becomes ambiguous, suggesting a variety of different tonal centers as it unfolds chromatically. A full tutti statement of the theme highlights the minor triad with added major sixth and major ninth as a harmonic structure of importance, while confirming D minor as the primary tonality. Two other ideas are introduced during the exposition, the first of which is clearly derived from the main theme. The second, presented in A-flat minor, serves as a secondary theme, as it ardently surges through a variety of keys, though the primary theme thoroughly permeates the exposition. The presentation of the thematic material elides smoothly into the development section, as the treatment of the solo violin becomes more overtly virtuosic. The development of the thematic material is energized by emotional intensity, thrust forward from climax to climax by propulsive rhythmic patterns with little surcease. Predictably, the development leads to an elaborate and extraordinarily difficult cadenza—in two parts, separated by a brief accompanied passage—followed by a somewhat altered recapitulation of the thematic material.

The second movement, Andante con moto, is another early example of the impassioned lament of which Flagello was so fond. The main motif, built upon the stepwise descent of a fourth, is derived from the first movement’s main theme. After a tentative, tonally ambiguous introduction, the dolorous melodic outpouring establishes itself firmly in B minor, accompanied by a syncopated, pulsating rhythmic pattern, laden with appoggiaturas, that continues virtually without interruption throughout the movement.

The third movement, Allegro comodo, has the character and general shape of a sonata rondo with a tonal center of D. The primary thematic material is based on a triplet idea in perpetual motion, while the secondary theme again emphasizes the interval of a fourth. As the movement proceeds, these ideas are combined contrapuntally, and developed quite extensively, without any deviation from a fundamental focus on virtuosity. The result proves to be a brilliant, fully consummated work, fusing three fundamental aesthetic values: densely integrated thematic development, passionate, uninhibited emotional expression, and untrammeled virtuosic display.

Throughout his career, Flagello composed musical settings of well-known poetry, or, often, of his own texts. Although these songs invariably began as settings for voice and piano, he readily scored them for larger instrumental groups whenever the opportunity arose. For this reason, the Flagello estate authorized Anthony Sbordoni to provide instrumental scores for several songs that the composer had not explicitly intended for orchestra, in addition to some that were so specified.
In 1958, shortly after completing The Sisters, Flagello composed a musical setting of Longfellow’s famous poem, The Rainy Day. Although originally intended for low voice and piano, the song was transposed a third higher at the request of soprano Susan Gonzalez, who was eager to include on this recording what is perhaps Flagello’s most powerful and deeply moving poetic setting. A lugubrious ostinato pattern permeates the accompaniment throughout most of the song. While evoking a gloomy mood, this backdrop suggests slowly falling rain-drops, as the poet first describes the weather, then relates it to the state of his life. Although initially the tonality is stable, with the passage introducing the words, ‘‘My thoughts still cling to the moldering past,’’ the mood becomes darker still, as the harmonic rhythm quickens and the pattern that initially suggested raindrops now conveys something far more menacing. By the fourth iteration of the phrase ‘‘dark and dreary,’’ the ascending ostinato has become hammer-like in its insistence before it suddenly breaks off. Then, in seeming contradiction to the reassurance offered by the lines ‘‘Be still, sad heart and cease repining; behind the clouds is the sun still shining,’’ the ensemble throbs with mounting intensity and dissonance, culminating in what is perhaps the most explosive climax yet composed by Flagello, after which the original ostinato pattern returns, for the concluding lines of the poem.

In 1973 Flagello set another “dark and dreary” text, this time one of his own, which he entitled “Rejection,” for soprano and piano. Later, during the early 1980s, while working on his final opera, an adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s early (1920) Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy Beyond the Horizon, he decided that “Rejection”—both words and music—ideally captured the state of mind of Ruth, the leading female character, at the beginning of Act III, so he interpolated the song into the opera at that point. It is now published as “Ruth’s Aria.” 

Canto (1978) is another setting of one of Flagello’s own poems, this one in Italian and intended for soprano and orchestra. The poem’s content is enigmatic but tortured, and the musical structure highlights the descending interval of a second, which became a motif of almost autobiographical significance in the composer’s later works. 

Flagello composed The Brook and Polo I and Polo II in 1978, ’79, and ’80 respectively, for his recital tours with soprano Maya Randolph. At the end of the manuscript of The Brook, Flagello wrote, “From thoughts musical remembered,” suggesting the presence of fleeting musical reminiscences. Polo is a genre of flamenco song of Arabian origin.

Liner Notes ©2006 Walter Simmons
Author, Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers
(Scarecrow Press, 2004)

Elmar Oliveira

website www.elmaroliveira.com

Susan Gonzalez

In addition to a rich and varied career in both opera and concert performance, soprano Susan Gonzalez has been active as a stage director as well. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, she went on to earn Master’s and Doctoral degrees at the Eastman School of Music. She has appeared with the Chicago Lyric Opera, New Orleans Opera, and with the Bolshoi Opera in Russia, and with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, Annapolis Symphony, and the Mozart Players. She has been featured soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra and the American Composers Orchestra, and as a soloist in the major oratorios of Fauré, Brahms, Schubert, and Mozart. Among her honors and prizes have been awards from the Metropolitan Opera, the George London, Leonard Warren, and Baltimore Opera Competitions, from the Liederkranz Foundation, and from the American Opera Association. She received an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Rosina in a televised production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and her recorded recital of songs by women composers has drawn considerable positive attention. Dr. Gonzalez is currently Director of Performance at Hunter College (CUNY), where she teaches vocal technique and stages musical theater productions. She gave the world premiere of the orchestral version of Flagello’s Dante’s Farewell (recorded on Naxos 8.559296).

