William Schuman: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5

William Schuman: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5

by Seattle Symphony Orchestra
     
 

A principal contender for the title of the "Great American Symphony," William Schuman's Third Symphony conveys a bold and original spirit. Whether or not it's essentially "American," it is indisputably "Great," with a unique approach that convincingly builds Baroque forms (passacaglia, fugue, chorale, and toccata) into a dramatically unified symphonic logic. On record… See more details below

Overview

A principal contender for the title of the "Great American Symphony," William Schuman's Third Symphony conveys a bold and original spirit. Whether or not it's essentially "American," it is indisputably "Great," with a unique approach that convincingly builds Baroque forms (passacaglia, fugue, chorale, and toccata) into a dramatically unified symphonic logic. On record, the Schuman Third has long been the property of Leonard Bernstein; his two recordings of the work contributed much to making it the best known of Schuman's ten symphonies. Gerard Schwarz's new version, however, comes in the third volume of much-needed survey of the complete Schuman symphonies, and it's a more than viable alternative to Bernstein. If anything, the Seattle Symphony succeeds even better than its predecessors in fitting Schuman's jagged, interlocking lines together into a whole, and the music's brassy climaxes are as sonorous as they need to be (even if the snare drum's rim shots in the finale sound curiously underpowered). While the Third has been newly recorded for Schwarz's Schuman series, the other works on this disc have been recycled from an early-1990s release on Delos by the same conductor and orchestra. (At that time, they were part of a valuable American music series, similar to Naxos's current American Classics project but much smaller in scope.) The Symphony for Strings (Schuman's Fifth) and the ballet score Judith (composed for Martha Graham's choreography) are both among the composer's most significant and absorbing works, each combining vital energy and grave solemnity into a compelling whole. Schuman's public roles as president of the Juilliard School and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts may have conspired to overshadow his creative work in later years, but each of these Naxos releases from Seattle is a reminder of this major American artist's true originality.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
Like the symphonies of fellow American composers Roy Harris and Aaron Copland, William Schuman's most celebrated is his "Third Symphony" (1941), and it is the most frequently programmed and recorded of the cycle of 10. Perhaps best known from two impressive recordings by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic (1960 for Columbia and 1985 for Deutsche Grammophon), this work has indeed become a classic, though it is cited more often in textbooks than heard in concert. Yet because of its transparent structures -- updated Baroque forms, such as the passacaglia, fugue, chorale, and toccata -- and because of its resilient and highly memorable themes, this cogent work is likely to engage serious listeners for many years to come, and continue to be performed by conductors who still value the American populist symphonies of the mid-twentieth century. Gerard Schwarz is conscientious in recording such works with the Seattle Symphony for Naxos, and this 2005 account of the "Symphony No. 3" is of a high caliber; in lieu of having either of Bernstein's landmark recordings, Schwarz's is certainly a solid second choice, even if it is not quite as commanding or exciting. However, the "Symphony No. 5 for strings" (1943), and the choreographic poem "Judith" (1949) are infrequently played and much less familiar than the "Symphony No. 3," and Schwarz's recordings are somewhat stuffy sounding reissues from a 1992 Delos release. Though these works are valuable examples of Schuman's development and have some compelling passages, they may strike some listeners as respectable but longwinded pieces, and non-essential filler at that. Naxos provides extraordinary reproduction on the "Symphony No. 3," though the recordings of the remaining works appear not to be remastered.
Philadelphia Inquirer - David Patrick Stearns
It's not the most alluring music on first listen, but is extremely generous in repeated visits, thanks to Schuman's ability to draw such dramatic and wide-ranging effects from traditional forms.
San Francisco Chronicle - Joshua Kosman
An eloquent account.... Schwarz and the orchestra play with stirring vitality.
Chicago Tribune - Alan G. Artner
A swiftly moving, snappy new version [of the Third Symphony].... It is strongly competitive with the two, more rhetorical Bernstein accounts.

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Product Details

Release Date:
12/12/2006
Label:
Naxos American
UPC:
0636943931721
catalogNumber:
8559317
Rank:
273636

Tracks

  1. Judith, ballet ("choreographic poem")  - William Schuman  - Gerard Schwarz  -  Seattle Symphony Orchestra  - Thomas Moran
  2. Symphony No. 5 ("Symphony for Strings")  - William Schuman  - Gerard Schwarz  -  Seattle Symphony Orchestra  - Thomas Moran
  3. Symphony No. 3  - William Schuman  - Gerard Schwarz  -  Seattle Symphony Orchestra  - Thomas Moran

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