The music of American composer Robert Erickson this weekend. Erickson, who was born in Michigan and later moved to the West Coast was a pupil of the legendary 20th Century Austrian composer Ernst Krenek, who migrated to America in 1938 and became a U.S. citizen. Erickson formed a close friendship with Krenek and it’s Krenek who conducts the premier Radio broadcast performance of his Fantasy for Cello and Orchestra which we’re posting today.
Aside from his reputation as a composer of contemporary music, Erickson was also a highly regarded teacher, one of the first American composers to create tape music and established the San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1954. Among his students were the late Pauline Oliveros, who had high praise for his ability to work with students and be an inspiration for trying new things, as well as Terry Riley, Morton Subotnick and several other notable students.
This piece, the Fantasy for Cello and Orchestra, was written, beginning in 1953, just after he first settled in San Francisco. It is not of the 12-tone school and is a surprisingly romantic work. It was completed in 1954 and received its world premier in Hamburg, Germany with the Hamburg Radio Symphony, conducted by his friend and teacher, Ernst Krenek (sadly, the cellist isn’t identified – and if anyone knows, any information would be greatly appreciated). The piece was later premiered in the U.S. with the San Francisco Symphony in 1955. There has since been a commercial recording of it. But this premier hasn’t been available commercially, and only broadcast in the U.S. via the Pacifica network, which Erickson was Music Director at KPFA in Berkeley from 1955-1957.
So a rarity, not the least, being a World Premier recording. A little worn in spots, and a tape stretch causing a pitch drop for about a half-second mid-way through. But a rare document of a piece that should be heard more often than it is.