John McLaughlin Williams

American conductor John McLaughlin Williams has been highly praised for his outstanding interpretive abilities and engaging podium presence. Beginning violin study in Washington, DC, at the age of ten, he was chosen just four years later by the Cabinet wives of the Nixon Administration to appear as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra in its first Kennedy Center concert series for Washington, DC, school children. He continued his violin studies at Boston University and the New England Conservatory, earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music. There he pursued violin study with Martin Chalifour, composition with Donald Erb and Margaret Brouwer, and conducting with Carl Topilow. He was a member of the Houston Symphony, concertmaster of the Virginia Symphony, and has appeared as violin soloist with such orchestras as the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, South Carolina Philharmonic, Portland Symphony, and the Boston Ballet Orchestra. As soloist, he gave the American premieres of the violin concertos by Arnold Bax and Joseph Jongen, and, in 1998, performed the violin concerto of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, whose chamber music he has also recorded. His previous compact discs, including premiere recordings of works by American composers John Alden Carpenter, George Frederick McKay, Henry Hadley, and Nicolas Flagello, have brought him international attention and praise from such publications as Fanfare, Gramophone, Classic FM, International Record Review, American Record Guide and France’s Diapason. His conducting engagements have taken him throughout the United States, where he has focused on contemporary music and music by African-American and minority composers.

Anthony Sbordoni

Composer, orchestrator, and music editor Anthony Sbordoni was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1947. He attended Hunter College (CUNY), where he studied with Louise Talma, Ruth Anderson, and Myron Fink. He is currently Ensembles Manager at Hunter College and Associate Orchestra Librarian for the American Ballet Theatre. As a composer, Sbordoni has concentrated on vocal and choral music, but he has also written incidental music for theatre and film, all of which display his dedication to the Neo-Romantic aesthetic. In addition to the Violin Concerto, Sbordoni has orchestrated Flagello’s short comic opera The Wig, Dante’s Farewell, Piano Concerto No. 3, and the full-length opera Beyond the Horizon, along with several shorter pieces. As a result of his efforts, these valuable works have been brought to life and made viable for performance and recording. 

The Rainy Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

The Brook
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I steal by lawns and grassy plots, 
I slide by hazel covers; 
I move the sweet forget-me-nots 
That grow for happy lovers. 
  
I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance, 
Among my skimming swallows; 
I make the netted sunbeam dance 
Against my sandy shallows. 
  
I murmur under moon and stars 
In brambly wildernesses; 
I linger by my shingly bars; 
I loiter round my cresses; 
  
And out again I curve and flow 
To join the brimming river, 
For men may come and men may go, 
But I go on forever.

Ruth’s Aria
(from Beyond the Horizon, Act III)
text by Nicolas Flagello

I now know what I did not know before:
The wounds of mind, and heart, and soul,
That further open the void of uselessness;
To sear and burn without heat,
To lie frigid without cold,
To taste the maximum fear,
Flooded by vicious thoughts,
I now know what I did not know before,
To writhe in pain and hurt,
To hear violent roars,
To know the bitter truth
At the altar of nothingness
And mutely weep.

Canto
Nicolas Flagello

Sento il canto d’una volta di una pace, 
Di brezze fresche, 
E sento l’ostinato duro e fisso che non perdona.
E sento ancor il suon si muto, muto
Ahi me! Non cede, sono schiavo trovator
Mi trovo palude e melma la qua le mi porta di là a quella fessura del anima
Ah! Odo il canto, quel bel canto
Chi osa gioia perso va!
Chi gioia carezza trova ancor a mirar l’eternita.

I hear the song of a peaceful time
Of fresh breezes
And I hear a relentless, unforgiving sound
I also hear a silent song, so mute.
Alas! It doesn’t stop, I’m a troubadour-slave.
I find myself trapped in a swamp where the mire approaches, filling my hollow soul.
Ah! I hate that song, that beautiful song;
He who dares to challenge joy will be lost!
He who caresses joy will set his sights on eternity.
Translation by Robert DiScipio

POLO I
traditional

Cuerpo bueno, alma divina Fine body, divine soul
Que de fatigas me cuestas. What hardships you tell me.
Despierta si estás dormida Wake up if you are sleeping, 
Y alivia por Dios. Soothed by God.
Por Dios penas! By God! You suffer so!
Mira que si no fallezco See that if I don’t die
La pena negra me acaba The black misery wears me out.
Tan solo con verte ahora If only I could see you now
Mis pesares se acabáran My sorrows will be over
Que fatigas que ya expiro. Ay! Ay! What hardships, though soon I die. Ay!Ay!

POLO II
traditional

Adiós con el corazón Good-bye from my heart
Que con el alma no puedo … But not from my soul …
Despedirme de ti When going away from you
Al despedirme me muero … When going away I die …
Tú serás el bien de mi vida You will be all that is good in my life
Tú serás el bien de mi alma You will be all that is good in my soul
Tú serás el pájaro pinto You will be my speckled bird
Que alegra y canta por la mañana That sings with delight in the morning.
Adiós, mi amor, adiós mi amor, Good-bye my love, good-bye my love,
Adiós mi amor, amor. Good-bye my love.

VINCENT PERSICHETTI: Symphony No. 5 (for Strings); Piano Concerto . (Liner Notes)

New World Records 80370
VINCENT PERSICHETTI
Symphony No. 5 (for Strings)
Piano Concerto

Philadelphia Orchestra
Conducted by Riccardo Muti, Charles Dutoit
ROBERT TAUB, piano

During the last four decades of his life, the name of Vincent Persichetti came to signify musicianship of a comprehensiveness virtually unmatched among American composers. Today his influence continues, reaching young pianists nurtured on his Sonatinas and Little Piano Book, school musicians who first experience serious contemporary music through his works for band, church choirs who turn to his Hymns and Responses for the Church Year as an inexhaustible resource, young composers who find his classic textbook Twentieth Century Harmony an indispensable tool, and soloists and conductors for whom his sonatas, concertos, and symphonies stand among the masterworks of American music. Throughout his life Persichetti encouraged healthy, creative participation in music at all levels of sophistication, while shunning dogmas that advocate one compositional approach at the expense of others.

