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A recent discovery for me!

The link PetrB provided was what got me interested:

Concerto for String Quartet, Wind Instruments & Percussion.

I have picked up two collections of symphonies, his violin concertos and string quartets.

The more I listen the more intrigued I become. A very interesting blend of great melody and 12-tone techniques. Fascinating and beautiful stuff.
 

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I want to acknowledge the contributions of the great American composer Walter Piston, born on this day (20 January) in 1894. His music has had a significant influence on my life and my interest in classical music, particularly his 4th Symphony, which as a young adolescent I found by chance in the Dallas Public Library, attracted by the cover of an LP recording by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Ormandy.

Piston's surname derives from the Italian name of his paternal grandfather. Antonio Pistone, a sailor. According to Wikipedia, Piston was originally trained as an engineer, but was "artistically inclined" and subsequently played piano and violin in dance bands and eventually in orchestras; in World War I he became a saxophonist in a U.S. Navy band.

In the 1920s he enriched his musical background with music theory at Harvard, then went on to study composition and counterpoint in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and composition with Paul Dukas. Eventually he taught music theory and composition at Harvard until retirement in 1960.

Over the decades motifs and melodic lines from his compositions have played in my mind from time to time, particularly thematic motifs and melodic lines from the first, second, and fourth movements of Symphony #4. An excellent recording of this work is included on a CD from Delos (reissued on the Naxos label), performed by the Seattle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz.

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Well Happy Birthday Walter Piston! It's kind of sad that his music is generally unknown and hardly ever played anymore. His symphonies are much more interesting and listenable than those of his contemporaries William Schuman, Roger Sessions and that ilk. Piston's greatest legacy won't be his music: it's those texbooks: Harmony and Orchestration in particular.
 

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The greatest American symphonist, based on his whole body of work, although I still think the W. Schuman #3 is the greatest single American symphony. The craft and finish of Piston's work are incomparable. The slow movement of #2 is one of the most ravishing things written in America in the last century.
 

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Well Happy Birthday Walter Piston! It's kind of sad that his music is generally unknown and hardly ever played anymore. His symphonies are much more interesting and listenable than those of his contemporaries William Schuman, Roger Sessions and that ilk. Piston's greatest legacy won't be his music: it's those texbooks: Harmony and Orchestration in particular.
I like Schuman's symphonies so if Piston's are superior I'll have to pick up a CD. Maybe the Gerard Schwarz 2 & 6.
 
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