William Schuman juggled many careers in his full and productive life: teacher, administrator, conductor and composer of ten symphonies as well as a significant representation of music in many genres. His two-movement Symphony No. 3, dating from 1941, derives its organization from Baroque era models. Known as Symphony No. 5, though published without a number, the Symphony for Strings is remarkable for its contrapuntal mastery and irresistible rhythmic élan. Judith (1949) was based on the ancient Hebrew tale of the Jewish widow who saved her people by seducing and beheading the despotic general Holofernes. The syncopated score conveys the anxiety and determination of Judith’s heroism.
ReviewsIt's been decades since the school of midcentury American symphonists that includes William Schuman, Howard Hanson, David Diamond and others has been a presence in our concert life. But this music has its champions, chiefly conductor Gerard Schwarz, whose recordings with the Seattle Symphony have made the best case we are likely to hear for this music. This disc offers an eloquent account of two of Schuman's symphonies -- the Third, which first cemented his reputation in 1941, and the Fifth, from 1943. Both are marked by a trademark combination of cunning technique and expressive but plainspoken rhetoric. There are passages that, more than a half century onward, can strike a listener as dry, but these are fleeting, and Schwarz and the orchestra play with stirring vitality. Judith," written in 1949 for a Martha Graham ballet, fills out the disc nicely." - Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 2007