Persichetti was born in Philadelphia in 1915, and remained a lifelong resident of that city. At the age of five, he learned to play the piano, organ, and double bass at the Combs Conservatory. He also studied theory and composition under Russell King Miller, who became his most influential teacher. Immersing himself in music while in his teens, Persichetti memorized the scores to be performed weekly by the Philadelphia Orchestra and then attended the concerts to compare his mental realizations with the actual sounds. Composition was an integral part of his study from the start, as was exposure to other arts. Persichetti attended art school during his adolescence, and sculpture continued to be an important creative outlet for him until his death in 1987.

Upon graduating from the Combs Conservatory with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1936, Persichetti became head of its theory and composition department. From 1932 to 1948 he served as organist and choirmaster at Philadelphia’s Arch Street Presbyterian Church. In 1941 he earned a Master of Music degree from the Philadelphia Conservatory, which then appointed him to head its theory and composition department. His doctorate followed four years later and then, in 1947, William Schuman invited him to join the Juilliard faculty as well. Persichetti was appointed chairman of the Juilliard composition department in 1963, and of the Literature and Materials department in 1970, and commuted regularly between Philadelphia and New York.

During his active teaching career Persichetti continued to compose prodigiously, producing more than 160 works. Through his compositions—and through his writings and lectures—Persichetti eloquently advocated the creation of a fluent working vocabulary, or “common practice,” capable of a rich spectrum of expression, based on the wealth of materials and techniques that appeared during the twentieth century. His own music extends over a broad stylistic range—rooted in the languages of Stravinsky, Hindemith, Bartók, and Copland—from extreme diatonic simplicity to complex, contrapuntal atonality. However, Persichetti’s stylistic evolution does not follow a conventional chronological sequence, from simplicity to complexity. Rather, the composer identified two temperamental elements present in his work from the beginning: a “gracious,” amiable spirit and a “gritty,” abrasive one. These two elements underlie his entire output, to one degree or another, in various manifestations.

Persichetti’s stylistic breadth has prevented some casual listeners from recognizing a personal profile or unifying character in his music, leading them to construe it as a mere display of virtuoso craftsmanship. With greater familiarity, however, a distinctive personality emerges, characterized by an almost childlike sense of mischief and a pervasive geniality of spirit in full control of whatever dynamic conflicts may be at work within the music. His works reveal a propensity for pandiatonic, quartal, and polytonal harmony, lucid contrapuntal textures, and lively, syncopated rhythms in duple meter. Although he often worked with large structures, Persichetti was inclined toward sparse gestures and epigrammatic forms—indeed, many of his large works are elaborate integrations of diminutive elements.

Both the Symphony No. 5 (Symphony for Strings), Op. 61, and the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 90, are major works from the most fertile, representative period of Persichetti’s compositional career. Each emphasizes the “gritty” aspect of the composer’s creative personality, displaying considerable structural complexity, an attenuated sense of tonality, and an astringent harmonic vocabulary.

The Symphony for Strings, the fifth of Persichetti’s nine symphonies, was composed in 1953 on commission from the Louisville Orchestra, which introduced it the following year under the direction of Robert Whitney. Similar in structure to others of the composer’s most significant works from the 1950s, e.g., the Concerto for Piano, Four Hands, Op. 56, the Quintet for Piano and Strings, Op. 66, and the Piano Sonata No. 10, Op. 67, the symphony is in one continuous, highly concentrated multi-sectional movement based entirely on the elaborate theme introduced at the outset by the violas. This fifteen-measure theme, which contains all twelve chromatic notes within the first five bars, sets a severe tone and then builds to a level of emotional duress uncharacteristic of the composer. As the work unfolds, the enormous potential of this theme is explored through a series of linked episodes contrasting in tempo and character, but all intricately related to the opening theme. Despite its abstract design and harsh harmonic language, the symphony reveals moments of tenderness and warmth, and seems to exude a sense of exultation in the joy of pure creativity.

The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 90, was completed in 1962 and first performed two years later in Hanover, New Hampshire, by pianist Anthony di Bonaventura with an orchestra from Dartmouth College conducted by Mario di Bonaventura. Persichetti himself was a virtuoso pianist, and his twelve sonatas, six sonatinas, two concertos, a concertino, and numerous other works reveal a thorough mastery of twentieth-century keyboard technique. The concerto’s musical language is similar to that found in the fifth symphony, though the two works are entirely different in structure, gesture, and attitude. In contrast to the intense concentration of the symphony, the concerto is an expansive, three-movement work that wholeheartedly embraces the traditional romantic virtuoso genre, with the soloist asserting a heroic stance in opposition to the orchestra, dazzling with pyrotechnics and cajoling with warm lyricism. However, the hearty bravura manner disguises a formal structure no less logical and unified than the outwardly more economical symphony.

The work is almost entirely derived from the intervallic implications of the stentorian five-note motto proclaimed at the opening by the horns. The sprawling first movement develops the thematic material in a loose, dramatic, fantasy-like manner that allows for leisurely excursions through a variety of moods. The second movement provides a wistful lyrical interlude. The vigorous final movement is probably the most immediately accessible movement of the concerto, and a fine example of Persichetti’s distinctive use of duple meter. A tour-de-force of rhythmic agility, the movement accumulates tremendous energy, recalling material from the preceding movements before coming to a brilliant conclusion. 
—Walter Simmons

Walter Simmons writes regularly for Fanfare magazine, is a contributor to The New Grove Dictionaries of Music and is a recipient of the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for music criticism.

SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY

BagatellesO Cool is the ValleyParable IX; Serenade No. 1; So Pure the Star; Turn Not Thy Face. University of Kansas Symphonic Band, Robert Foster conducting. Golden Crest ATH-5055. 
Harmonium; Piano Quintet. Darleen Kliewer, soprano; New Art String Quartet; Lois McLeod, Vincent Persichetti, pianists. Arizona State University JMP-102679. 
Love; MassWinter Cantata. Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, Tamara Brooks conducting. New World 80316. 
Serenade No. 7; Piano Sonatas Nos. 10 and 11. Ellen Burmeister, pianist. Owl 29.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Patterson, Donald L. and Janet L. Vincent Persichetti: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Conn. Greenwood Press, 1988. 
Shackelford, Rudy. “Conversation with Vincent Persichetti.” Perspectives of New Music, 1981-2, pp. 104-34. 
Simmons, Walter. “Vincent Persichetti.” In The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, eds. London and New York: Macmillan, 1986.

Vincent Persichetti • Choral Works (Winter Cantata, Mass, Love) Liner Notes

Vincent Persichetti • Choral Works (Winter Cantata, Mass, Love) New World 80316-2

For the past three decades the name of Vincent Persichetti has come to signify musicianship of a comprehensiveness virtually unmatched among American composers. His influence reaches young pianists nurtured on his Sonatinas and Little Piano Book, school musicians who first experience serious contemporary music through his works for band (among them Pageant, New World Records 80211-2), church choirs who turn to his Hymns and Responses for the Church Year as an inexhaustible resource, young composers who have attended his spell-binding lecture-recitals or who find his classic textbook Twentieth Century Harmony indispensable, and soloists and conductors for whom his sonatas, concertos, and symphonies stand among the masterworks of American music. Persichetti represents an attitude that encourages healthy creative participation at all levels of sophistication and shuns dogmas that revere one school of composition at the expense of others.

Persichetti was born on June 6, 1915, in Philadelphia. At the age of five he was enrolled in the Combs Conservatory, where he learned to play the piano, organ, and double bass. He also studied theory and composition under Russell King Miller, who became his most influential teacher. In his teens Persichetti memorized the scores to be performed at weekly concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and then attended the concerts to compare his inner perceptions against the actual sounds. Before graduating from high school he had performed a good deal on radio, in churches, and in recitals. Composition was an integral part of his musical activity from the start, as was exposure to other arts. Persichetti attended art school during his adolescence, and sculpture continues to be an important creative outlet for him.

On graduating from the Combs Conservatory with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1936, Persichetti became head of its theory and composition departments. He also continued studying—piano with Olga Samaroff, composition with Paul Nordoff at the Philadelphia Conservatory (Master of Music 1941; Doctor of Music 1945), and conducting with Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute. From 1932 to 1948 he served as organist and choirmaster at Philadelphia’s Arch Street Presbyterian Church, where he performed organ versions of excerpts from the dozens of complex modern scores he was studying. In 1941 the Philadelphia Conservatory appointed Persichetti to head the theory and composition departments, and in 1947 William Schuman invited him to join the Juilliard faculty as well. He became chairman of the Juilliard composition department in 1963 and of the Literature and Materials department in 1970.

Throughout his active teaching career Persichetti has continued to compose prodigiously, producing a body of works now numbering more than 150, including nine symphonies, four string quartets, twelve piano sonatas, and assorted pieces for almost every instrument and ensemble. Through his vast output—and through his writings and lectures as well—Persichetti has argued eloquently on behalf of an amalgamation of virtually all musical materials and techniques, past and present, into a fluent working vocabulary, or “common practice,” capable of a full spectrum of expression. In Persichetti’s music this has entailed a broad stylistic palette, extending from extreme diatonic simplicity to complex, densely contrapuntal atonality. This range has not evolved according to a chronological sequence, which has bewildered many who have tried to infer a conventional pattern of development from casual exposure to his music. Rather, Persichetti has defined two temperamental elements that have been present in his work from the beginning: a “gracious” or amiable spirit and a “gritty” or abrasive one. These two elements underlie his entire output, to one degree or another, in a variety of stylistic guises, depending on the requirements of the piece itself. The essential Persichetti dictum, stated at both the beginning and the end of his Twentieth Century Harmony, “Any tone can succeed any other tone… depending upon the skill and the soul of the composer,” might be paraphrased to describe his own output: “Any work can succeed any other work….”

Persichetti’s wide range of expression has made it difficult for some listeners to discern a personal profile or unifying character in his music. With greater familiarity, however, a clearly recognizable personality emerges, characterized by a pervasive geniality of spirit in full control of whatever dynamic conflicts may be at work within the music. Following the lineage of Mozart and Mendelssohn, Persichetti seems to exult in the childlike joy of pure musical creativity. He is fond of pandiatonic, quartal, and polytonal harmony, lucid textures, and playful, vital rhythms. Absent are bombast, sentimentality, or Romantic self-involvement, even in works marked by agitation and conflict. Although Persichetti has often worked with large structures, he is inclined toward sparse gestures and epigrammatic forms—indeed, many of his large works are built upon diminutive concepts.

Persichetti’s choral music plays an important role in his output. Hymns and Responses for the Church Year, Op. 68, provide thematic source material on which Persichetti has drawn for many subsequent works. The use of self-quotation—musical inventories, cross-references, and indexes—as a compositional device suggests an archival intellectual bent consistent with the eclecticism so deeply rooted in his nature. This same attitude is reflected in the selection of texts for the Hymns and Responses, from the Bible through Shakespeare and Milton to Louis Untermeyer and Conrad Aiken. Persichetti’s comprehensive world view is probably epitomized in The Creation, Op. 111, for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, which the composer regards as his chef-d’oeuvre. It is more than an hour in duration, and its text has more than fifty sources— mythological, scientific, poetic, and Biblical—ranging from Altai to Zuñi.

