Henry Cowell: Symphonies 7 & 16; Variations for Orchestra
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCR740     Release Date: 1997-01-01
Polish National Radio Orchestra; Iceland Symphony Orchestra; Vienna Symphony Orchestra; William Strickland, Conductor

Henry Cowell (b Menlo Park, CA, 11 March 1897; d Shady, NY, 10 Dec 1965) once told his wife that he guessed he was “a man mostly music.” In a radio interview with Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s he said, “I believe in music: its humor, its power to penetrate to the basic fineness of every human being.” And, in a compositional career that spanned more than a half- century and spawned almost one thousand works, he was the very embodiment of his aim to “live in the whole world of music.”

The late “symphonic Cowell” is represented on this recording by two works of the 1950s and one of the 1960s. By then, the early modernist and the middle-period multiculturalist/populist had given way to an ecumenical “amalgamist” (to coin a word)—and a rather robust, if deceptively offhanded and easygoing master of orchestral textures and colors. Two sensitive, intelligent musicians, both of whom knew Cowell very well, had interesting takes on this later music. Virgil Thomson remarked: “His music is not complex, but it sings. It is not highly polished, but it has structure. It is not strikingly ambitious either, but it has presence. And never is it bogus or vulgar or stupid or falsely inspired.” And Richard Franko Goldman, speaking of the Fifteenth Symphony (1960), wrote: “It is full of apparent contradictions. It seems both of our time and remote from it. Compared to the music being written on the advanced frontiers, it is curiously innocent and removed; yet compared with the more academic writing of the sixties, it seems as fresh as spring flowers. One would hesitate to call it a great work, and yet it is hard to see how anyone could deny that it is an interesting one ... [and that] no one else could have written it.”


This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available for order from New World Records as an on-demand CD (CD-R). It can also be downloaded in MP3/320, FLAC and/or WAV format(s).

Various Artists

Henry Cowell: Symphonies 7 & 16; Variations for Orchestra

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Track Listing

Variations for Orchestra
Henry Cowell
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Symphony No. 16 ("Icelandic"): I. Moderato con moto
Henry Cowell
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Symphony No. 16 ("Icelandic"): II. Allegro
Henry Cowell
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Symphony No. 16 ("Icelandic"): III. Adagio Cantabile
Henry Cowell
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Symphony No. 16 ("Icelandic"): IV. Vivace
Henry Cowell
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Symphony No. 16 ("Icelandic"): V. Maestoso
Henry Cowell
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Symphony No. 7: I. Maestoso
Henry Cowell
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Symphony No. 7: II. Andante
Henry Cowell
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Symphony No. 7: III. Presto
Henry Cowell
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Symphony No. 7: IV. Maestoso
Henry Cowell
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