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The Classical Explorer

Concertos: October 2008 Archives

Composer of the Great Plains

Naxos 8.559225

George Frederick McKay

Violin Concerto (1940) 26:01
Sinfonietta #4 (1942) 17:46
Song Over The Great Plains (1953) 13:59
Suite on Sixteenth Century Hymn Tunes (1962) 20:32

Brian Reagin, Violin
National Radio Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/John McLaughlin Williams
Naxos 8.559225

In a non-pejorative sense, the movie music we associate with "cowboy," travel and nature films of Western America owe much to this composer. His expansive style and evocative musical picture-painting can be heard most clearly in the "Song Over The Great Plains", an orchestral piece with solo piano commissioned by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Although McKay wrote programs to accompany some of his music, and noted that the song of a meadow-lark inspired this particular piece, the music can be enjoyed fully even without explanations.

Naxos has released three other CDs of the music of McKay in their American Classics series: 8.559143, 8.559052, 8.559330. All are well worth exploring.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]


Deutshe Grammophon 429860

Carl Ruggles

Sun-treader (1926-31)

William Schuman

Violin Concerto (1959) 1

Walter Piston

Symphony #2 (1943)

1 Paul Zukofsky, violin
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Michael Tilson Thomas
Deutshe Grammophon 429860-2 74:43

Ruggles' music is not easy to love but even if you find it not to your taste, the rest of the CD will more than make up for it. The Schuman Violin Concerto is variously anguished, calm, strident, lyrical, violent, and similar in many ways to the first Shostakovich Violin Concerto. There are other recordings if you can't find this one. Less often recorded is the Piston symphony, in three movements, at whose heart is an adagio which is unmistakably American. For my money, it's Piston's best symphony. The performances are exemplary.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan ]

Dyson's Concerto for Violin

Chandos CHAN9369

George Dyson

Violin Concerto
Children's Suite after Walter De La Mare

Lydia Mordkovich, violin
City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
Chandos CHAN9369 62:23

Although written in 1942, this beautiful violin concerto would make lovers of Elgar and Stanford very happy with its lyrical style and noble spirit. Dyson's concerto has four movements, instead of the usual three. It opens with a very introspective first movement that seems initially like a symphony with violin accompaniment. The second movement is a jolly jig, followed by a very somber third movement, song-like in its orchestral introduction and carried through in the solo part. The last movement is a joyous, lighthearted dance. It leaves the listener in good spirits.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan
  Reissued as part of CHAN10337: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by Dyson: Sheet Music Plus - ]