William Grant Still: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3; Wood Notes

William Grant Still: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3; Wood Notes

by John Jeter
     
 
Composer William Grant Still is almost invariably represented on orchestral programs by his "Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American)," but in his day he was championed by Stokowski and Rodzinski among others, and heard his works played by major symphony orchestras. The Fort Smith Symphony

Overview

Composer William Grant Still is almost invariably represented on orchestral programs by his "Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American)," but in his day he was championed by Stokowski and Rodzinski among others, and heard his works played by major symphony orchestras. The Fort Smith Symphony in Arkansas under conductor John Jeter has undertaken a complete cycle of Still's orchestral music, and the first thing to be pointed out about it is that this regional small-city ensemble sounds startlingly good. Still's subtle orchestration requires clean string and wind sections, and the Fort Smith players suggest an orchestra from a much bigger city. If there's fault to be found it's in the rather empty acoustic of Fort Smith's Best Corporation Performing Arts Center. But check out the gorgeous wind writing in the slow movements of both the "Symphony No. 2 in G minor (Song of a New Race)" and "Symphony No. 3 (The Sunday Symphony)," where Still lightly inflects impressionist orchestral writing in an African-American direction. The wind section, and Jeter's control over them, is impressive here. What's attractive in both symphonies is Still's subtle incorporation of African-American idioms, which may creep in as a movement develops as a sort of comment or byway. The "Symphony No. 1" is more obviously "African," but these later works have a unique lyrical charm. The opening "Wood Notes," which here receives its world premiere, is the only clinker; it's heavily derivative of Dvorák, minus the good tunes. Otherwise this is a strong traversal of some neglected music and an album that, for all the hand-wringing about the state of classical music in the U.S., shows that it's alive and well in a small Southern city.

Product Details

Release Date:
12/13/2011
Label:
Naxos American
UPC:
0636943967621
catalogNumber:
8559676
Rank:
102017

Tracks

  1. Symphony No. 3 ("Sunday Symphony")
  2. Symphony No. 2 in G minor ("Song of A New Race")
  3. Wood Notes, suite for orchestra

Album Credits

Performance Credits

John Jeter   Primary Artist

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