Charles Avison and his Concerti Grossi after Scarlatti

Avison
Charles Avison (February 16, 1709 –May 9 or 10, 1770) was an English organist and composer who is best remembered for his 12 Concerti Grossi after Scarlatti. Little is known of Avison’s early life. The son, was the fifth of nine children, of Richard and Anne Avison, both musicians who lived in the house beside St. Bartholomew’s Nunnery in Nolt Market, Newcastle, he was born in 1709 and baptized on February 16, at St. John’s Church in Newcastle. According to the New Grove dictionary, he was also born in this city. His parents were presumably his first music teachers. Richard was a member of the ancient Incorporated Company of Town Waits, i.e., a member of the official town band, who was licensed to teach music in his spare time. Ann was an organist. Charles’s only formal education can have been at one of the two charity schools serving St John’s parish. It is likely that he had early contact with Ralph Jenison, a patron of the arts, and later a member of Parliament.

Avison was also assisted in his studies by Colonel John Blaithwaite who was a retired director of the Royal Academy of Music. During the period with Jenison, Avison, as a young man, must have moved to London, as according to the music historian Charles Burney, he studied music there with the Italian composer Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762). The first recorded mention of Avison’s musical life was reference to a concert for his benefit at Hickford’s Room, London on March 20, 1734. However, his ties to his hometown remained strong, and on October 13, 1735, he accepted the position of music director at St. John’s Church in Newcastle, later moving to nearby St. Nicholas’s in October of 1736. In the same month Avison conducted a series of subscription concerts in Newcastle – similar to those running in London – in the name of the Newcastle Musical Society. They took the format of a series of 14 concerts – held fortnightly – each winter.

Despite numerous offers of more prestigious positions later in life, he never again left Newcastle. On January 15, 1737, Avison married Catherine Reynolds. They had nine children, but only three survived: Jane (1744–1773), Edward (1747–1776), and Charles (1751–1795). Edward and Charles both later served as organists, and Charles published a book of hymns. In July 1738, Avison was formally appointed music director of the Newcastle Musical Society. In addition to his teaching, each week he travelled the twenty miles to Durham to participate in John Garth’s subscription concerts , and was active in local theatres, probably supplying music for the play intervals as was customary at that time. Avison and Garth also collaborated to form a Marcello society in Newcastle devoted to performing the choral music of Benedetto Marcello. And he organized benefit concerts and musical events at the Newcastle Pleasure Gardens.

Avison’s first published composition, Six Sonatas for Two Violins and Continuo, was dedicated to Ralph Jenison. Avison continued the Italian style tradition, which Geminiani had made so popular in London. In his Concerti Grossi, in particular, he carried on Geminiani’s technique of modeling orchestral concertos after sonatas by older composers. His set of Concertos, Op. 3, contained a lengthy preface on performing practice. The foundation of Avison’s contemporary fame was his Essay on Musical Expression, published in 1752, which criticized Handel, who was much admired in England at the time. It was the first work of musical criticism published in English. Geminiani visited Avison in his home town during 1760 breaking a journey between Edinburgh and London. Avison died on May 9 or 10, 1770, after being caught out in an unusual blizzard that hit from May 2–4. He is buried at St. Andrew’s in Newcastle.

Charles Burney described Avison was “an ingenious and polished man, esteemed and respected by all that knew him; and an elegant writer upon his art.” Avison was obviously much attached to his home town of Newcastle, refusing many prestigious positions offered to him in other parts of the country, including York Minster, recommendations from Geminiani for two posts in Dublin, a teaching position in Edinburgh, and as successor to Pepusch as organist at the Charterhouse in London. Avison wrote 60 string concerto grossi, plus twelve more that are arrangements of harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. He also wrote concertos for organ or harpsichord, many of which are arrangements of the string concertos or music of other composers. And he wrote a good amount of chamber music, including sonatas, which he seems initially to have modeled on Rameau’s music, including his keyboard sonatas with accompaniment from other instruments, primarily two violins and cellos. He wrote little sacred music and only three such works survive, in addition to a portion of an oratorio that he wrote with several other composers.

