Piston, Ruggles, Swanson & Hively: Orchestral Works
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL254     Release Date: 2010-08-15

The Polish National Radio Orchestra; William Strickland, conductor; Vienna State Opera Orchestra; Franz Litschauer, conductor

Walter Piston (b. Rockland, Maine, 1894) is one of the generation of New England composers who first established American music as something to be considered with the same seriousness as European music. Although he was fairly firmly established by that time, he recalls that in 1933, when he was offered a performance of a new work by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, it came as a stunning surprise—as, he writes, "something unheard-of'". The work he composed for this special honor was Concerto For Orchestra. In it, he says, "I felt for the first time that I had found what I was looking for, and that I had a glimpse of the way to go. ..." He adds, “The truth is, however, that I have continued to search for the way ever since."

The Concerto has three movements, as follows:

I. Allegro moderato ma energico. It is reminiscent of the baroque concerto grosso in rhythm and form, with ritornello, the episodes in changing instrumental combinations. II. Allegro vivace is light, virtuosic. The second half presents the literal retrograde of the first half. Some listeners have found elements of jazz in this movement. III. Adagio— Allegro moderato is based on the principle of the passacaglia: the theme is announced by the tuba, with slow variations for brass, then woodwinds, followed by a fugal allegro and further culminating variations.

Carl Ruggles (b. 1876) is one of the legendary composers who brightened the American musical scene during the 1920s and '30s. It was said that he, more than any other composer, inherited the mantle of his friend Charles Ives. Both men were born and bred in New England, and both went their own way, creating brilliant musical structures by sheer determination and in the face of a world that did not understand.

The original body of orchestral music consisted of three extended works, Portals, Vox Clamans In Deserto and Men and Angels. The first and second exist as they were originally composed. Men and Angels contained three movements, each of which was revised and became separate compositions: Men and Mountains, Angels (composed for muted brass), and Sun Treader. Men and Mountains now itself contains three movements, titled Men, Lilacs and Marching Mountains. The title is taken from an epigram of Blake: Great things are done when Men and Mountains meet.

Howard Swanson's Short Symphony was composed in 1948 and was given its first performance by Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic. It was almost immediately taken up and performed many times by major orchestras here and abroad. In 1952, the work won the New York Music Critics Circle award and that year Swanson won a Guggenheim Fellowship and American Academy-National Institute of Arts and Letters award. The music is classical in outline, its three movements being in sonata form, song form and rondo form, which the composer says was a deliberate choice to underline "the depth, seriousness and intensity inherent in a large work". All three movements are characterized by Swanson's easy and instinctive love of contrapuntal movement.

Wells Hively's Icarus was composed in 1961, after the sudden death in an automobile accident, of a nephew. Before his death, Mr. Hively wrote the following explanation of the title of his work:

"Icarus was the son of Daedalus in Greek mythology. He and his father were flying away from Crete on wings of feathers and wax. In spite of his father's warning, he flew too near to the sun; the wax melted and Icarus fell into the sea and was drowned. The sea where he fell is called the Icarian Sea, and the island where he was washed ashore and buried (by Hercules) is Icaria."


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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Polish National Radio Orchestra

Piston, Ruggles, Swanson & Hively: Orchestral Works

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

Track Listing

Concerto for Orchestra: I. Allegro moderato ma energico
Walter Piston
Buy
Concerto for Orchestra: II. Allegro vivace
Walter Piston
Buy
Concerto for Orchestra: III. Adagio - Allegro moderato
Walter Piston
Buy
Men & Mountains: I. Men
Carl Ruggles
Buy
Men & Mountains: II. Lilacs
Carl Ruggles
Buy
Men & Mountains: III. Marching Mountains
Carl Ruggles
Buy
Short Symphony: I. Allegro moderato
Howard Swanson
Buy
Short Symphony: II. Andante
Howard Swanson
Buy
Short Symphony: III. Allegro giocoso
Howard Swanson
Buy
Icarus
Wells Hively
Buy