Walter Piston’s “Three New England Sketches”: American Vistas

The American composer, Walter Piston, wrote Three New England Sketches during the summer of 1959 at his retreat in the Green Mountains of Vermont. The symphonic suite was commissioned by the Worcester (Massachusetts) County Musical Association for its 100th Annual Music Festival. Founded in 1858, the Festival is billed as the oldest of its kind in the United States. (Antonín Dvořák performed there in 1898). Walter Piston dedicated the score of Three New England Sketches to …

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Remembering James Buswell

The violinist, conductor, and educator James Buswell passed away on Tuesday. He was 74. At the age of seven, Buswell became the youngest soloist ever to appear with the New York Philharmonic. He went on to perform with the world’s top orchestras and as a regular member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. From 1986 to 2014 he served on the faculty of New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. …

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Walter Piston’s Sixth Symphony: A Mid-Century American Masterwork

The twentieth century American composer Walter Piston (1894-1976) is often remembered as an expert musical craftsman and academic. During his long tenure at Harvard (lasting from 1926 to 1960), his students included Samuel Adler, Leroy Anderson, Arthur Berger, Elliott Carter, and Leonard Bernstein. As a music theorist, he contributed three significant text books on the technical building blocks of music: Harmony (1941), Counterpoint (1947), and Orchestration (1955). Yet, the often-neglected music Piston left …

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The Louisville Orchestra: Five Historic Recordings

What ingredients are required to develop and sustain a flourishing professional orchestra? Vision, ambition, dedication to the community, and at least a modicum of “big league” thinking, to name a few. The early years of the Louisville Orchestra offer a case in point. Shortly after its founding in 1937, the ensemble’s first music director, Robert Whitney and Louisville mayor, Charles Farnsley, “conceived an adventurous plan to make the commissioning, performance, and recording of new works …

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Walter Piston’s Second Symphony: A Neglected Mid-Century Gem

Walter Piston’s Second Symphony, written in 1943, is one of those mid-twentieth century American musical gems that deserves to be heard more often. Following its National Symphony Orchestra premiere in March, 1944, conductor Hans Kindler declared that the symphony, is without even the shadow of a doubt one of the half dozen great works written during the last ten years. It sings forever in my heart and in my consciousness, and it does …

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