Persichetti describes himself as a Judaic-Vedic-Christian, for whom all religious sources are suitable for musical interpretation. Yet when he is composing a work with particular sectarian associations, he totally assumes that spiritual outlook. His Mass, Op. 84, composed in 1960 for the Collegiate Chorale, may be viewed in this light. In many ways it is an orthodox a cappella Mass, its Renaissance heritage reflected in its use of a Gregorian chant as the unifying theme, and in its reliance on imitative counterpoint as its chief developmental technique. The Phrygian implications of the Gregorian theme give the work a generally dark color and the extensive use of quartal harmony produces a coolness of mood. A general tone of detached introspection is maintained until the final Agnus Dei, an ardent plea for peace.

The terse economy of means characteristic of haiku is compatible with Persichetti’s aesthetic. He was moved to compose his Winter Cantata, Op. 97, in 1964 after his daughter gave him a collection of haiku, A Net of Fireflies. (This collection also provided the words for his song cycle A Net of Fireflies, Op. 115.) Winter Cantata is scored for women’s chorus, flute, and marimba, and consists of twelve short movements. Without any overt musical references, the work is Japanese in spirit, largely as a result of its own delicate, highly concentrated gestures. The coolness of the flute and the brittleness of the marimba evoke the winter moods and images of the poems. The main unifying musical motifs are a chord based on the first five steps of the Phrygian mode, which appears at the outset of the work, and a minor-seventh arpeggiation, which increases in importance as the work proceeds. There are also subtle motivic links that connect each movement to the next. Within the overall unity of mood and subject matter there is great contrast and variety in gesture and articulation. The Epilogue, a compositional tour de force characteristic of Persichetti, consists of word groups and associated musical motifs drawn in sequence from all the preceding movements and woven into a coherent poetic and musical entity, an appropriate “index” to the entire work.

Persichetti composed Love, a setting for women’s voices of a portion of the Book of Corinthians, as a surprise for his wife Dorothea in celebration of their thirtieth wedding anniversary on June 3, 1971. On that day he presented her with the score and with a recording that had been prepared for the occasion under the direction of Tamara Brooks, who shares the work’s dedication. An interesting musical feature of this short piece is the use of the tritone—traditionally associated with discord and discontent—as a basic concord or tonic structure.

WALTER SIMMONS is a musicologist and critic who specializes in contemporary music. He is a contributor to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and many other publications, director of music projects for Educational Audio Visual, Inc., and a faculty member of the Thomas J.Watson Research Center (IBM)

This recording was originally released on LP as NW 316.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

By Persichetti

Essay on his Hymns and Responses for the Church Year in R. S Hines, ed.: The Composer’s Point of View: Essays on Twentieth-Century Choral Music by Those Who Wrote It. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963, P. 41.
Essay on his orchestral works in R S Hines ed The Orchestral Composer’s Point of View: Essays on Twentieth-Century Music by Those Who Wrote It. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970, P. 166
Twentieth Century Harmony.New York: Norton, 1961.
With F R. Sebreiber.William Schuman.New York: Schirmer 1954.

About Persichetti

Evett, Robert. “The Music of Vincent Persichetti,“Juilliard Review, Spring 1955, P. 15
Rubin, D. M. “Vincent Persichetti,” ASCAP in Action, Spring 1980, P. 8.
Schuman, William. “The Complete Musician,” Musical Quarterly, July 1961, P. 379.
Shackelford, R.: “Conversation with Vincent Persichetti,” Perspectives of New Music, January 1983.
Simmons,Walter.“A Persichetti Perspective,” American Record Guide, May 1977 P. 6.
___. Review of Persichetti’s Harmonium and Piano Quintet, Fanfare, Nov.-Dec 1981, P. 217.
___. Review of Russian recording of Persichetti piano music, Fanfare, Jan.-Feb. 1983, P. 226.
___. Review of two Persichetti concertos, Fanfare, Sept.-Oct. 1980, P. 178.
Weisgall, Hugo. Review of Persichetti’s Stabat Mater, Musical Quarterly, July 1964, P. 379.
See also Persichetti brochure (containing complete list of works) published by Theodore Presser Company, Bryn Mawr, PA. 19010.

SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY

Bagatelles, Op 87 Masquerade, Op 102 Psalm, Op. 53. Serenade No 11, Op. 85. So Pure the Star, Op. 91. Symphony No 6, Op 69. Ohio State University Concert Band, Persichetti conducting Coronet S-1247.
Bagatelles, Op 87. O Cool Is the Valley, Op 118 Parable IX, Op 121 Serenade No 1, Op 1 So Pure the Star, Op 91 Turn Not Thy Face, Op. 105 University of Kansas Symphonic Band, Foster conducting Golden Crest ATH-5055.
Concerto for Piano, Four Hands, Op. 56.Vincent and Dorothea Persichetti, piano CBS ML-4989.
Concerto for Piano, Four Hands, Op. 56. Piano Sonata No. 9, Op 58. Sonata for Two Pianos, Op 13. Alexander Bakhchiev and Elena Sorokina, pianos Melodiya C10-16133-4.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 90. Robert Taub, piano; The Philadelphia Orchestra, Chades Dutoit conducting. Symphony No. 5, Op 61 (for strings), The Philadelphia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti conducting New World 80370-2.
Four Cummings Choruses, Op 98 Parable IX, Op 121. Symphony No 6, Op 69. (excerpts) Te Deum, Op. 93. Chorus, band, and orchestra of Tennessee Tech University; Chancellor, Persichetti, Pegram,Wattenbarger conducting. USC Sound Enterprises KM-1558.
Harmonium, Op. 50. Darleen Kltewer, soprano; Lois McLeod, piano. Piano Quintet, Op 66.New Art String Quartet; Persichetti, piano Arizona State University JMP-102679.
Night Dances. Op 114.The Juilliard Orchestra, James DePreist conducting New World 80396-2.
Pageant, Op 59.The Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Paynter conducting New World 80211-2.
Quartets Nos. 1-4, Op. 7, 24, 81, 122 New Art String Quartet. Arizona State University 1976-ARA.
Serenade No 10, Op. 79. Louise DiTullio, flute; Susan McDonald, harp Klavier KS-560.
Sonata for Cello Solo, Op. 54. David Moore, cello. Opus One 6. 
Symphony No 5, Op. 61 (for strings). Louisville Orchestra, Robert Whitney conducting Louisville LOU-5457.
Symphony No 6, Op. 69 (for band). Eastman Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell conducting Mercury SRI-75094.
Symphony No 8, Op. 106. Louisville Orchestra, Jorge Mester conducting. Louisville LS-706.
Symphony No 9, Janiculum, Op. 113. The Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting. RCA LSC-3212.