I have the following works by Avison in my collection:

Concerto Grosso No. 1 in AM after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 2 in GM after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 3 in dm after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 4 in am after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 5 in AM after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 6 in DM after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 7 in gm after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 8 in em after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 9 in CM after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 10 in DM after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 11 in GM after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)
Concerto Grosso No. 12 in DM after Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (1744)

Malcolm Arnold and his “Scottish Dances”

MalcolmArnold
Sir Malcolm Henry Arnold, CBE (October 21, 1921 –September 23, 2006) was an English composer who was born in Northampton, England, the youngest of five children from a prosperous Northampton family of shoemakers. As a teenager, he was attracted to the creative freedom of jazz. After seeing Louis Armstrong play in Bournemouth, he took up the trumpet at the age of 12 and 5 years later won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music (RCM). At the RCM he studied composition with Gordon Jacob and the trumpet with Ernest Hall. In 1941 he joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) as second trumpet and became principal trumpet in 1943.

In 1941 he registered as a conscientious objector with a condition of joining the National Fire Service, but in the event he was allowed to continue in the LPO. In 1944, after his brother in the Royal Air Force had been killed, he volunteered for military service. When the army put him in a military band he shot himself in the foot to get back to civilian life. After a season as principal trumpet with the BBC Symphony Orchestra he returned to the London Philharmonic in 1946 where he remained until 1948 when he left to become a full-time composer. Although he began his career playing trumpet professionally, by age thirty his life was devoted to composition. He was ranked with Benjamin Britten as one of the most sought-after composers in Britain.

Arnold was a relatively conservative composer of tonal works, but a prolific and popular one. He acknowledged Hector Berlioz as an influence, alongside Gustav Mahler, Béla Bartók and jazz. Several commentators have drawn a comparison with Jean Sibelius. Arnold’s most significant works are generally considered to be his nine symphonies. He also wrote a number of concertos, including one for guitar for Julian Bream, one for cello for Julian Lloyd Webber, one for clarinet for Benny Goodman, one for harmonica for Larry Adler, and one – enthusiastically welcomed at its premiere during the 1969 Proms – for three hands on two pianos for the husband-and-wife team of Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick. His sets of dances — comprising two sets of English Dances (Opp. 27 and 33), along with one set each of Scottish Dances (Op. 59), Cornish Dances (Op. 91), Irish Dances (Op. 126), and Welsh Dances (Op. 138) — are mainly in a lighter vein and are popular both in their original orchestral guise and in later wind and brass band arrangements.

The English Dances also form the basis for Kenneth MacMillan’s short ballet Solitaire. Arnold also wrote some highly successful concert overtures, including Beckus the Dandypratt (an important stepping stone in his early career), the strikingly scored Tam o’ Shanter (based on the famous Robert Burns poem), the rollicking A Grand Grand Festival Overture (written for a Hoffnung Festival and featuring three vacuum cleaners and a floor polisher, all in turn polished off by a firing squad in uproarious mock 1812 manner), and the dramatic Peterloo Overture (commissioned by the Trades Union Congress to commemorate the historic massacre of protesting workers in Manchester). Another popular short work is his Divertimento for Flute, Oboe and Clarinet (Op. 37). Arnold is also known for his relatively large number of compositions and arrangements of his own compositions for brass band.

A prolifically successful composer for the cinema, Arnold is credited with having written over a hundred film scores for features and documentaries between 1947 and 1969. In 1957, Arnold won an Academy Award for the music to David Lean’s epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai. His two other collaborations with David Lean were The Sound Barrier (1952) and Hobson’s Choice (1954), both of which were also resoundingly successful. The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) won Arnold an Ivor Novello Award. Also during the 1950s — an especially prolific period for Arnold — he provided a series of successful scores for major British and American feature films, such as The Captain’s Paradise (1953), You Know What Sailors Are (1954),Trapeze (1956) and The Roots of Heaven (1958). He also wrote the music for the entire series of St Trinian’s films, including The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954), which was a particular favorite with the composer. Other successes included No Love for Johnnie (1960), the classic Whistle Down the Wind (1961), as well as The Inspector and The Lion (both released in 1962). Arnold’s last major film score was for a star-studded version of David Copperfield (1969).

Arnold’s later years saw a decline in both health and finances. In 1978 he was treated as an in-patient for several months in the acute psychiatric ward at the Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London, and in 1979 he entered St Andrew’s Hospital in his home town of Northampton to be treated for depression and alcoholism. He overcame both, despite being given a year to live in the early 1980s. He lived for more than 20 more years, completing his Ninth and final symphony in 1986. By the time of Arnold’s seventieth birthday celebrations in 1991, his artistic reputation with the general public was recovering and he was even able to enjoy a triumphant appearance on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall to receive an ovation after a Proms performance of his Guitar Concerto. He was the patron of the Rochdale Youth Orchestra until his death on September 23, 2006.at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich, after suffering from a chest infection. His last work, The Three Musketeers, was premiered at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford on the same day in a Northern Ballet production.

