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Walter Piston

Publisher: AMP

Symphony No. 2 (1943)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
26 Minutes
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Programme Note
Walter Piston Symphony No. 2 (1943)
Composer Note:

The first movement (moderato) is based on two themes, one given out at the opening of the movement by violas and cellos, legato and flowing, the other first played by the oboe, accompanied by clarinets and bassoons, staccato and rhythmic. The first of these themes receives the principal development, and the movement ends with a canonic statement of the melody by the brass choir, pianissimo.

The second movement (adagio) is a quiet, lyrical development of the motive announced at the beginning by the bassoon, and the melody played by the clarinet, accompanied by muted strings. The movement is continuous rather than sectional in form.

The Finale, (allegro) is composed of three themes: the first vigorous and rhythmic, played by cellos and horns; the second march-like, by clarinets and bassoons; and the third, of more songful character, first heard in english horn and clarinet.

-- Walter Piston

Piston's elegant, sonorous and skillfully rendered works sound better and better over time. It's refreshing to hear music that has no agenda, that values substance without begin stuffy. At first the ruminative first movement seems to amble along with intertwining contrapuntal lines and episodes of richly chromatic harmony. But impish fanfares and jocular outbursts keep waylaying the calm surface. The second movement, a soulful Adagio, is all the more affecting for its expressive restraint and textural clarity. The finale, a spiritual Allegro, is brassy and hard-driven, yet never obvious.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times,01/01/0001
Populist modern works by American composers are shamefully neglected in our concert halls. To most conductors, alas, 20th-century American music means Copland and Gershwin and some token pieces by living composers. Piston, who lived from 1894 to 1976 and numbered Leonard Bernstein and Elliott Carter among his students at Harvard, left eight fine symphonies. It's hard to imagine audiences not taking to their mid-century modernism: clean lines, sure proportions, bright colors and contrapuntal wit. Tonal and tuneful, they radiate clear-headed optimism. The Second and Sixth are two of the most appealing, the former all but running out to greet us, the latter more sophisticated but still thoroughly engaging.
Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News,01/01/0001
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