Continuing our break from broadcasts and staying with small American labels featuring noteworthy American composers, once again Concert Hall Society and a disc released in 1950 featuring pianist Germaine Smadja with Henry Swoboda leading a reasonably anonymous orchestra. Norman Dello Joio’s Ricercari for Piano And Orchestra in what I suspect is the first commercial recording of the work. Composed in 1946 and given its premier with the New York Philharmonic under George Szell, featuring Dello Joio as piano solo. This recording was issued in 1950. Aside from a 1959 performance with Dello Joio and the Denver Symphony, I haven’t seen any other performances or commercial recordings of the work.
In the latter part of the forties, Dello Joio was considered one of America’s leading composers, and by the fifties had gained international recognition. He received numerous awards and grants including the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Award, the Town Hall Composition Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He won the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award in 1948, and again in 1962. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for Meditations on Ecclesiastes for string orchestra, and an Emmy Award for his music in the television special Scenes from the Louvre. In 1958, CBS featured him in a one-hour television special, “Profile of a Composer.”
A prolific composer, the partial list of Dello Joio’s compositions include over forty-five choral works, close to thirty works for orchestra and ten for band, approximately twenty-five pieces for solo voice, twenty chamber works, concertos for piano, flute, harp, a Concertante for Clarinet, and a Concertino for Harmonica. His stage works include three operas (one written for television and revised for the stage,) and eight ballets. Additionally, he has written nine television scores and three compositions for organ. His published solo piano works include three sonatas, two nocturnes, two preludes, two suites, two “Songs Without Words”, a Capriccio, Introduction and Fantasies on a Chorale Tune, Diversions, Short Intervallic Etudes, and Concert Variants. Dello Joio has one published work for piano and orchestra, the Fantasy and Variations for Piano and Orchestra. He has also written a number of pedagogical pieces for both two and four hands. Also included are works for four hands and two pianos.
He taught at Sarah Lawrence College from 1944 to 1950, and at the Mannes College of Music. He also served as professor and dean at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. In 1978, he retired and moved to Long Island. He donated his personal archive of manuscripts and papers to the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Despite infirmities, Dello Joio remained active as a composer until his final years, continuing to produce chamber, choral, and even orchestral music. He died in his sleep on July 24, 2008 at the age of 95 at his home in East Hampton, New York.
Enjoy the disc.