My collection includes the following works by Arnold:
Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, op. 67 (1959).
English Dances, First Set, op. 27 (1950).
English Dances, Second Set, op. 53 (1951).
Four Cornish Dances, op. 91 (1966).
Four Irish Dances, op. 126 (1986).
Four Scottish Dances, op. 59 (1957) .
Four Welsh Dances, op. 138.
Solitaire Ballet (1956): Two selections.
Tam O’Shanter Overture, op. 51 (1955).

Thomas Arne and his “Overtures”

arne
Thomas Augustine Arne (March 12, 1710 –March 5, 1778) was a British composer, best known for the patriotic song Rule, Britannia. Arne, who was baptized in the Roman Catholic faith, his mother’s religion, was born and died in London. His father and grandfather were both upholsterers and both became officials of the City Company of Upholsterers. His grandfather fell upon hard times and died in the Marshalsea Prison for debtors. Arne’s father earned enough money not only to rent a large house in Covent Garden but also to have Arne educated at Eton College. But later in life, he also managed to lose most of his wealth and had to earn extra cash by acting as a numberer of the boxes at Drury Lane Theatre.

Arne was so keen on music that he smuggled a spinet into his room and, damping the sounds with his handkerchief, would secretly practice during the night while the rest of the family slept. He also dressed up as a liveryman in order to gain access to the gallery of the Italian Opera. It was at the opera that Arne first met the musician and composer Michael Festing, who was a major influence on him. Festing not only taught him to play the violin, but also took him to various musical events, including going to hear Thomas Roseingrave compete for the post of organist at Hanover Square, and a visit to Oxford in 1733 to hear George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Athalia.

Upon leaving school, Arne was articled to a solicitor for three years. However, Arne’s father discovered his son leading a group of musicians at what was probably one of Festing’s musical gatherings. Following this disclosure of his son’s real interest and talent, he was persuaded, probably by Festing, to allow the young Arne to give up his legal career and to pursue music as a living. Arne’s sister, Susannah Maria Arne, was a famous contralto, who performed in some of his works at Drury Lane, including his first opera, Rosamund. Between 1733 and 1776, Arne wrote music for about 90 stage works, including plays, masques, pantomimes, and opera. Many of his dramatic scores are now lost, probably in the disastrous fire at Covent Garden in 1808.

On March 15, 1737, Arne married singer Cecilia Young. His operas and masques became very popular, and he received the patronage of Frederick, Prince of Wales, at whose country home, Cliveden, the Masque of Alfred, featuring “Rule Britannia”, was debuted in 1740. In 1741, Arne filed a complaint in Chancery pertaining to a breach of musical copyright and claimed that some of his theatrical songs had been printed and sold by Henry Roberts and John Johnson, the London booksellers and music distributors. The matter was settled out of court. Arne was certainly one of the very first composers to have appealed to the law over copyright issues.

In 1750, after an argument with David Garrick, Susannah left Drury Lane for Covent Garden Theatre, and Arne followed. In 1755 he spent a period spent in Dublin. Charlotte Brent, a soprano and former child prodigy. performed in several of Arne’s works, including the role of Sally in his 1760 opera Thomas and Sally and Mandane in his 1762 opera Artaxerxes. During the 1760s Arne frequently collaborated with the Irish writer Isaac Bickerstaffe. Thomas and Sally was the first English comic opera to be sung throughout (it contained no dialogue). Artaxerxes was one of the most successful and influential English operas of the 18th century and is the only known attempt to write an Italianate, Metastasian opera seria, in the English language.

In 1769 Arne composed the song Soft Flowing Avon, with lyrics by David Garrick, for the Shakespeare Jubilee held by Garrick in Stratford-upon-Avon to commemorate the life of William Shakespeare. He also wrote a version of God Save the King, which was to become the British national anthem, and the song A-Hunting We Will Go. Arne and his wife had one son, Michael Arne, who was also a composer. Arne is buried at St Paul’s, Covent Garden, London. Arne was the leading British theatre composer of the 18th century, with his work at Drury Lane and Covent Garden.

