KOUSSEVITZKY Rare American Symphony Performances: Harris, Hill, Diamond (1943/44) - PASC484

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KOUSSEVITZKY Rare American Symphony Performances: Harris, Hill, Diamond (1943/44) - PASC484

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ROY HARRIS Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 2 

Live recordings, 1943 & 1944
Total duration: 77:49 

Serge Koussevitzky, conductor
Boston Symphony Orchestra

This set contains the following albums:

Three previously unissued American symphonies - including two world premières

 "Vivid performances in clear historic sound that captures the tragedy, up-beat excitement and sheer valour of the times in which they were performed"
- MusicWeb International

  • All three recordings on this release are truly historic documents, not only of the works and performances concerned, but of Serge Koussevitzky and the BSO's tremendous work in promoting and commissioning new works. Edward Burlingame Hill's Symphony No. 1 was premièred by Koussevitzky in 1928 (to be followed by two more symphonies) - this was its final BSO performance of nine.

    The Harris and Diamond symphonies here are both premières (to be technically correct they had received their first performances the previous day in Friday matinee concerts, duplicated the evening after from which these recordings derived). Resurrecting these previously unheard acetate off-air recordings has been a monumental task, with numerous significant technical hurdles to be overcome, including massive pitch issues particularly with the Harris and Hill.

    Surface noise was a constant and at times chronic problem, and unfortunately some peak distortion remains, particularly in the finale of the Diamond. The latter also required two minor patches to cover side changes, which I hope I have rendered undetectable. Cross-talk and other radio interference have been removed, though the frequency and dynamic limitations of AM radio remain.

    That said, the finished result of my efforts will prove, I hope, entirely enjoyable. The Harris and Diamond symphonies may be familiar to some; however this appears to be the only known recording of Hill's Symphony No.1.

    Andrew Rose

    • ROY HARRIS  Symphony No. 5 (1942) - WORLD PREMIERE

    • EDWARD BURLINGAME HILL  Symphony No. 1 in B flat, Op. 34 (1927)  - ONLY KNOWN RECORDING
      Recorded live at Symphony Hall, Boston, 27 February 1943

    • DAVID DIAMOND  Symphony No. 2 (1943) - WORLD PREMIERE
      Recorded live at Symphony Hall, Boston, 14 October 1944

    Boston Symphony Orchestra
    Serge Koussevitzky
    , conductor



    Programme notes for the concerts of 26 and 27 February 1943:

    By Roy Harris
    Born February 12, 1898, in Lincoln Count), Oklahoma
    Completed at the end of 1942, this symphony is having its first performances.
    The following orchestration is called for: three flutes and piccolo, three oboes and two English horns, two clarinets, E-flat clarinet and bass clarinet, three bassoons and contra-bassoon, eight horns, three trumpets and two cornets, three trombones, baritone and bass tubas, tenor saxophone, timpani, percussion, and strings. The percussive instruments include a marimba, vibraphone, chimes, cymbals, snare drum, two military drums, and piano.
    The first four symphonies of Roy Harris have been performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the First, Second, and Third having had their first public performances at its concerts. The new Symphony is appropriately introduced in the week which marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Russian Red Army, as will be seen by Mr. Harris’s dedication:
    “Our own Vice-President the Honorable Henry A. Wallace recently declared: ‘In all of Russian history there is no more striking example of courage and willingness to sacrifice than Russia presents today.It is no accident that Americans and Russians like each other when they get acquainted. Both people know that their future is greater than their past. It is my belief that the American and Russian people can and will throw their influence on the side of building a new Democracy which will be the hope of all the world.’
    “As an American citizen I am proud to dedicate my Fifth Symphony to the heroic and freedom-loving people of our great Ally, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as a tribute to their strength in war, their staunch idealism for World peace, their ability to cope with stark materialistic problems of world order without losing a passionate belief in the fundamental importance of the arts.”
    Mr. Harris furnishes this information about the new Symphony:
    “Since the meaning of any music depends on the experience of the person who hears it, I hesitate to specify what I hope to express in this symphony. Yet people are often guided to a better understanding of music if they have word ideas to help them in the appreciation of musical ideas. And so I shall attempt to say in words what I have put into the music of this Symphony.
    “I hoped to express qualities of our people which our popular dance music, because of its very nature, cannot reveal. Our people are more than pleasure-loving. We also have qualities of heroic strength — determination — will to struggle — faith in our destiny. We are possessed of a fierce driving power — optimistic, young, rough and ready — and I am convinced that our mechanistic age has not destroyed an appreciation of more tender moods. And it is right that these gentler moods should live in us. Otherwise our strength and vitality might degenerate into a ruthless brutality.
    “These were the feelings which aroused me to write the Symphony. But as the work unfolded it seemed to assume the character of our times. It became more martial — more savage — more ominously brooding and intense than I had imagined it in the beginning. The Symphony seemed to possess an independent life of its own which I had to accept and translate.
    “I had planned to write this Symphony during the late summer and fall of 1940. I had promised Dr. Koussevitzky that it would be ready for the spring of 1941. But after working on it during the month of September, I found I was not ready to write it.
    “And so it was not until the summer of 1942 while I was in Colorado Springs at the great mountains near by that I knew that I could write the work. We came home to Cornell University and began the Symphony in early October. It was completed on Christmas morning, followed by great rejoicing and festivities in our home, where students and friends and fellow teachers came to drink a toast to the new Symphony and wish each other a merry Christmas — knowing full well that “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men” was only something to hope and, ironically enough, to fight for.
    “The Symphony is in three movements. The first movement is a Prelude of about six minutes in length. It is very martial in character, and according to its form moves always forward without development sections.
    “The second movement is in singing choral style, yet it is rhapsodic. After opening with a dark savage introduction which leads to the first long melody (bassoons, English horns), the violins take up the melody and carry it upward to their highest registers, where they stay above a 3-voiced choral in brass and wood winds. The violas and ’cellos sing through this choral from their low to their high registers, where they join the violins. This marks the climax of the movement, from where all the strings come slowly downward against brass and wood wind harmonies to a long choral which opens antiplionally between fortissimo muted strings and sonorous brass and wood wind passages. The whole orchestra gradually wields together to close the chorals of hope and peace.
    “The last movement is structural in materials and form. This movement is a triple fugue in three sections, A, B and C. At the same time it combines the rondo principle in that the opening motif is used for strettos of the first section of the fugue, the subject of which is announced after an introduction of motif I.
    “The second section is in itself a double fugue, the two subjects of which are generated from the opening motif. The last section further states and develops the materials of section A and B, culminating in a broad climax.”

    SYMPHONY in B-flat major, No. 1, Op. 34 (Composed in 1927)
    By Edward Burlingame Hill 
    Born in Boston, Mass., September 9, 1872

    This symphony was composed in 1927 and first performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston, on March 30, 1928. The symphony has also been performed March 22, 1929, and December 21, 1934.

    The orchestration includes four flutes and two piccolos, two oboes and English horn, three clarinets and bass clarinet, two bassoons and contra-bassoon, six horns, four trumpets, three trombones and tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, snare drum, triangle, tambourine, glockenspiel, piano and strings. The score is dedicated to Serge Koussevitzky.

    The First Symphony, so Mr. Hill explains, “has no descriptive basis, hints at no dramatic conflict or spiritual crisis. It attempts merely to develop musical ideas.

    “After three measures of introduction, the principal theme is announced by the horns. After the usual transition, the second theme, given mainly to strings, appears in the mediant major. The conclusion theme emphasizes the same tonality. The development is based upon the principal subject, and the conclusion theme up to the passage which leads to the restatement. The'second theme is then given more orchestral emphasis. The coda is brief, and the end quiet.

    “In the slow movement, a section in E-flat minor gives way to an episode in the relative major. After some development, the first section returns somewhat varied, and closes with an allusion to the central episode.

    “The finale is virtually in rondo form. The first theme is rhythmical; the second lyrical. Towards the close of the movement, the second theme is given to the brass, leading to a brief coda.”

    Mr. Hill has composed three symphonies. The Second, in C major, was introduced at these concerts February 27, 1931, and the Third, in G major, December 3, 1937. The Sinfonietta, in one movement, was played March 10, 1933, and the String Sinfonietta April 17, 1936.

    Programme notes for the concerts of 13 and 14 October, 1944:
    By David Diamond
    Born at Rochester, New York, July 9, 1915
    This symphony, here having its first performance, was sketched early in 1942, completed in rough draft in January, 1943, and in full score in the month following.
    The following instruments are required: three flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, two cl