William Schuman

Composer(s): William Schuman, Leonardo Balada
Album Title: Symphony No. 7/ Steel Symphony 
Cat. No.: 80348
Genre: Classical
Description: William Schuman: Symphony #7
Leonardo Balada: Steel Symphony

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Lorin Maazel

William Schuman was born in 1910 in New York. His earliest musical interests were at first confined to current popular music. In 1930, after hearing his first concert of symphonic music-Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic in a program of music by Wagner, Kodaly, and Robert Schumann-he redirected his life. Schuman later graduated from Columbia University and studied privately with Roy Harris.

By 1937 he had written his Symphony No. 2, which Aaron Copland brought to the attention of Serge Koussevitzky, then the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His Symphony No. 7 was commissioned as part of a joint observance of the Serve Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress and the Boston Symphony Orchestra's seventy-fifth anniversary season. The Symphony premiered on October 21, 1960, under the direction of Charles Munch, who succeeded Koussevitzky as the orchestra's music director.

As a composer Schuman is, above all, a symphonist. If there is such a thing as a mainstream of American symphonic style, then he is in good part responsible for shaping and updating it. His symphonic style can be described in terms of "block construction," the building blocks long sections, which are made of contrapuntal lines and sustained, dissonant harmonies.

Leonardo Balada was born in Barcelona on September 22, 1933, and has lived in the United States since 1956. Spanish and North American folk cultures loom large in his music-as witness his recent operas Zapata! and Christopher Columbus. Shortly after joining the faculty of Pittsburgh's Carnegie-Mellon University in 1970, he became fascinated with another sort of folk melos: the sounds of the American industrial workplace.

Balada gathered his raw material for the Steel Symphony on visits to Pittsburgh's steel mills, then developed scoring and symphonic form that would "reflect on the sonorities of the steel foundries in a sophisticated way."

Steel Symphony begins almost imperceptibly amid the customary orchestral tune-up around a unison A, and returns to the same A at the close. The composer even gives the orchestra the option of starting to tune immediately for the next piece on the program: like the work of the mills that once ran twenty-fours hours a day, 365 day a year, this piece has no beginning or end. Finally, it is rhythm that holds all this open-ended, partly improvised music together. The throb of carefully tended machinery underlies much of the piece. 
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