Deems Taylor

Deems Taylor - critic, composer and promoter of 20th Century Americana. Dance was high on everyone's list.

Music For The Dance – Festival Of American Music – February 14, 1941 – Past Daily Weekend Gramophone

Deems Taylor
Deems Taylor – critic, composer and promoter of 20th Century Americana. Dance was high on everyone’s list.

Festival Of American Music – 1941 – Music For The Dance – February 14, 1941 – WNYC Radio –

Continuing our dig through the treasure-trove of Early-Mid 20th Century American Music. This one from the 2nd American Music Festival from February 1941. Featuring several performing groups, as well as soloists under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration.

This broadcast, featuring The WNYC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Macklin Marrow and focusing strictly on music for the Dance. Music by Deems Taylor, William Grant Still, Alex North and Richard Rogers.

The broadcast starts with ballet music from Casanova by Deems Taylor. Second up is music from the Ballet “La Guiablesse” by William Grant Still. It’s followed by two works from Alex North (who would later become a household name in Movie Scores), including the world premier of music from the ballet Danny Deaver. The concert ends with Richard Rodgers’ Slaughter ON 10th Avenue.

Deems Taylor was a promoter of classical music throughout his life. His journalism career included posts as music critic for the New York World beginning in 1921, and editor of Musical America from 1927 to 1929.

Taylor also worked extensively in broadcasting, and as intermission commentator for the New York Philharmonic. He appeared in Walt Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia as the film’s Master of Ceremonies, and was instrumental in selecting the musical pieces that were used in the film, including the then-controversial Sacre du Printemps. In the long-unseen roadshow version of Fantasia, issued on DVD in 2000, and re-released on the 2010 Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray release, all of Taylor’s voice-over work was re-recorded by veteran voice artist Corey Burton. The complete film was originally 124 minutes long, due almost entirely to the fact that Taylor’s commentaries were more detailed in the roadshow version. But the original audio elements for these longer commentaries had deteriorated to the point that they could no longer be used, so Corey Burton was selected to re-record all of the dialogue for consistency. The general release version of Fantasia, running 120 minutes, is the version most audiences are familiar with. In that version, Taylor’s commentaries were severely abridged (bar the introduction to Toccata and Fugue in D Minor).

Often referred to as the “Dean of Afro-American Composers,” William Grant Still was the first American composer to have an opera produced by the New York City Opera. Still is known primarily for his first symphony, Afro-American Symphony (1930), which was, until 1950, the most widely performed symphony composed by an American. Also of note, Still was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (which was, in fact, the first one he composed) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television.

Alex North was best known for his many film scores, including A Streetcar Named Desire (one of the first jazz-based film scores), Viva Zapata!, Spartacus, Cleopatra, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?[1] He was the first composer to receive an Honorary Academy Award, but never won a competitive Oscar despite fifteen nominations.

He wrote the music for Unchained Melody as the theme for the prison film Unchained (1955), It has become a standard and one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, with over 1,500 recordings made by more than 670 artists, in multiple languages.

Richard Charles Rodgers worked primarily in musical theater. With 43 Broadway musicals and over 900 songs to his credit, Rodgers was one of the most well-known American composers of the 20th century, and his compositions had a significant influence on popular music.

And there you have it – as with the previous American Music program, this concert recording suffers from severe mistreatment, but I have tried my best with the tools I had to wring any sort of cohesive notes out of those damaged grooves.

Enjoy the dance nonetheless.

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