Sunday, February 8, 2009

'Swan Songs' of Howard Swanson at Harlem Opera Theater Feb. 27

[Howard Swanson; Source: The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Courtesy of the Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College, Chicago. Photograph by Maurice Seymour, New York]

Friday, February 27, 2009, 7:30 PM
Don’t miss an exciting presentation of “Swan Songs,” to commemorate the 100th year of the birth of Howard Swanson, (1909-1978), a highly regarded African-American composer of classical music whose works have been performed by major orchestras and leading concert singers. We will also commemorate the 200th year of the birth of Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, Soprano, (1809-1876), the first black female opera singer in America, more popularly known as the “Black Swan.” Join this special evening of history juxtaposed with the voices of classical singers. Reception 6 p.m., followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m.
Ticket information: or 212 592-0780.
Best known for his art songs, most notably "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," and for the Short Symphony, Swanson composed a number of other distinguished works, including "The Cuckoo" Scherzo for Piano (1948); Suite for Cello and Piano (1949); "Night Music" (1950); "Music for Strings" (1952); Concerto for Orchestra (1957); and Symphony no. 3 (1969). In virtually all of his compositions, Swanson worked within the conventional forms of classical music, but he was able to infuse them with a personal style grounded in African American traditions. Swanson died in New York City on November 12, 1978, the same year in which Leontyne Price sang his "Night Song" at a performance at the White House.

Howard Swanson's Night Music for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn and Strings (9:43) was recorded in 1950 by Dmitri Mitropoulos, Conductor, and The New York Ensemble of the Philharmonic Scholarship Winners. It first appeared on an American Decca LP, DL 8511. The recording was recently released on Deutsche Grammophon CD 477 6502 (2007). It is paired with William Levi Dawson's Negro Folk Symphony and is part of a 2-CD set including works of Brahms and Prokofiev.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

How I wish I'd known about this concert in 2009! Thanks at least for helping to promote and preserve it.

It's nearly impossible to find recordings of Swanson's work, and .009% of the American population knows about him, yet he was one of the geniuses of the art song and must be made known to the public.