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NA 9676
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NA 9676
STILL, W.S.: Symphonies Nos. 2, "Song of a New Race" and 3, "The Sunday Symphony" / Wood Notes (Fort Smith Symphony, Jeter)

STILL, W.S.: Symphonies Nos. 2, "Song of a New Race" and 3, "The Sunday Symphony" / Wood Notes (Fort Smith Symphony, Jeter)

The Classical Shop
release date: January 2012

Recorded in 24 Bit / 96Khz


Artists:

Fort Smith Symphony


Jeter, John


John Jeter

Conductor

Venue:

Arkansas Best Corporation Performing Arts Center, Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA



Record Label
Naxos

Genre:

Orchestral & Concertos


Classical

Total Time - 61:38
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STILL, W.S.: Symphonies Nos. 2, "Song of a New Race" and 3, "The Sunday Symphony" / Wood Notes (Fort Smith Symphony, Jeter)

     
Select Complete Single Disc for
 

WILLIAM GRANT STILL

     
 

Wood Notes

 
1 I. Singing River: Moderately slow 6:46
2 II. Autumn Night: Lightly 2:49
3 III. Moon Dusk: Slowly and expressively 4:27
4 IV. Whippoorwill's Shoes: Humorously 2:30
     
 

Symphony No. 2 in G minor, "Song of a New Race"

 
5 I. Slowly 8:56
6 II. Slowly and deeply expressive 7:19
7 III. Moderately fast 3:37
8 IV. Moderately slow 7:13
     
 

Symphony No. 3, "The Sunday Symphony"

 
9 I. The Awakening: Moderately fast 3:48
10 II. Prayer: Very Slowly 6:34
11 III. Relaxation: Gaily 2:30
12 IV. Day's End and a New Beginning: Resolutely 5:09
     
 John Jeter Conductor
 Jeter, John


The life and career of the African-American composer William Grant Still qualifies as the quintessential American ‘success story.’ Often referred to as the ‘dean of African-American composers,’ Still rose from humble beginnings to work as an arranger while studying composition with Chadwick and Varèse. Still embraced the blues, spirituals, jazz, and other ethnic American musics within classical forms. Wood Notes musically depicts Still’s love of nature. Symphony No. 2, the last of a trilogy of works depicting the African-American experience, presents the vision of an integrated American society, while Symphony No. 3 describes a spiritual ‘day in the life’ of a devout worshipper. This album completes the Naxos cycle of William Grant Still’s Symphonies.
 

 "This music is impossible not to like, and conductor John Jeter and his orchestra from Arkansas, the state in which the young composer spent part of his childhood, are effective advocates. Wood Notes, a work from 1947 that is receiving its first recording here, is a suite of four movements: “Singing River,” “Autumn Night,” “Moon Dusk,” and “Whippoorwill’s Shoes.” The titles suggest that the music will be picturesque, and, in the best sense of the word, simple, and indeed it is. The Currier and Ives prints that have adorned the booklet covers in this series have been very appropriate, as they project an innocence that is also one of the strongest characteristics of Still’s music. The Second Symphony, premiered with great success by Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1937, is “a vision of an integrated society.” In terms of form, this is a bit more ambitious than Wood Notes, but Still’s writing is so unpretentious, tuneful, and relaxed that one can’t help asking what makes this work more symphonic than the other ... The “Sunday Symphony” dates from 1958. Again, naming its movements will give the reader an idea of what the music sounds like: “Awakening,” “Prayer,” “Relaxation,” and “Day’s End and a New Beginning.” Appropriately, “Prayer” is the longest movement, and it builds to a soulful climax. “Awakening” and “Relaxation” both chatter away companionably, and the last movement brings the symphony to its resolute and affirmative conclusion. The Fort Smith Symphony, a lean-sounding ensemble in the manner of Howard Hanson’s Eastman-Rochester group, puts Still’s music across capably and with sympathy."

 
Raymond Tuttle - Fanfare - May 2012

"In the late 1920s Still began a musical trilogy that would portray the African-American experience in the U.S.: Africa, a tone poem describing the original homeland; the Symphony No. 1 (African-American) describing the years leading to the Emancipation Proclamation; and the Symphony No. 2 (Song of a New Race) describing a future where African-Americans would take equal part in the destiny of their country. The Symphony No. 2 is a major work, blending jazz, blues and gospel elements with a nationalist feeling akin to that of the Eastman School. All of the movements are relatively slow (cf. Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 3). The slow movement proper is the most beautiful and expressive, while the “moderately slow” finale shows Still’s great technical skill as he joins thematic elements of all four movements into an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Wood Notes is a suite evocative of nature in the American South. Each of the four pieces begins with simple, almost trivial material, which Still then transforms into something far more poignant than one would have expected. While numbered as the third, The Sunday Symphony was the last of Still’s five symphonies to be written. It describes the typical Sunday of a churchgoer (Still was quite devout) and while not as profound as the Symphony No. 2 it is equally sincere and more compact in expression. The opening movement is full of energy, somewhat reminiscent of Gershwin, but with modal elements and scoring reminiscent of the Big Bands. In the Prayer movement Still develops the main melody for English horn to a poetic coda in his best style. Relaxation is very simple, while the last movement alternates resolution worthy of an army going into battle with a lovely central section describing twilight and the thoughts of the worshipper as he prepares for the coming day. The key to performing Still’s music is to concentrate on his obvious sincerity and technical ability, while not letting his tendency towards sentimentality to overwhelm all else. John Jeter realizes this and wisely brings out the positive elements, demonstrating complete control of his players (especially regarding rhythm) and deriving enthusiastic performances. The Fort Smith (Arkansas) Symphony has some troubles with ensemble, but the overall sound is lush, as much of the music requires. This disc completes the Naxos series of the Still symphonies. While there are other impressive recordings of the first two symphonies, Jeter faces no real competition with the last three, and the entire set can be recommended to all fans of American music."
 
William Kreindler  - MusicWeb-International.com - July 2012 

"The orchestra plays musically, with great unity of ensemble and a fine sense of phrasing, dynamics and blending, and with a great deal of assurance. This is very expressive and colorful music... It is the kind of playing a first hearing deserves. Twenty-one years separate the second and third symphonies. The style, melodic and harmonic language are still the same. Again, Jeter and his forces offer a completely sympathetic reading with careful attention to everything that makes for a good orchestral performance."
 
Chris Hathaway - Classical 91.7 KUHA - February 2012
 



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