George W. Chadwick – A Vagrom Ballad – NBC Studio Orchestra – Henri Nosco – June 28, 1945 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Before the likes of Aron Copland, Roy Harris and many other composers of the “modern period” of American Classical music revolutionized the concert stages of the world, the music of George Whitefield Chadwick, Horatio Parker, Amy Beach and equally many others, were mainstays of the “romantic period” of American Classical music into the first decade of the 20th century.
Most are relatively forgotten now, but a reassessment of the period has taken place and a number of works by these previously forgotten composers have seen the light of recent day.
One of those composers is George W. Chadwick. Ironically, tonights post, A Vagrom Ballad was recently given a new lease on life by way of a recent recording (2008) as well as a number of his other orchestral and instrumental works, and the overall impression has been favorable.
Chadwick composed in almost every genre, including opera, chamber music, choral works, and songs, though he had a particular affinity for orchestral music. His music can be categorized into four style periods: The Formative Period, 1879–1894; The Americanism/Modernism Period, 1895–1909; The Dramatic Period, 1910–1918; and The Reflective Years, 1919-1931.
Chadwick delved into the symphonic genre with his Symphonic Sketches, Sinfonietta, and Suite Symphonique. All have the conventional four-movement pattern, but he created a gossamer atmosphere with humorous themes, programmaticism, modality (pentatonic melodies), and Impressionism. The orchestration contains unexpected elements such as bass clarinet cadenzas, saxophone solos, extended brass solos, and large percussion batteries.
His Fourth String Quartet, composed around the same time as Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartet in F (op. 96, “American”), displays a more American folk style than his Fifth String Quartet, with catchy tunes and pentatonic third-movement fiddle melodies.
Chadwick composed more stage works, notably Judith, based on the tale from the Aprocrypha. The piece is melodic and exotic, much like Camille Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Delilah.
In his Ecce jam noctis for chorus and orchestra composed for Yale University’s 1897 commencement ceremony, Chadwick weaved in rhythmic twists like triple-meter strings against the static and homophonical chorus. Lochinvar is another distinctive choral piece with a Celtic flavor, featuring a baritone voice with a violin solo just before the “Introduction of Strathspey” section.
Tonight it’s a 1945 broadcast recording by The NBC Studio Orchestra, conducted by Henri Nosco as part of NBC’s Music Of The New World series, featuring George Whitfield Chadwick’s A Vagrom Ballad from his Symphonic Sketches, first aired on June 28, 1945.