Continuing a partnership forged between the American Symphony Orchestra and the Bryant Park Corporation in the wake of COVID-19, the ASO will present a free concert to celebrate its 60th Anniversary. The program celebrates composers who have influenced the artistic landscape of New York and works that were inspired by our city.
The program opens with Copland’s Quiet City, a piece he took from his incidental music to Irwin Shaw’s short-lived play by the same name. The drama’s plot focused on two brothers who took conflicting life paths; one pursued success in business, while the other aspired to playing the trumpet. American composer Louise Talma’s Full Circle, written for pianist Sahan Arzruni and conductor Robert Black in 1985, is constructed in one movement with contrasting sections that revert to the opening of the piece. A teacher at Hunter College for more than 50 years, she was the first woman awarded back-to-back Guggenheims in 1946 and 1947, and the first woman elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974. William Grant Still rose to prominence in distinguished music circles when Jim Crow laws pervaded American history, an accomplishment few Black composers of the time could match. His many firsts include the first Black American to conduct a major American orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra, and the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company. In Still’s own description of his symphonic tone poem, he says “Darker America, as its title suggests, is representative of the American Negro… and is intended to suggest the triumph of a people over their sorrows through fervent prayer.” The work was premiered at New York’s Aeolian Hall in 1926. Jacob Druckman’s Nor Spell Nor Charm is a quote from a song he wrote for his friend, American mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani, and is dedicated to her. His numerous connections to New York include professorships at Juilliard, Bard College, and Yale; as well as composer-in-residence for the Aspen Festival, Tanglewood, and the New York Philharmonic. The program closes with Mahler’s Bach Suite, and arrangement of music he took Bach’s Orchestral Suites Nos. 2 and 3. Here Mahler puts his own imaginative stamp on the master’s music, giving it a symphony-like structure and expanding the role of the continuo keyboard.
The ASO’s Vanguard Series is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Quiet City, 1939-1940
Louise Talma (1906-1996)
Full Circle, 1985
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
Darker America, 1924
Jacob Druckman (1928-1996)
Nor Spell Nor Charm, 1990
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Suite from Orchestral Works
Arr. Gustav Mahler