Some recently rediscovered Americana tonight. American composers of the early-to-mid twentieth century, aside from the big names such as Aron Copland, have been largely forgotten over the years. Their style of composition has fallen out of favor in the academic world, and most audiences tend to be more interested in the acknowledged “name” composers than ones from the deep-dark past. Subsequently, a lot of interesting work has been left gathering dust the past several decades.
One of those names, getting slowly recognized after much neglect, is Edward Burlingame Hill born in 1872 and died in 1960 was a composer of some merit, although admittedly hardly an adventuresome one. Much of his work is conservative in viewpoint, with only brief allusions to Jazz of the 1920s, and certainly nothing even remotely bordering on atonal. But his music, for all its lack of groundbreaking qualities, was nonetheless pleasant and interesting to listen to.
This weekend it’s a broadcast performance of Hill’s Sextette opus 39 for Winds and Piano as performed by an advanced student group from the Eastman School of Music. It was originally broadcast in April of 1947. I am not certain as to whether this piece has been recorded commercially – I know this broadcast hasn’t.
This is not challenging music – but then, who says everything you listen to has to be? It’s the work of a capable and competent composer who was also a well-respected Professor of Music at Harvard University from 1908 until 1940. It is most definitely evocative of a place and time – and maybe on that basis alone it is worth reappraisal.