Is It Time to Revive Mid-Century American Music?

Jul 15, 2016

William Schuman, Pulitzer Prize winner and guest on "What's My Line?"
Credit Wikipedia

Terry Teachout, writing in this week's Wall Street Journal, provides a strong argument that it's time to give another listen to certain American composers of the mid-20th century. He refers to "America's forgotten great composers," and he's very specific in citing a quartet of composers who were active over a span from 1940-1970. A casual listener to classical music may not recognize any of these men, yet they were quite well known in their day. William Schuman and Walter Piston each won a Pulitzer Prize. Schuman was even featured on the television show "What's My Line?" in 1962. Yet, laments Teachout, Schuman, Piston, Roy Harris, and Peter Mennin are woefully absent from the programs of American orchestras.

Mr. Teachout's article is thought-provoking and well worth a read. In the meanwhile, listen to KPAC's Classics a la Carte (Friday evenings from 7-9) over the next several weeks to hear music by the "forgotten four." The July 15 program opens with William Schuman's "American Festival Overture," a work championed by Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein offered high praise for Schuman's spirited overture: "'American Festival Overture' is filled with rip-roaring vitality, and reminds you of kids having a marvelous time in the park . . . it's young music! It's loud, strong, wildly optimistic!"