Anton Urspruch: Symphony in E-flat (1882)

Anton Urspruch (1850-1907), a name new to me, was a German composer, pedagogue and pianist who studied with Lachner, Raff and Liszt. He was said to be one of the latter’s favorite pupils. He composed many works, but, like Franck and Chausson, only one symphony. The piece is Brahmsian, but lighter and brighter, all to the good. It strikes me, after brief acquaintance, as very worthy of revival.

Marcus Bosch conducts the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie. I have posted the movements separately for easier sampling.

To hear other music in this series, click on the “neglected symphonies” tag at the bottom of this post.

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Emilie Mayer: Symphony No. 7 in F minor (1856)

Emilie Mayer (1812-1883) was a German composer, quite successful in her day. Among her compositions are 8 symphonies, a piano concerto, several concert overtures and much chamber music. Her most famous teacher was Carl Loewe, remembered today mostly for his lieder.

Her Symphony No. 7 is impressive and very Schumannesque.

To hear more music in this series, click on the “neglected symphonies” tag below this post.

William Grant Still: Symphony No. 5, ‘Western Hemisphere’

Written in 1945, Still’s Fifth is an attractive, easy to listen to and evocative American Symphony.

The movements are described thusly:

  • 1. “The vigorous, life-sustaining forces of the Hemisphere” (briskly)
  • 2. “The natural beauties of the Hemisphere” (slower, and with utmost grace)
  • 3. “The nervous energy of the Hemisphere” (energetically)
  • 4. “The overshadowing spirit of kindness and justice in the Hemisphere” (moderately)

John Jeter conducts the Fort Smith Symphony.

Neglected symphony: Walter Piston: Symphony No. 2

Walter Piston’s Symphony No. 2 was given its premiere by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Kindler in March of 1944. Leonard Bernstein chose the remarkable Adagio of this work to perform with the New York Philharmonic as a memorial to the composer after he died in 1976.

To hear more music in this series, click on the “neglected symphonies” tag below this post.

Neglected symphony: Wilhelm Peterson-Berger Symphony No. 5

I hadn’t even heard of this composer before a conductor friend suggested I listen to this piece, the Symphony No. 5 by Wilhelm Peterson-Berger (1867-1942). Peterson-Berger was a Swedish composer and music critic who was an anti-modernist. The Symphony No. 5, written in 1932-33, is so conservative, in fact, that one could consider it almost backward. The problem is that it’s also interesting, beautiful and accomplished. See what you think.

Michail Jurowski conducts the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra.

Hear another neglected Swedish symphony by clicking here.

To hear more of my series, click on the “neglected symphonies” tag below this post.

Symphonic progressivism, 1896

I came across the program above quite by chance the other day, during another search (I don’t even remember what I was looking for).

It’s rather astounding. In our own time, symphony orchestras have come to be seen as conservative organizations and as curators of the past. The call has gone out for a greater diversity in the repertoire, for the performance of more living composers and the performance of more women composers.

Here, from 1896, is an exemplar from the Boston Symphony. It’s a subscription concert and every composer on the program above, except for the last, was alive at the time of the performance.

And the first piece on the agenda — the “Gaelic” Symphony by Amy Beach — was, yes, composed by a woman. It’s a piece very much worth reviving, by the way.

Neglected symphony: Symphony No. 3 by Franz Berwald

Here’s another offering in my neglected symphony series, the Symphony No. 3, “Sinfonie singuliere,” by the Swedish composer Franz Berwald (1796-1868). Why is it neglected, you ask? I don’t think you can say it has anything to do with the work’s quality. It’s more that the 19th-century classical music culture was dominated by Germans, who forged the canon, who left out Swedes and many others.

Okko Kamu conducts the Helsingborgs Symfoniorkester.