I have the following works by Arne in my collection:
Overture No. 1 in em.
Overture No. 2 in AM.
Overture No. 3 in GM.
Overture No. 4 in FM.
Overture No. 5 in DM.
Overture No. 6 in BbM.
Overture No. 7 in DM.
Overture No. 8 in gm.

George Antheil and the “Ballet Mechanique”

antheil
George Antheil (July 8, 1900 – February 12, 1959) was an American avant-garde composer, pianist, author and inventor whose modernist musical compositions explored the modern sounds – musical, industrial, mechanical – of the early 20th century. Born Georg Carl Johann Antheil, he grew up in a family of German immigrants in Trenton, New Jersey. His father owned a local shoe store in the city. Antheil was raised bilingually, writing music, prose, and poetry from an early age, and never formally graduated from high school or college. He was “so crazy about music”, that his mother sent him to the countryside where no pianos were available. Undeterred, George simply arranged for a local music store to deliver a piano.

Antheil started studying the piano at the age of six. In 1916 he traveled regularly to Philadelphia to study under Constantine von Sternberg, a former pupil of Franz Liszt. From Sternberg he received formal composition training in the European tradition, but his trips to the city also exposed him to conceptual art, including Dadaism. In 1919, he began to work with the more progressive Ernest Bloch in New York. Initially Bloch had been skeptical and had rejected him, describing Antheil’s compositions as “empty” and “pretentious”; however, the teacher was won over by Antheil’s enthusiasm and energy, and helped him financially as he attempted to complete an aborted first symphony. Antheil’s trips to New York also permitted him to meet important figures of the modernist movement, including the musicians Leo Ornstein and Paul Rosenfeld, the painter John Marin, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and Margaret Anderson, editor of the The Little Review.

At age 19, Antheil was invited to spend the weekend with Anderson and a group of friends; he stayed six months, and the close-knit group, who included Georgette Leblanc, former companion of Maurice Maeterlinck, were to become influential in Antheil’s career. During this period Antheil worked on songs, a piano concerto and a work that came to be known as “the Mechanisms”. Around this time, Antheil was introduced to his patron for the next two decades, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, later the founder of the Curtis Institute of Music. Assured of Antheil’s genius and good character, Bok gave him a monthly stipend of $150, and arranged for him to study at the Philadelphia Settlement Music School.

Antheil continued his piano studies and the study of modernist compositions, such as those by Igor Stravinsky and members of the Les Six group of French composers. In 1921, he wrote his first in a series of technology-based works, the solo piano Second Sonata, “The Airplane”. He also worked on his first symphony, managing to attract Leopold Stokowski to premiere it. Before the performance could take place, Antheil sailed for Europe on May 30, 1922, at the age of 21, to to pursue his career by making his name as “a new ultra-modern pianist composer” and a “futurist terrible”. He opened his European career with a concert at Wigmore Hall. The concert featured works by Claude Debussy and Stravinsky, as well as his own compositions. Early works composed in Europe included the Sonata Sauvage (1922–3), a subsequent Third Sonata, “Death of Machines” (1923), and “Mechanisms” (c. 1923).

Antheil spent a year in Berlin, planning to work with Artur Schnabel, and gave concerts in Budapest, Vienna and at the Donaueschingen Festival. He met Boski Markus, a Hungarian and niece of the Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler whom he married in 1925. In the fall of 1922, Antheil took advantage of a chance meeting to introduce himself to his idol Stravinsky in Berlin. They established a warm intimacy and the more established composer encouraged Antheil to move to Paris. He went as far as arranging a concert to launch Antheil’s career in the French capital, but the younger man failed to show up, preferring to travel to Poland . Antheil finally arrived in Paris in June 1923, in time to attend the premiere of Stravinsky’s ballet Les Noces, but the relationship with Stravinsky did not survive for long. The breach devastated Antheil, and was not ultimately repaired until 1941, when Stravinsky sent the family tickets to a concert he was giving in Hollywood. In Paris, Antheil lived in a one bedroom apartment above Sylvia Beach’s bookshop Shakespeare and Company. She was very supportive, and introduced Antheil to her circle of friends and customers including Erik Satie, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Virgil Thompson and Ernest Hemingway. Joyce and Pound were soon talking of an opera collaboration. Pound introduced Antheil to Jean Cocteau who in turn helped launch Antheil into the musical salons of Paris, and commissioned him to write three violin sonatas for his companion, Olga Rudge.

Antheil was asked to make his Paris debut at the opening of the Ballets suédois, an important Paris social event. He programmed several recent compositions, including the “Airplane Sonata”, the “Sonata Sauvage” and “Mechanism”. In the audience were Erik Satie, Darius Milhaud, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and Francis Picabia. Antheil was delighted when Satie and Milhaud praised his music. Antheil’s best-known composition is Ballet Mécanique. The “ballet” was originally conceived to be accompanied by a film by experimental filmmakers Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy with cinematography by Man Ray. The official Paris première occurred in June 1926. On April 10, 1927, Antheil rented New York’s Carnegie Hall in order to present an entire concert devoted to his works including the American debut of Ballet Mécanique in a scaled-down version and engaged an African American orchestra to premiere his A Jazz Symphony. In the late 1920s, Antheil moved to Germany, where he worked as assistant musical director of the Stadttheater in Berlin, and wrote music for the ballet and theatre. In 1930, he premiered his first opera Transatlantic.

In 1933, the rise of the Nazi party made Antheil’s avant-garde music unwelcome in Germany, and at the height of the Depression, he returned to the United States and settled in New York City. He reentered American life with enthusiasm, organizing concerts, working on committees with Aaron Copland and Wallingford Riegger, and writing piano, ballet and film scores as well as an opera Helen Retires about Helen of Troy. Antheil went to Hollywood in 1936 and became a sought-after film composer, writing more than thirty scores for such directors as Cecil B. DeMille and Nicholas Ray, including The Scoundrel (1935) and The Plainsman (1936). The Antheils’ only child, a son, was born in 1937. He became increasingly dependent on more independent producers such as Ben Hecht to give him work, such as Angels Over Broadway (1940) and Specter of the Rose (1946). He also wrote the score for the independent film Dementia (1955) and In a Lonely Place (1950) starring Humphrey Bogart.

Besides writing scores for movies, he continued to compose other music, including music for the ballet and six symphonies; his later works were in a more romantic style and influenced by Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as well as American music including jazz, as evidenced in works such as Serenade No. 1, Piano Sonata No. 4, Songs of Experience, and Eight Fragments from Shelley, written in 1948. His 1953 opera Volpone was premiered in New York in 1953 to mixed reviews, while a visit to Spain in the 1950s influenced some of his last works, including the film score for The Pride and the Passion (1957). He also accepted a commission from the CBS Television network to compose a theme for their newsreel and documentary film series The Twentieth Century (1957–1966), narrated by Walter Cronkite. Antheil died in 1959 of a heart attack in the New York City borough of Manhattan.

My collection includes the following works by Antheil:
Ballet Mechanique (1926).
Concert for Chamber Orchestra (1933).
McKonkey’s Ferry (Washington at Trenton), A Concert Overture (1948).
Serenade for Str. Orch., No. 1 (1948).
Symphony for Five Instrument (1924).
Symphony No. 4, “1942” (1942).
Symphony No. 6 (1948).

Leroy Anderson and the “Irish Suite”

Anderson
Leroy Anderson (June 29, 1908 – May 18, 1975) was an American composer of short, light concert pieces, many of which were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Arthur Fiedler. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Swedish parents, Anderson was given his first piano lessons by his mother, who was an organist. He continued studying piano at the New England Conservatory of Music. In 1925 Anderson entered Harvard University, where he studied musical harmony with Walter Spalding, counterpoint with Edward Ballantine, canon and fugue with William C. Heilman, orchestration with Edward B. Hill and Walter Piston, composition with Piston and double bass with Gaston Dufresne. He also studied organ with Henry Gideon. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Magna cum laude in 1929, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In Harvard University Graduate School, he studied composition with Piston and Georges Enescu and received a Master of Arts in Music in 1930.

Anderson continued studying at Harvard, working towards a PhD in German and Scandinavian languages. He spoke English and Swedish during his youth and eventually became fluent in Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese. At that time he was also working as music director at the East Milton Congregational Church, leading the Harvard University Band, and conducting and arranging for dance bands around Boston. In 1936 his arrangements came to the attention of Arthur Fiedler, who asked to see any original compositions. Anderson’s first work was the 1938 Jazz Pizzicato, but at just over ninety seconds the piece was too short for a three-minute 78-RPM single of the period. Fiedler suggested writing a companion piece and Anderson wrote Jazz Legato later that same year. The combined recording went on to become one of Anderson’s signature compositions.

