Thursday, May 12, 2022 "William Grant Still’s 'Dismal Swamp' (1935) opened last Sunday’s afternoon concert by The Orchestra Now"

William Grant Still (1895-1978)
(Library of Congress)

May 11, 2022

by Kevin T McEneaney

William Grant Still’s Dismal Swamp (1935) opened last Sunday’s afternoon concert by The Orchestra Now at Sosnoff Theater conducted by Leon Botstein in a program focused on unusual rarities from the 1930’s. Still is the first important African American classical composer; I am a fan of Still.

This piano concerto with Frank Corliss from Vassar College at the keys offers an impressionistic mood piece which made me think of Claude Monet’s large tableau paintings of water lilies. The usual situation of a piano concerto pits the strength of the piano in either a dialogue with the orchestra, or a competition with the orchestra.

Here the dialogue created a painterly portrait of melancholy Mississippi landscape with the piano modestly whispering in unusually subdued eloquent elegance at the fingertips of Corliss. The work still lingers hauntingly in my memory due to the subtly smooth playing of the orchestra and the delicacy of Corliss at the keys.

No comments: