On April 15, 1931, the Dance Symphony, written by a young composer, Aaron Copland, whose talents were nevertheless very striking and whose name was becoming familiar to a vast segment of the American musical world, received its first performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. Turning to the music page, readers of the next morning’s Philadelphia Record discovered the provocative banner:
HISSES AND PRAISE GREET COPLAND WORK
The critic himself felt that the work was:
“a colorful ballet suite, rich in oriental flavor . . . the finale . . . startling, for all the various themes are brought together in a dashing and brilliant climax.”
Alfred Frankenstein, distinguished critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and contributor to numerous musical periodicals wrote in the Spring 1946 issue of Modern Music:
“A new composer made his appearance in San Francisco this season and the town sat up and took notice. His name is Halsey Stevens, and he was deposited with us by the United States Navy . . . He is a very talented man, and if you haven’t heard of him already, you are going to. His First Symphony, which he conducted at a concert of the San Francisco Symphony, was one of the most dynamic, compactly meaningful, and finely shaped scores of the year.”
Halsey Stevens' Symphony No. 1 was completed in Berkeley, California in 1945, though a great deal of it had been written during the summer of 1941 and one of them even dates from 1938. The first performance took place on March 7, 1946 by the San Francisco Symphony with the composer conducting. The initial performance of the revised version (the version of this recording) took place on March 2, 1950 by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Alfred Wallenstein. In his Program Notes for this performance Stevens described his work as being built “in a single extended movement not simply a first movement to which the composer is unwilling or unable to add more. It is a genuine symphony. It projects and encloses a complete and complex set of ideas, is large and eloquent in conception, has thrust and weight and power.