William Schuman – William Billings Overture – American Music Festival – February 11, 1947 – Past Daily Weekend Gramophone –
The music of William Schuman tonight – incidental music to the play William Billings as performed curing this American Music Festival for 1947 by the American Youth Orchestra conducted by Dean Dixon on February 11, 1947.
Schuman was born into a Jewish family in Manhattan, New York City, son of Samuel and Rachel Schuman. He was named after the 27th U.S. president, William Howard Taft, though his family preferred to call him Bill. Schuman played the violin and banjo as a child, but his overwhelming passion was baseball. He attended Temple Shaaray Tefila as a child.Willi While still in high school, he formed a dance band, “Billy Schuman and his Alamo Society Orchestra”, that played local weddings and bar mitzvahs in which Schuman played string bass.
In 1928 he entered New York University’s School of Commerce to pursue a business degree, at the same time working for an advertising agency. He also wrote popular songs with E. B. Marks Jr, a friend he had met long before at summer camp. Around that time, Schuman met lyricist Frank Loesser and wrote some forty songs with him. Loesser’s first published song, “In Love with a Memory of You”, credits the music to William H. Schuman.
On April 13, 1930, Schuman attended a Carnegie Hall concert of the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. According to the Philharmonic’s archives, the program included works by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Smetana. Of this experience, Schuman later said, “I was astounded at seeing the sea of stringed instruments, and everybody bowing together. The visual thing alone was astonishing. But the sound! I was overwhelmed. I had never heard anything like it. The very next day, I decided to become a composer.”[This quote needs a citation]
Schuman dropped out of school and quit his part-time job to study music at the Malkin Conservatory with Max Persin and Charles Haubiel. From 1933 to 1938, he studied privately with Roy Harris. In 1935, he received a B.S. degree in music education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Harris brought Schuman to the attention of the conductor Serge Koussevitzky, who championed many of his works and conducted Schuman’s Symphony No. 2 in 1939. Possibly Schuman’s best known symphony, the Symphony for Strings, was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation, dedicated to the memory of Natalie Koussevitzky, and was first performed under Koussevitzky on November 12, 1943.
Here is the opening work from the 1947 American Music Festival as performed by The American Youth Symphony led by Dean Dixon.
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