The title of
this discography is self-explanatory. The composers surveyed were either born
or came to settle in the United States of America. As this has always been a
nation of immigrants, it should come as no surprise that a large number of America's
symphonists were born outside of its borders. In fact, the very first acknowledged
composer of symphonies in America, Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781-1861), came
from what is now the Czech Republic. Many composers included in this work are
also to be found in other discographies in this series devoted to their native
lands. Not included, however, are composers who spent some years in America,
usually for political reasons, such as Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud and Paul
Hindemith, but who are more closely associated with their countries of origin.
Such composers will be found only in the discographies specifically covering
the composers of their native lands.
came to America during the first half of the nineteenth century. The creation
in 1842 of our first important professional orchestra, the New York Philarmonic,
was probably the key event in the American symphony's early development. As
the Philharmonic performed the symphonic works of the European masters, it undoubtedly
served as the spur for native composers, such as William Henry Fry (1813-1864)
and George Frederick Bristow (1825-1898) and, later, John Knowles Paine (1839-1906)
and William Wallace Gilchrist (1846-1916), to try their hands at symphonies.
By the turn of the twentieth century, symphony orchestras had been organized
in other major cities, and the founding of important music schools such as the
New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and the National Conservatory of
Music in New York heightened the level of professional musicianship in America,
paving the way for this country's great wave of symphonic composers in the twentieth
century. The most noted producers of American symphonies were born between 1890
and 1910 and included Walter Piston, Howard Hanson, Roger Sessions, Roy Harris,
Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and William Schuman. However, not one of their
symphonies has entered the international basic repertoire. Yet, the composition
of symphonies, as this work documents, continued unabated throughout the twentieth
century and goes on into the present one.
of American symphonies has always been a spotty operation. The galaxy of composers
mentioned in the previous paragraph, as well as the maverick Charles Ives, have
been represented on the major commercial labels, though rarely consistently.
Lesser-known composers also occasionally appeared on these labels but those
recordings had very short lifespans. Thus, the vast majority of recorded American
symphonies have been produced by small labels, often subsidized by the composers
themselves. During the LP era, Louisville and CRI Records were the most prolific
of these labels, while on CDs, companies such as Albany Records, Delos, MMC,
Vienna Modern Masters and Centaur Records now fill this niche.
A special feature
of symphonies produced in the United States has been the vast amount of works
in this form for symphonic wind bands and ensembles of various types. As bands
are a prominent fixture in most American universities, colleges and even high
schools, and as most composers teach at such institutions, it is not surprising
that bands are the ideal performance venues for many of these creators of music.
Again, specialist labels have been around over the years to record such works.
As in the previous
discographies in this series, no attempt has been made to list every release
of every recording of each work. There have just been too many reissues, especially
from the major labels, to make this feasible for many recordings. Instead, what
are listed are the most current issue the author has located and the earliest
release (if any on LP or CD) of that particular recording. In general, multi-disc
compendium releases are omitted unless they contain a unique recording or the
sole modern reissue of a previously released performance. Recorded is here defined
as being available in a physical format that can be (or could have been) purchased
or obtained from either a commercial or non-commercial source. Tape recordings,
DVD's and formats other than CD's or LP's are not included.
The entry for
each composer consists of two sections. First there is a compact biographical
paragraph that notes some essential information such as place of birth, higher
musical education (including schools and prominent teachers), subsequent musical
careers, in addition to composing, and details of other symphonies that have
not been recorded. Compositional styles are not discussed in these paragraphs,
and readers are referred to the bibliography where various reference books that
cover this subject are listed. The second part of each composer entry consists
of lists of his or her symphonies that have been recorded and the various recordings
of each work. "Symphony" is defined here as any work the composer
has designated as such in its title, including works called "sinfonia"
or "sinfonietta." The works can be for full orchestra, chamber orchestra,
strings, winds, brass or chorus and orchestra. For every symphony that has them,
the opus number, key signature and title are noted and the year of composition
or première (if known) is stated for all. The entries of the symphonies
that have had multiple recordings are listed alphabetically by the conductor's
name. Each listing of a recording consists of the following components: (1)
performers (in this order if all are involved - conductor, soloists, choral
group, orchestra), (2) other work or works on the recording, (3) label and catalogue
number and year of issue and (4) If the recording is a reissue, the original
LP or CD release and its year of issue. Please note that the performers listed
are for the entry work and not necessarily for the works that it is coupled
with. Also, in most instances when an entry work is included in a large collection
(especially if most of the other works are not related to the discography's
subject), the list of couplings is not given but is replaced by the title of
appears on the front cover as the editor, Steve Ellis can really be better charcterized
as this work's co-author. My knowledge of the recordings of American symphonies
is miniscule compared to his, and without his input, the number of composers
and works documented here would be considerably less. I would also like to thank
the following composers for supplying me with additional information and answering
questions about them and their work. They are: Larry Bell, Thomas Beveridge,
David Canfield, Carson Cooman, Stephen Dankner, Peter Farmer, Barbara Harbach,
James Hopkins, Jeffrey Jacob, Steven Perillo and Scott Robbins. As in my previous
discographies, Len Mullenger of MusicWeb International was on hand to help my
work onto the internet.
that all recordings listed are CDs unless specifically designated as LPs.
Finally, as this book is published online it can always be a work in progress
as the author has the ability to amend the work when necessary with very little
difficulty. A work of this type is bound to contain errors and omissions as
so much material has been gathered from so many diverse sources. Therefore,
I ask anyone who reads this book and finds such errors or omissions to please
let me know at the e-mail address below. I would be very grateful indeed.
Many contemporary composers have their own websites and
others can be found on the websites of their publishers. There are also websites
for earlier composers and conductors that are maintained by societies that promote
their music and recordings. These can be found by typing the composer's name
into any search engine.