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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dello Joio: Variations, Chaconne & Finale; Vincent: Symphony in D (1957)

Liner Notes:

Norman Dello Joio, one of America's most gifted composers, finished his Variations, Chaconne and Finale during the summer of 1947, while he was living at Wilton, Conn. On January 30, 1948, the new piece, under the title of Three Symphonic Dances, was given its world premiere by Fritz Reiner and the Pittsburgh Symphony Society. Not long after this, Dello Joio and his publishers (Carl Fischer, Inc.) decided the new score, based on liturgical music, was inappropriately titled, and then and there evolved the present Variations, Chaconne and Finale. The piece is dedicated to Dello Joio's father, an organist, who originally hailed from Naples and who was also the boy's first teacher.

Dello Joio assisted his father in New York churches when he was only twelve, then he came under the aegis of Pietro Yon, the famed organist of Saint Patrick's Cathedral.

The year 1939 found the budding musician availing himself of a scholarship at the Juilliard Graduate School, where he sought the tutelage of Bernard Wagenaar. The following year, he studied with Paul Hindemith at the Berkshire Music Foundation. Says Dello Joio, "Two contemporary men have been of real help to me: Paul Hindemith as a teacher and a man of strong ethical principles, and Fritz Reiner for constant encouragement and concrete actions in regard to my music."

After its Pittsburgh premiere under Reiner, the Variations, Chaconne and Finale enjoyed many performances (early in 1948) under the baton of Franco Autori, who was making a tour of Poland. It was so well received that Mr. Autori decided to give it yet another performance in August of that year—this time at Chautauqua, N. Y. It was Bruno Walter, who first presented it in New York City on his December 9-10 programs of the 1948-49 season with the New York Philharmonic. The performances at the present concerts mark the composition's bow with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Dello Joio, at present a teacher at Sarah Lawrence College for Women in Bronxville, N. Y., has this to say about the music of our day, "Too much of the music being written today is improvisatory and tends to hide behind the sheen of a large orchestral machinery. The current decline in musical craft is to a great extent attributable to many composers' preoccupation with effect and not substance." Many years of careful preparation for a career as a serious musical artist back up the composer’s statement with an aura of importance.

The present composition owes the principal theme upon which the variations are based to the Kyrie found in the Mass of the Angels of the Gregorian Chant liturgy. This theme also serves to remind us that the Chaconne and the Finale are strongly linked to the opening Variations, for it appears in all three sections. The piece is scored for two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, xylophone and strings.

At the time of the New York premiere, Mr. Dello Joio submitted the following notes on his new composition: "The first movement comprises a set of six variations that follow a simple harmonized statement of the tune in G Major. The framework on which the second movement, the Chaconne, is built is a chromatic outline of the first four notes of the Gregorian theme. In the highly rhythmical Allegro vivo which follows, the character of the Gregorian theme is transformed into the purely contemporary and secular. The concluding pages resolve into a chorale that is set against the prevailing rhythmic tension of the last movement."

John Vincent, who hails from the deep South, is a versatile musician. He has composed symphonic music, chamber music, choral, vocal, and piano music. He is Professor of Music at the University of California at Los Angeles, and Director of the Huntington Hartford Foundation. His book, The Diatonic Modes in Modern Music, is widely recognized as one of the more important musical theoretical contributions of the twentieth century.

Vincent commenced his musical studies in his native Alabama and subsequently placed himself as a pupil in composition under George Chadwick at Boston's New England Conservatory. He has also worked with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, Walter Piston at Harvard, and Roy Harris at Cornell University.

The Symphony in D, which the composer designates as A Festival Piece in One Movement, runs for approximately 18 minutes and is performed without pause. There are two tempi: Andante moderato and Allegro.

The Symphony in D remains unpublished. "There are no immediate plans for publication and for some time now I have avoided letting a publisher put my music in a rental catalogue,” states the composer.

In describing his composition, Mr. Vincent has this to say, "In attempting to say something meaningful about my Symphony in D, I find that I must break a modern taboo. I am aware that nowadays one normally limits oneself to technical matters—form, structure, and the like. It is out of fashion for a contemporary composer to speak frankly of the intimate emotional meaning of his compositions. The modern composer usually describes his music in such theoretical terms as to make it seem quasi-scientific and so, by inference, he seems to deny that an emotional meaning exists. Paradoxically, every tonal tradition is broken and the rashest experiments undertaken on the grounds of their being necessary to self-expression.

"Although it is in no sense programmatic, my symphony has a special significance to me. It was written during a very happy time and in it I sang a song of deep personal joy. It reflects the warmth and love of great good friends and expresses my thankfulness for a rich and full life. From the contemplative opening measures, I tried to express the course of growth of the consciousness of joy which, towards the end of the first section, arrives at an ecstatic level (cello and horn melody). After a short lyric commentary, one is picked up and whirled away towards a singing tutti allegro, exuberant in character. From here on the mood of the piece is prevailingly that of a celebration, a festival in music. Successively tempestuous and broadly lyrical, the concept is primarily melodic with a strong rhythmic urgency. The ending of the symphony is tumultuous, triumphant.

"In my view, the one-movement symphony is an idea entirely distinct from the traditional four-movement symphony. The one-movement symphony, as I conceive it, is a much more strongly unified and highly organized work, based on one or more musical ideas. Variety is achieved only to the extent that the composer can create contrasting variants of the original idea. Thus unity is automatic, and variety depends upon the composer's power of imagination."

The Symphony in. D was commissioned by the Louisville Symphony, and completed December 18, 1954. It had its premiere under Robert Whitney on February 4, 1955. The final section has since been revised and the instrumentation enlarged. The symphony is scored for two flutes and piccolos, two oboes, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, percussion, timpani and strings.


(The above program notes, by Max de Schauensee, were prepared for The Philadelphia Orchestra concert program and appeared there on the dates of the performances of these two works by The Philadelphia Orchestra: the Dello Joio Variations, Chaconne and Finale, November 30, 1956, the Vincent Symphony in D, April 12, 1957.)

  • The Philadelphia Orchestra
  • Eugene Ormandy, Conductor
Track List:
  1. Norman Dello Joio: Theme and Variations
  2. Norman Dello Joio: Chaconne
  3. Norman Dello Joio: Finale - Allegro vivo, giocoso e ritmico
  4. John Vincent: Symphony in D
Download Links: Enjoy the Music!, or here.

Other Recordings of Works by these Composers:

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