Winter Cantata (Cantata No.2)

(Text Material from NET OF FIREFLIES, translated by Harold Stewart, reprinted by special permission from the Charles E. Tuttle Co, Inc. of Rutland, Vermont, and Tokyo, Japan.)

1 A Copper Pheasant

A copper pheasant wakes with shrill-edged cry:
The silver crescent cuts the chilly sky.
Kikaku

2 Winter’s First Drizzle

Winter’s first drizzle falls,
The air is raw,
That shivering monkey needs a cape of straw.
Bashô

3 Winter Seclusion

Winter seclusion:
on the window pane,
The silver fern of frost has grown again
Hô-ô

4 The Woodcutter

Within the wintry grove,
my axe-head fell
And bit the bark how
startling was its smell!
Buson

5 Gentlest Fall of Snow

Ah! the first,
the gentlest fall of snow:
Enough to make the jonquil leaves bend low.
Bashô

6 One Umbrella

One umbrella,
as snowy dusk draws on,
Has come;
one umbrella has come,
and passes by;
and now is gone
Yaha

7 Of Crimson Ice

The rime has frozen overnight
to gems of crimson ice along the buckwheat sterns.
Rankô

8 The Branch is Black

The branch is black and bare again;
a crow shook down its coverlet of powdered snow.
Hô-ô

9 Fallen Leaves

The winter’s fitful gusts, as they expire,
Bring enough fallen leaves to build a fire.
Ryôkon

10 So Deep

So deep, the heavy snow since yesterday,
Its drifts remain
Sweep, sweep as you may.
Lzembô

11 The Wind’s Whetstone

Through jagged cedars rips the winter blast,
honed cragged ledges as it passed.
Bashô

12 Epilogue

A copper pheasant…
winter’s drizzle falls…
seclusion…
within the wintry grove…
Ah! the first, the gentlest fall of snow…
one umbrella…
the rime has frozen…
a crow shook down its coverlet to build a fire …
so deep…
through jagged cedars…
as it passed.
Misc.

Mass

13 Kyrie

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison

14 Gloria

Gloria in excelsis Deo,
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Laudamus te.
Benedicimus te.
Adoramus te. Glorificamus te.
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam
Domine Deus.
Rex coelestis,
Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine Fili unigenite
Jesu Christe.
Domine Deus,Agnus Dei, Filius Patris.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui touts peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solos sanctus
Tuo solus Dominus
Tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe.
Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.

15 Credo

Credo in unum Deum,
Patrem omnipotentem, factorem coeli et terrae,
visibilium omnium et invisibilium.
Et in unum Dominum jesum Christum Filium Dei
unigenitum et ex.
Patre natum ante omnia saecula, Deum de Deo
lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero.
Genitum, non factum,
consubsuntialem Patri: per quem omnia facta sunt.
Qui propter nos homines,
et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis.
Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine:
Et homo factus est.
Crucifixus etiam pro nobis:
sub Pontio Pilato passus, et sepultus est.
Et resurrexit tertia die secundum Scripturas et ascendit, in coelum:
sedet ad dexteram Patris,
Et iterum
venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos et mortuos:
cujus regni non erit finis.
Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum, et vivificantem:
qui ex Patre Filioque procedit
Qui cum Patre et Filis simul adoratur,
et conglorificatur:
qui locutus est per Prophetas.
Et unam, sanctam, catholicam, et apostolicam Ecclesiam.
Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum.
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum.
Et vitam venturi saeculi.
Amen.

16 Sanctus

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna, in excelsis
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis

17 Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei,
qui tollis peccata mundi,
miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei,
qui tollis peccata mundi,
miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei,
qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona nobis pacem

18 LOVE

Love,
love is patient,
love is kind,
love is not boastful;
love is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way.
Love is not irritable, resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong,
but love rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things,
love believes,
love hopes,
love endures all things.
Love never ends.
(from I Corinthians:18,4-8)

LINER NOTES: Music by VITTORIO GIANNINI (1903-1966)

Dedication Overture (1965) . Fantasia (1963). Praeludium and Allegro(1958). Symphony No. 3 (1958). Variations and Fugue (1965) University of Houston Wind Ensemble, Tom Bennett, conductor. NAXOS 8.570130

Walter Simmons, executive producer
Joe Dixon, session producer
David Burks, recording engineer
Project conceived by Merlin Patterson
Recorded at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston: March 5-7, 2004

Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966) was born in Philadelphia, to a distinguished musical family. Not only were both his parents professional musicians, but his sister, Dusolina, was one of the world’s leading operatic sopranos during the 1930s and 40s, and another sister, Euphemia, was a member of the vocal faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music for many years. Today Vittorio is perhaps best known as a teacher, having spent decades on the composition faculties of the Juilliard School, Curtis Institute, and Manhattan School of Music, and ending his educational career as the founding president of the North Carolina School of the Arts. Among his students are John Corigliano, David Amram, Adolphus Hailstork, Alfred Reed, Nicolas Flagello, and Thomas Pasatieri. 