In 1942 Anderson joined the U.S. Army, and was assigned in Iceland as a translator and interpreter. In 1945 he was reassigned to the Pentagon as Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence. However his duties did not prevent him from composing, and in 1945 he wrote “The Syncopated Clock” and “Promenade.” In 1950, WCBS-TV in New York City selected “Syncopated Clock” as the theme song for The Late Show/ the WCBS late-night movie. Anderson became a reserve officer and was recalled to active duty for the Korean War. Anderson’s most famous piece is probably “Sleigh Ride” which is instantly recognizable to millions of people. It was not written as a Christmas piece, but as a work that describes a winter event. Anderson started the work during a heat wave in August 1946. The Boston Pops’ recording of it was the first pure orchestral piece to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Music chart, and Mitchell Parish later added words.

In 1951 Anderson wrote his first hit, “Blue Tango,” earning a Golden Disc and the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts. “Blue Tango” was the first instrumental recording ever to sell one million copies. His pieces and his recordings during the fifties conducting a studio orchestra were immense commercial successes. From 1952 to 1961, Anderson’s composition “Plink, Plank, Plunk!” was used as the theme for the CBS panel show I’ve Got A Secret. Anderson wrote his Piano Concerto in C in 1953 but withdrew it, feeling that it had weak spots. In 1988 the Anderson family decided to publish the work. Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra released the first recording of this work. In 1958, Anderson composed the music for the Broadway show Goldilocks with orchestrations by Philip J. Lang. Even though it earned two Tony awards, Goldilocks did not achieve commercial success.

Anderson never wrote another musical, preferring instead to continue writing orchestral miniatures. His pieces, including “Bugler’s Holiday” and “A Trumpeter’s Lullaby” are performed by orchestras and bands ranging from school groups to professional organizations. Anderson’s musical style employs creative instrumental effects and occasionally makes use of sound-generating items such as a typewriter as in “The Typewriter.” Anderson would occasionally appear on the Boston Pops regular concerts on PBS to conduct his own music while Fiedler would sit on the sidelines. For “The Typewriter” Fiedler would don a green eyeshade, roll up his sleeves, and mime working on an old typewriter while the orchestra played. Anderson was initiated as an honorary member of the Gamma Omicron chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia at Indiana State University in 1969. In 1975, he died of cancer in Woodbury, CT. John Williams described him as “one of the great American masters of light orchestral music.”

My collection includes the following works by Anderson:
Alma Mater (Suite, 1954).
Belle of the Ball (1951).
Blue Tango (1951).
Bugler’s Holiday.
Chicken Reel.
A Christmas Festival (1950).
Classical Juke Box.
Fiddle Faddle.
Forgotten Dreams (1962).
The Irish Suite (6 movements, 1949).
Jazz Pizzicato – Jazz Legato.
Plink, Plank, Plunk!
Richard Rodgers Waltzes (arranged).
Saraband.
Scottish Suite (4 movements, 1954).
Serenata.
Sleigh Ride.
Summer Skies (1953).
The Syncopated Clock.
A Trumpeter’s Lullaby.
The Typewriter.
The Waltzing Cat.

Elie Siegmeister and his “Western Suite”

ElieSiegmeister
Elie Siegmeister (January 15, 1909– March 10, 1991) was an American composer, educator and author. Born in Harlem, New York City, NY, Siegmeister attended Columbia University, where he studied music theory with Seth Bingham, at the age of 15 and, upon finishing his degree, a B.A. cum laude, at the age of 18, went to study, along with Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson, with Nadia Boulanger in Paris for four years. He also studied conducting with Albert Stoessel at the Juilliard School and counterpoint with Wallingford Riegger.

After his studies abroad, Siegmeister returned to the United States with a goal to bring music to the American people apart from European models. He helped found the American Composers Alliance, as well as organized concerts and choruses for the working class. Taking inspiration from Charles Ives, Siegmeister incorporated folk materials into his music. Jazz, blues, and Native American musical influences can also be heard in his pieces. He strongly believed that music and society were closely linked (as can be read in his book Music and Society of 1938) and felt that American music should combine the serious and the popular. In 1939, he formed the American Ballad Singers, a vocal group devoted to American folk music whom he conducted for eight years in performances throughout the United States.

Aside from his purely instrumental works, Siegmeister wrote several operas, which were concerned more with a patriotic message than they were with a complicated compositional style. In 1944, he published Work and Sing, a collection of American work songs. He also composed for Broadway (“Sing Out, Sweet Land,” 1944, book by Walter Kerr), and Hollywood (notably, the film score of They Came to Cordura, starring Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth, 1959). His Western Suite, which incorporates familiar cowboy tunes, was premiered by Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra during a broadcast concert on November 25, 1945, in NBC Studio 8-H.

Siegmeister wrote a number of important books on music, among them “Treasury of American Song” (Knopf, 1940–43, text coauthored with Olin Downs, music arranged by Siegmeister), second edition revised and enlarged (Consolidated Music Publishers); “The Music Lover’s Handbook” (William Morrow, 1943; Book-of-the-Month Club selection), revised and expanded as “The New Music Lover’s Handbook” (1973); and the two-volume “Harmony and Melody” (Wadsworth, 1985), which was widely adopted by college and conservatory curricula. In 1960, Siegmeister also recorded and released an instructional album of music, Invitation to Music, on Folkways Records, on which he discusses the fundamentals of music.

From 1977 until his death in Manhasset, NY, Siegmeister served on the Board of Directors of ASCAP and chaired its Symphony and Concert Committee. Among his signal achievements, he was composer-in-residence at Hofstra University 1966-76, having organized and conducted the Hofstra Symphony Orchestra; established 1971 and chaired the Council of Creative Artists, Libraries, and Museums; and initiated 1978 the Kennedy Center’s National Black Music competition. He was the winner of numerous awards and commissions, among them those of the Guggenheim, Ford, and Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundations, the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the USIA. The best known of his own students was Stephen Albert (1941–92), winner of a 1985 Pulitzer Prize for music.

An extremely diverse composer, Elie Siegmeister sought specifically to develop an authentic American American voice in his music, and, in doing so, composed in a wide variety of genres and compositional styles for his many song cycles, his nine operas, his eight symphonies, and his many choral, chamber, and solo works. His 37 orchestral works have been performed by leading orchestras throughout the world under such conductors as Arturo Toscanini, Leopold Stokowski, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Lorin Maazel, and Sergiu Comissiona. I have one work by Siegmeister in my collection:

Western Suite (5 movements, 1945).

Louis Coerne and “Excalibur”

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Louis Adolphe Coerne (February 27, 1870 – September 11, 1922) was an American composer and music educator. He was born on Feb. 27, 1870, in Newark, New Jersey, and was educated at Harvard University, where he studied under John Knowles Paine, and in Europe. Coerne wrote a number of pedagogical pieces for piano, and also composed a number of orchestral works, one of which, the tone poem Excalibur (Op. 180), was recorded by Karl Krueger with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the late 1960s, and reissued on CD in 2006 by Bridge Records. His cantata, Hiawatha (op. 18), was premiered in Munich in 1893 and performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1894.

Coerne’s opera, Zenobia (op. 66), premiered in Bremen, Germany, in 1905, and was the first opera by an American composer to be performed in Germany. Earlier that year, Harvard had conferred on Coerne the degree of Ph.D., with the score of Zenobia and his book, The Evolution of Modern Orchestration (later published in 1908), serving as his thesis. Other operas composed by Coerne include A Woman of Marblehead (op. 40), Sakuntala (op. 67), and The Maiden Queen (op. 69).

Coerne is remembered as a composer, conductor, and teacher, as well as the holder of the first American PhD degree in music. He taught at Smith College, Harvard; directed the University of Wisconsin School of Music (1910-15); and was professor of music at Connecticut College for Women (1915-22) until his death at Boston, MA, on September 11, 1922. One writer said the following: “Louis Coerne’s Excalibur is a big sloppy lump of fake (Richard) Strauss, more thickly and primitively scored, without a single memorable idea or identifiable link to its subject matter. Or maybe it’s Bax on a bad day. Hearing it, you easily can understand the composer’s posthumous descent into near-total obscurity (he died in 1922). Still, it’s only 13 minutes long and a genuine curiosity in its way.” Apparently, not everyone necessarily agrees with this assessment.

The only work by Coerne in my collection is:
Excalibur, symphonic poem, op. 180 (1921).