Tuesday, November 22, 2011

William Grant Still Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3, 'Wood Notes' by Fort Smith Symphony, on Naxos 8.559676

[TOP: William Grant Still (Photo is the sole property of William Grant Still Music, and is used with permission BOTTOM: William Grant Still Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3, 'Wood Notes' on Naxos 8.559676]

William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at AfriClassical.com, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, http://www.CasaMusicaledeLerma.com. The composer's recordings, sheet music and books are available from William Grant Still Music, operated by his daughter Judith Anne Still, at http://www.WilliamGrantStill.com.

Availability dates may vary among retailers, but John Jeter, conductor of the Fort Smith Symphony, has confirmed that he has received copies of the new CD and is sending one to me. Plans have been made for AfriClassical to interview Maestro Jeter about the new CD in the near future. The liner notes by David Ciucevich, Jr. are well written as usual. One small thing which caught our eye was the statement that the father of William Grant Still "died when William was three." My Life, My Words: The Autobiography of William Grant Still includes a Still Family Tree which indicates William Grant Still, Sr. died in 1895, the year of his son's birth. That supports our understanding that the child was only three months old when his father died.

STILL, W.S.: Symphonies Nos. 2, "Song of a New Race" and 3, "The Sunday Symphony" / Wood Notes (Fort Smith Symphony, Jeter)

Still, William Grant

Wood Notes
1. I. Singing River: Moderately slow 00:06:46
2. II. Autumn Night: Lightly 00:02:49
3. III. Moon Dusk: Slowly and expressively 00:04:27
4. IV. Whippoorwill's Shoes: Humorously 00:02:30

Symphony No. 2 in G minor, “Song of a New Race”
5. I. Slowly 00:08:56
6. II. Slowly and deeply expressive 00:07:19
7. III. Moderately fast 00:03:37
8. IV. Moderately slow 00:07:13

Symphony No. 3, “The Sunday Symphony”
9. I. The Awakening: Moderately fast 00:03:48
10. II. Prayer: Very Slowly 00:06:34
11. III. Relaxation: Gaily 00:02:30
12. IV. Day's End and a New Beginning: Resolutely 00:05:09

Total Playing Time: 01:01:38

About This Recording
William Grant Still (1895–1978)
Wood Notes • Symphony No. 2 ‘Song of a New Race’ • Symphony No. 3 ‘The Sunday Symphony’
David Ciucevich, Jr.

Wood Notes
“The orchestral suite Wood Notes (receiving its world premiere recording here) was originally cast in five movements but the publisher chose to delete the final movement, creating the four-movement version recorded here. The work takes its inspiration from the American Southern poet J. Mitchell Pilcher. The four movements are entitled: I. Singing River (Moderately slow), II. Autumn Night (Lightly), III. Moon Dusk (Slowly and expressively), and IV. Whippoorwill’s Shoes (Humorously). The premiere by the eminent conductor Arthur Rodziński and the Chicago Symphony took place on April 22, 1948. Contemporary reviewers took note of the work’s 'pleasantness' and 'personality'. Wood Notes is dedicated to one of Still’s Oberlin instructors, F.J. Lehmann. It is scored for full or reduced orchestra. The 'Dvořákian' colors (use of the woodwind choir with pentatonic melodic figures) reinforce and enhance the pastoral mood, along with Still’s impressionistic textures.”

Symphony No. 2 in G Minor ‘Song of a New Race’
“In the early 1920s, Still envisioned a trilogy of works depicting the African-American experience: the symphonic poem Africa representing their roots, the Symphony No. 1 ‘Afro-American’ (life in America to emancipation) (both works recorded on Naxos 8.559174), and the Symphony No. 2 in G Minor ‘Song of a New Race’ (a vision of an integrated society). Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra premiered the Symphony No. 2 on December 10, 1937 to rapturous reviews. Contemporary reviewers found it 'of absorbing interest, unmistakably racial in thematic materials and rhythms, and triumphantly articulate in expressions of moods, ranging from the exuberance of jazz to brooding wistfulness.' Still’s typically luminous string writing is, throughout the work, very moving.”

Symphony No. 3 ‘The Sunday Symphony’
“The Symphony No. 3 ‘The Sunday Symphony’ is the only one of the five Still symphonies never performed in his lifetime. It was premiered by Carlton Woods and the North Arkansas Symphony on February 12, 1984 and is dedicated to Still’s fellow composer and friend Christian Dupriez. This symphony was written to replace the original Symphony No. 3 which was revised in 1958 as the Symphony No. 5 ‘Western Hemisphere’. The Third Symphony expresses the spiritual 'day in the life' of a devout worshiper.”

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