However, Giannini was a prolific composer as well, one of the many Italian-Americans who flourished during the 20th century, helping to create a distinguished repertoire shaped along traditional tonal, formal, and developmental lines. His output includes more than a dozen operas, seven symphonies, scores of songs, and a variety of concertos and choral, band, and chamber works. His music is notable for its warm immediacy of expression, its ingratiating lyricism, and its impeccable craftsmanship. A true traditionalist, Giannini had no interest in being a trend-setter. His musical creed is perhaps best embodied by his statement that he was driven by “an unrelenting quest for the beautiful, with the humble hope that I may be privileged to achieve this goal, if only for one precious moment and share this moment with my listeners.” 

Although Giannini’s creative work embraced all standard musical genres, he is best known for his operatic and vocal music, and for his pieces for concert band. The domains of opera and the concert band may seem worlds apart, yet this duality has historical precedent in Giannini’s background. His father Ferruccio, who had immigrated to the United States from Tuscany in 1885, was both a successful operatic tenor and the founder of an Italian-American concert band that flourished in Philadelphia and Atlantic City around the turn of the 20th century.

Vittorio began taking music lessons from his mother when he was five; after four years he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, where he concentrated on both violin and composition. Returning to the United States, he continued his education at the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied composition with Rubin Goldmark.

During the 1920s, 30s, and early 40s, Giannini’s compositional output centered chiefly around operas and songs, all in a highly romantic, even sentimental, vein. One of his earliest songs became his most famous: “Tell Me, Oh Blue, Blue Sky,” written in 1927, and later championed by such singers as Leonard Warren, Mario Lanza, and, more recently, Thomas Hampson. He had two major operatic successes in Europe during the 1930s, Lucedia and The Scarlet Letter, the latter with his sister Dusolina and Hans Hotter in the leading roles. Although the New York Times critic called it “a milestone in the history of American opera,” it has never been produced again. During the late 1930s CBS commissioned Giannini to compose two short operas for radio—Beauty and the Beast and Blennerhassett—both of which have been produced on stage a number of times. Giannini’s most enduring operatic success, however, is a buffa adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

During the early 1940s Giannini began to turn his attention to instrumental music. Like his earlier works, these compositions displayed clear tonal centers, but they were more straightforward and concise in design, and less inflated by romantic rhetorical extremes. Many of the pieces from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s are light and diverting in character, sometimes based on Baroque forms, and often composed with student ensembles in mind. Yet in some of his works from the 1960s, Giannini also began to explore a darker, more complex and dissonant mode of expression. Some of these late works are among his most significant and profound creations.

During the 1950s, spurred by the advocacy and inspiration of Richard Franko Goldman of the Goldman Band in New York, William Revelli at the University of Michigan, and Frederick Fennell at the Eastman School of Music, the symphonic band and its smaller, more flexible relative, the wind ensemble, were coming into their own as serious artistic media. These young ensembles were hungry for challenging works of high artistic caliber, prompting America’s foremost composers to turn their creativity in this direction, and an exciting new repertoire began to develop. Vittorio Giannini was one of the composers who contributed to this new repertoire, producing five such works between the years 1958 and 1965.

Giannini composed the Dedication Overture in 1965, for the ceremonies marking the conclusion of the North Carolina School of the Arts’ first year. It is a festive piece, thoroughly conventional in style and character. Yet part of Giannini’s genius was his ability to imbue the most conventional gestures with an innocent sincerity that can charm even a sophisticated listener. And his thorough mastery of traditional formal and developmental technique is apparent in every measure, despite the piece’s simple, straightforward design. The overture is constructed of two, largely diatonic, thematic ideas: The first, marchlike in character, comprises a number of motifs that become the building blocks of the entire piece; the second, in marked contrast, is warmly and sweetly nostalgic. These ideas are worked out alternately in a way that is easy to follow. A subtle additional element is the tritone, which, as a harmonic movement, underlies the first thematic idea, moving to the foreground near the conclusion of the work. 

Giannini’s Fantasia was commissioned by a suburban New York music teachers’ association, and completed in 1963. Though relatively simple in its technical demands, it is largely dark and dramatic in character. As suggested by its title, the Fantasia develops a few short motifs through a varying series of tempos and moods. A rather menacing exposition of the main motif opens the work. This motif is then developed in a hushed, restless passage, as several additional motifs are introduced. A slower section follows, in which the main motif is given a plaintively lyrical treatment. Finally, the mood shifts from mournful to hopeful, culminating in a warmly expansive climax.

Praeludium and Allegro is Giannini’s first piece for band, commissioned on behalf of the Goldman Band in 1958. The Praeludium introduces a somber melody over a throbbing, pulsating accompaniment. Although the music is romantic in its emotional expressiveness, its rhythmic regularity and symmetrical phraseology suggest a Baroque movement that might be marked Grave. Even its contrasting two-part structure harks back to 17th-century practice. The Allegro introduces a rapidly scurrying idea in the woodwinds that unfolds with ingenious-cross rhythms. This idea is then developed in counterpoint with fragments of the Praeludium theme. An episode in which this theme is heard against highly dissonant chords leads to a recapitulation of the Allegro material, building to a climax at which point the Praeludium melody returns in abbreviated form, now as an outcry of despair.

