Robert Russell Bennett

Robert Russell Bennett - became more synonymous with Broadway than the Concert House.

Eastman Rochester Symphony Play Music of Bennett, Harris, Thomson and Hadley – Plus A Few Words From Roy Harris – 1953 – Past Daily Weekend Gramophone

Robert Russell Bennett – became more synonymous with Broadway than the Concert House.

Since we’re slowly winding our way into September and the change of seasons (at some point), I thought I would offer a dose of Mid-Century Americana by way of transcription from the NBC Radio Program America’s Composers, as it was broadcast on March 23, 1953.

This broadcast features the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and ensembles led by Frederick Fennell and features a short talk by composer Roy Harris.

Although the rugged American patriotism of his works of the 1930s and 1940s is reflected in his research into and use of folk music (and to a lesser extent of jazz rhythms), Roy Harris was paradoxically obsessed with the great European pre-classical forms, especially the fugue (which we hear in the Third Symphony) and passacaglia (as featured in the Seventh). His customary mode of musical discourse, with long singing lines and resonant modal harmonies, is ultimately based on his admiration for and development of Renaissance polyphony.[citation needed] He also used antiphonal effects, which he exploited brilliantly with a large orchestra. Like many American composers of his time, he was deeply impressed by the symphonic achievement of Sibelius.[citation needed] In Harris’s best works the music grows organically from the opening bars, as if a tiny seed gives birth to an entire tree. This is certainly the case with the Third Symphony, which joined the American repertoire during the same era as works by Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson. The first edition of Kent Kennan’s The Technique of Orchestration (1952) quotes three passages from this symphony to illustrate good orchestral writing for cello, timpani, and vibraphone, respectively. The book quotes no other Harris symphonies. Few other American symphonies have acquired such a position in the standard performance repertory as has this one, due in large part to the championing of the piece by Leonard Bernstein, who recorded it.

Though Harris’s symphonies are his greatest contribution to American music, he composed over 170 works, including many works for amateurs. His output includes works for band, orchestra, voice, chorus and chamber ensembles.

Here’s the music featured on the 1/2 hour program:

1. Robert Russell Bennett: Rag and Schottische
2. Virgil Thomson : A Solemn Music
3. Roy Harris: Cimarron
4. Henry Hadley: Youth Triumphant Overture

Mid-Century Americana. Some of it seldom or never heard.

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4 thoughts on “Eastman Rochester Symphony Play Music of Bennett, Harris, Thomson and Hadley – Plus A Few Words From Roy Harris – 1953 – Past Daily Weekend Gramophone

  1. This was one of a series of NBC’s spring 1953 ASCAP-Eastman broadcasts; most were of Howard Hanson conducting the Symphony, but a couple (including this 23 March 1953 program) were of Frederick Fennell with the brand-new [since 1952] “Eastman Wind Ensemble.”

  2. Fantastic post reflecting a all period of music, supporters of contemporary music and careful interpretations. Fennell,Hanson, Whitney……big names in that perspective. Looking for next ones……Thanks again.

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