La Montaine: Piano Cto.; Stevens: Symphonic Dances
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL166     Release Date: 2010-05-01

Karen Keys, piano; Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra; Guy Fraser Harrison, conductor
London Philharmonic Orchestra; George Barati, conductor

John La Montaine (b 1920, Oak Park, Illinois), though known among his professional colleagues for a decade as a highly gifted pianist, came into national prominence as a composer only in 1958, when the Piano Concerto recorded here received its world premiere on November 25 of that year with Jorge Bolet as soloist and the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Howard Mitchell. The music, dedicated to Mrs. Faith Smeeth, had been commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra under a grant from the Ford Foundation, and in 1959 the score was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music.

The reasons for the deep impression made by the Concerto on both lay listeners and on critics and professionals is not hard to discover; for in common with his senior colleague, Samuel Barber, La Montaine has displayed in his music a flair for intensely dramatic lyrical utterance in combination with virtuosic effectiveness in the best sense of the word that makes for surefire listener impact. For a contemporary composer to accomplish such a feat in a large-scale piece, sticking within a relatively traditional framework, and avoiding the slightest taint of the meretricious is a feat of no mean order, and one attainable only by a composer whose stylistic persuasions are backed by a solidity of craftsmanship that has become second nature.

If John La Montaine can be labeled a modern romantic, then Halsey Stevens can be said to fall firmly into the modern classic category. However, Stevens’s classicism, with its emphasis on linearity and closely reasoned structure, is amply tinctured with rhythmic patterns that mark his musical speech as distinctly American, as opposed to a faceless cosmopolitanism. His catalog of works is generous and varied, encompassing virtually all media save opera. Besides the two symphonies and Triskelion, Stevens’s works include a Piano Concerto (1957); Septet (1957/ a Fromm Foundation commission); Viola Sonata (1950); three string quartets, three trios, and a series of choral works ranging from the intimate a cappella work Like as the Culver on the Bared Bough (1954/ CRI 102) to the Magnificat (1962) for chorus, trumpet, and string orchestra.

Mr. Stevens’s Symphonic Dances were commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1958 under a grant from the Ford Foundation to the American Music Center and were performed for the first time by that orchestra under Enrique Jorda’s direction on December 10, 1958.



This title from the CRI LP back catalog has been carefully transferred from the original master tape, and is now available 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).

We have preserved the original CRI LP catalog number for this title, preceded by the prefix NWCRL, to distinguish previously unavailable back catalog titles from those later reissued by CRI on compact disc.

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Karen Keys

La Montaine: Piano Cto.; Stevens: Symphonic Dances

MP3/320 $9.99
FLAC $9.99
WAV $9.99
CD $12.99

Track Listing

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op.9: I. Moderately fast - decisive
John La Montaine
Buy
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op.9: II. Elegy; andante
John La Montaine
Buy
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op.9: III. Finale
John La Montaine
Buy
Symphonic Dances: I. Allegro moderato
Halsey Stevens
Buy
Symphonic Dances: II. Adagio
Halsey Stevens
Buy
Symphonic Dances: III. Allegro
Halsey Stevens
Buy