Shortly after finishing Praeludium and Allegro, Giannini turned his attention to composing an entire symphony (his No. 3) for band, in fulfillment of a commission from the Duke University Band and its conductor Paul Bryan. Completed in 1958, the Symphony No. 3 is unquestionably Giannini’s most frequently performed and recorded work, and has become a much-beloved staple of the band repertoire. Establishing the work’s overall tonality of B-flat Major, the first movement, Allegro energico, opens with a resolute theme suggestive of the Mixolydian mode, built upon a series of ascending fourths (an interval favored by the composer in his works of the 1950s), and including a triplet figure. An additional, transitional theme comprises a scurrying idea in the woodwinds (similar to the Allegro material of the work just discussed). This leads to the second theme, a warm, chorale-like idea that swells and recedes, then builds to a minor climax. The development section incorporates the fourths from Theme I into the transitional material. As this section proceeds, other elements of Theme I are developed as well, finally leading to the expected recapitulation of Themes I and II. The scurrying transitional material re-appears as in the development section, but in abbreviated form. A restatement of Theme 1 brings the movement to a close.

The second movement, Adagio, is poignantly nostalgic in character, and hovers generally around the key of A-flat. Its first two ideas display features reminiscent of the first movement themes: In the first, the interval of the fourth is featured prominently; the second is chorale-like and rises and falls in stepwise motion. The first idea blooms into a plaintive melody, introduced by a solo flute, that anticipates the second theme of the Dedication Overture. This alternates with the chorale idea, which is elaborated gradually. A slightly restless section follows, in which a solo cornet is answered by a solo clarinet, as the chorale idea becomes increasingly demanding. The plaintive melody returns, now building to a heartfelt climax, before a coda of reminiscences ends the movement.

The third movement, Allegretto, has the character of an intermezzo, whose main idea is a stealthy, whimsical theme in B-flat minor that toys with a hemiola (three-against-two) rhythmic juxtaposition. An expansive, wide-arching melody that appears twice provides contrast.

Returning to the key of B-flat Major, the fourth movement, Allegro con brio, is, like the first movement, a sonata-allegro design, but with the character of a march. Its main idea, a brilliant, rapidly descending scale pattern, pivots on a tritone harmonic movement (again anticipating the Dedication Overture). The rushing scales are followed by a fanfare-like motif suggesting the Lydian mode in the cornets and trumpets, and then by a more sustained melodic idea. The second theme grows from this melodic idea, and is more subdued, though still martial in character, calling to mind similar passages in the ceremonial works of Sir William Walton. The mood again becomes exuberant as a cheerful “closing” idea appears in the woodwinds, accompanied by scale patterns in the brass. After a series of ascending fourths recalls the first movement, a development section follows, treating much of the material that has been heard so far with some contrapuntal intricacy, relative to the movement’s lighthearted character. A full recapitulation follows, bringing the movement, and the symphony, to a dazzling conclusion. 

Variations and Fugue is one of the late works of Giannini in which he explored a deeper, more personal mode of expression, as well as a higher degree of structural complexity, in comparison to his earlier output. In fact, it may be seen as a culmination of his elaboration of traditional compositional technique, taken to its ultimate reaches. Revealing elements of both a chaconne and a passacaglia, the work presents a series of fifteen variations on a chord progression clearly in C minor, on a chromatically descending bass-line, and on a chromatically ascending melodic line. The variations are followed by a double fugue whose first subject is a 12-tone combination of both the bass line and the melodic line, in the shape of a wedge, and whose second subject is derived from the same material. Despite its firm grounding in tonality, the work achieves considerable dissonance through an elaborately woven texture of non-harmonic tones and polychords. It is also another example of the way Giannini combined romantic expressive content with Baroque formal procedures, right up to the Tierce de Picardie that ends the work. Considered one of his finest compositions, Variations and Fugue was commissioned by the Purdue University Symphonic Band, who gave the premiere in May, 1965. 

Tom Bennett

Tom Bennett is Director of Bands and Associate Professor of Music at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. Prior to his appointment to the University in 2000, Bennett was Director of Bands at East Texas State University, and had conducted an array of high school bands throughout Texas. Several of these bands won auspicious honors and awards during his tenure. Bennett holds degrees from Texas Tech University and Southern Methodist University. He is the recipient of the Leadership and Achievement Award from the Texas Music Educators Association and the Ross Perot Outstanding Teacher Award from the Richardson Independent School District. He was recently presented with the “Grainger Medallion” by the International Grainger Society, in recognition of his significant contribution to the advancement of the music of Percy Grainger. Bennett is a member of the Texas Bandmasters Association, College Band Directors National Association, Texas Music Educators Association, and Phi Beta Mu honorary band fraternity. He is active nationally as a clinician and adjudicator, and in 2005 Bennett was named Texas Bandmaster of the Year.

University of Houston Wind Ensemble

Founded by the distinguished bandmaster Eddie Green, the University of Houston Wind Ensemble of the Moores School of Music has become recognized as one of the foremost university ensembles in the United States today. The  Ensemble is dedicated to exploring the full breadth of the wind-ensemble literature, from the canonic wind repertoire to exciting new and unexplored works. The International Grainger Society selected the Houston Wind Ensemble to record a four-volume series of compact discs featuring works by the Australian-American visionary. One of these recordings was named “compact disc of the year,” by Stereophile. Two of the Wind Ensemble’s other recordings have been nominated for Grammy awards, making them the first college wind ensemble to earn a Grammy nomination.

Moores School of Music

The Moores School of Music’s commitment to academic excellence and the highest performance standards has earned it a place in the forefront of music schools today. Undergraduate and graduate degrees through the doctoral level are offered in theory, performance, composition, music history, pedagogy, conducting, and music education. Through the excellence of its curriculum, the distinction of its faculty, the success of its graduates, and its alliances with the city’s esteemed arts organizations—the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, and the Society for the Performing Arts—the school enjoys a reputation that attracts students from throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Mexico, South and Central America, and the Far East.