Sunday, March 06, 2016

One of the most imaginative talents in 1940s America

John McLaughlin Williams writes ~ Your recent post on Bruno Walter and Samuel Barber is very interesting, particularly your mention of Daniel Gregory Mason. He is utterly forgotten today despite his having notable performers and performances. This is due in part to his second tier compositional abilities, and also to his espousing of uncomfortable views about ethnic influences in (then) contemporary music. While not as openly virulent a racist as John Powell, Mason did promote the notion of "purity" in American music, as in its being more properly derived from Anglo-Saxon sources rather than the folk music of former slaves and Jews.

Bruno Walter did what he could for Mason, but he was far more enthusiastic about John Alden Carpenter. As a composer Carpenter was a much more imposing figure than Mason, and Walter did his music many times. [BS - Walter performed Carpenter's First Symphony with the LA Phil in 1940, and premiered his Second Symphony with the NY Phil in 1942.] You may find a column by Terry Teachout as interesting as I did, as it quite succinctly and fairly assesses Carpenter, though at the time it was was written there were no recorded examples of Carpenter's mature work, and thus it cannot be called a truly complete view of the composer's work. At that point my recording was still years away - sample here. A review of that CD described John Alden Carpenter as "one of the most polished and imaginative talents at work in 1940s America".

Carpenter was also egalitarian in his dealings with others; he was among those who supported the African-American composer Florence Price in obtaining important early performances of her orchestral music. Price became the first female of her race to write a symphony and have it performed by a major ensemble - see video below.


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3 comments:

Pliable said...

I have never met John McLaughlin Williams and have no professional connection with him whatsoever. But John has become a close virtual friend because we share many musical passions, and he has made many invaluable contributions to On An Overgrown Path, notably recording Philippa Schuyler's piano miniatures specially for the blog and coupling them with an erdudite commentary - http://goo.gl/WFsStn

Against that background I would draw attention to this passage from the MusicWeb International review cited in this post of JMW conducting John Alden Carpenter's music:

'Recording, performances and documentation are each admirable. The conductor is to be watched for the future. It would be a pity if he were to be lost to Naxos's pioneering series however we must not be surprised if his name is soon linked to the likes of the Dallas or Minnesota orchestras. I see that he has already recorded Henry Hadley's Fourth Symphony for a later Naxos disc. He does not lack adventurous and risk-taking spirit. As a violinist he has championed such utterly unfashionable repertoire as the Violin Concertos by Coleridge Taylor (1998 at Harvard), the Bax (Boston) and the Jongen (Longwood).'

Pliable said...

Email received:

Thanks for sharing this link with me, I'm happy to learn about this recording of Carpenter's music. It is probably well known to you all, but when researching for my Price documentary I learned that at the 1933 concert at the Chicago World's Fair in which Price's Sym. in E minor was premiered, that Margaret Bonds also performed a work by John Alden Carpenter. I can't recall the name right now, something like a Divertimento for Piano and Orchestra.

Best Wishes,

Jim Greeson

Pliable said...

John McLaughlin Williams writes to say that the piano work played by Bonds in 1933 would have to be Carpenter's Concertino; it is the only designated piano and orchestra work by the composer, though the piano features prominently in the instrumentation of most of his orchestral scores.