Aspects of America: The Pulitzer Edition

Oregon Symphony, Carlos Kalmar

Aspects of America: The Pulitzer Edition
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Aspects of America: The Pulitzer Edition

Oregon Symphony, Carlos Kalmar

Oregon Symphony and Carlos Kalmar continue their acclaimed Aspects of America series with this second instalment, featuring three symphonic works that were all awarded a Pulitzer Prize.


Walter Piston’s Symphony No. 7 (Pulitzer Prize 1961) is a pastoral and jubilant glorification of nature, while Morton Gould’s Stringmusic (Pulitzer Prize 1995) was composed for star cellist Rostropovich, and showcases all possible sounds and colors of the string orchestra. In his Symphony No. 4 “Requiem” (Pulitzer Prize 1944), Howard Hanson explores the mysteries of life and death in an American musical idiom that simultaneously reveals the composer’s Nordic roots.


 

 

Review

As many people would be aware, classical repertoire can take a long time to work its way into the hearts of listeners (J.S. Bach being an obvious one, only becoming popular eighty years after his death). The twentieth century is littered with amazing works written by remarkable composers who have somehow missed becoming part of the central repertoire. Oregon Symphony, with conductor Carlos Kalmar, are trying to remedy that by performing and recording some of the Pulitzer Prize-winning works that have all but disappeared.

Some readers may have heard of Walter Piston, professor of music at Harvard, music theorist and significant American composer. The other two composers, Morton Gould and Howard Hanson, are even less known. Gould was a child prodigy who branched out into Broadway repertoire while managing a career as a pianist and orchestral composer. Hanson was director of music for forty years at the Eastman School of Music, also working as composer and conductor. The bite-sized Symphony No. 4 (approximately twenty-two minutes long) by Hanson was influenced by the death of his father and is a particular gem.

None of these works are long, but each is beautifully crafted. You can see why they were chosen as winners, but it’s harder to see why they have been almost completely forgotten.


Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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