Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Robert Shaw, Louis Lane
Ned Rorem was born October 23, 1923 in Richmond, Indiana. He entered the Music School of Northwestern University at seventeen, and two years later received a scholarship to The Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He studied composition under Bernard Wagenaar at Juilliard, taking his B.A. in 1946 and his M.A. in 1948. Perhaps best known for his vast catalogue of vocal music-operas, song cycles, and choral works-Mr. Rorem also has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos, and an impressive array of other orchestral and chamber works. He is the author of twelve books, including five volumes of diaries and collections of lectures and criticism. He received the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for the orchestral suite Air Music.
This collection features three of his orchestral works, String Symphony, Sunday Morning, and Eagles. String Symphony dates from 1985 and was completed in the space of just eight weeks. Mr. Rorem offered the following commentary: "By textbook standards this piece is probably less faithful to classical definitions than are my previous three symphonies (each for big orchestra). Indeed, it could as easily be named Suite, as hinted by the Chopinesque titles of its five sections: Waltz, Berceuse, Scherzo, Nocturne, Rondo."
Unlike the String Symphony, both Sunday Morning and Eagles take their inspiration from poetry-Wallace Stevens and Walt Whitman respectively. Sunday Morning is, in Rorem's words, "a non-literal, dreamlike recollection of Wallace Stevens's long poem Sunday Morning (1915). Like the poem, the music is divided into eight sections; the words, as I comprehend them, are not expressed through a human voice but through the colors of instruments, alone and together."
Eagles's, title is taken from Walt Whitman's "The Dalliance of the Eagles," a poem Rorem discovered in the 1950s. "In September of 1958, at the MacDowell Colony, I composed a nine-minute instrumental interpretation-a memory, rather-of those verses. It purports to relate, in tone, the calm of a poet's country stroll interrupted by an intense sensual disturbance which ultimately subsides, leaving the dreamer alone again-but not quite. Eugene Ormandy gave the first performance the following year, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, on my birthday."