The Pulitzer Project
- CDR 90000 125
Cedille Selects tracks are designed to provide a representative overview of the album
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The Pulitzer Prize in Music, established in 1943, is perhaps the most coveted award in American concert life. This new CD with Chicago's Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus and principal conductor Carlos Kalmar presents three Pulitzer Prize-winning works from the competition's earliest years: William Schuman's Secular Cantata No. 2, "A Free Song"; Aaron Copland's Suite from Appalachian Spring; and Leo Sowerby's The Canticle of the Sun for chorus and orchestra. These are the world-premiere recordings of the Schuman and Sowerby cantatas.
William Schuman's A Free Song, winner in 1943 of the first Pulitzer Prize in Music, uses excerpts from Walt Whitman's Drum Taps, a poetic record of his humanitarian visits to Washington, D.C.'s Civil War hospitals. Schuman (1910-1992) set Whitman's vigorous, expansive verse to a fierce and concentrated musical style. In its review of the Grant Park Orchestra's 2010 concert performance, the Chicago Tribune observed, "Kalmar's account was, by turns, poignant and electric."
One of the most recognizable and beloved American orchestral works, Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring began life as a ballet score for the Martha Graham Dance Company. A favorite of many listeners is its five variations on the Shaker theme "Simple Gifts." The original ballet score, for chamber orchestra, won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize. Copland (1900-1990) later arranged an orchestral suite, its most familiar incarnation and the one heard on this CD.
Based on St. Francis of Assisi's 13th-century hymn praising God and his creations, Sowerby's The Canticle of the Sun won the 1946 Pulitzer. Sowerby (1895-1968) was attracted to the text because of its opportunities for musical color. The program annotator for the Canticle's 1945 world premiere at Carnegie Hall wrote, "He has made of it a panorama of all the elements of heaven and earth . . . it unfolds in a series of tonal pictures, each motivated by the phase it describes." Chicago Classical Review's Lawrence Johnson wrote in a concert review, "Under Kalmar's firm, incisive direction, the Canticle opens with impassioned sweep in the orchestra." Canticle "shows Sowerby's confident handling of orchestra and voices, often drawing a striking organ-like sonority from the instrumental choirs."