American composer William Schuman (1910-1992) began his musical
career in the Jazz genre, later embracing Western Classical music and
eventually becoming a college professor. The pinnacle of his academic
career was probably his tenure as President of the Juilliard School of
Music. Schuman’s administrative talents were also recognized outside
of academia, as he served as the President of Lincoln Center for
the Performing Arts between 1962 and 1969. Schuman’s compositions
were championed by the acclaimed Russian conductor, Serge Koussevitzky
(1874-1951), and he was awarded the first Pulitzer Prize in Music
in 1943 for his cantata, “A Free Song.”
William Schuman’s “Symphonies Nos. 3, 5 and 8,” performed by the
New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Bernstein
(1918-1990), are now available as MP3 downloads. These works were
originally recorded for the Sony Classics label in 1960, 1962 and 1966.
I really liked the “Third Symphony!” Of course, who better to perform it
than “Lenny,” as he was affectionately known? However, even though
this is a great performance, I can’t help thinking that it isn’t the “last word”
in orchestral virtuosity.
Schuman’s “Symphony No. 5” is best known as the “Symphony for Strings,”
and it was also quite effective. The “Eighth Symphony” could be more of a
challenge, at least from a layperson’s standpoint. It is decidedly more
dissonant than the other two works in this download, but Schuman still
makes a compelling statement.
As expected, the Leonard Bernstein’s interpretations of these works are
deeply moving, and well worth your time.