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Exciting Americana from the Louisville Orchestra First Edition Archives.

Robert Kurka (1921-1957) is a rare modern example if a familiar romantic phenomenon - a major talent who did not survive to full maturity. An award given him shortly before his death of leukemia read: "To Robert Kurka, a composer at the threshold of a career of real distinction." That the praise was justified and that Kurka's death was truly, not merely politely, labeled "tragic," is demonstrated by the music of The Good Soldier Schweik." Both the suite and the opera which grew from it are full of verve, humor, and the confidence of an original mind. Peter Mennin (1923-1983) attended Oberlin Conservatory studying composition with Norman Lockwood. His education was interrupted by service in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. After the war he resumed his musical studies at the Eastman School of Music studying with Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers. Mennin was director of the Peabody Conservatory and later president of the Juilliard School of Music, a post he held with distinction until his death. Walter Piston (1894-1976) initially attended the Massachusetts School of Art but he grew so attached to music that the only legacy of the art school, besides his diploma, was an attractive painter who became Mrs. Walter Piston. The First World War prompted Piston to take up the saxophone in order to tryout for the army band: experience in the army, dance halls and musical theatre, combined with the young musician's phenomenal ear, led to serious study at Harvard, inspired principally by Dr. Archibald Davison. A degree in 1924 and further study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger led to a return to Harvard - this time as a member of the faculty. In 1944, Piston became professor of music and the first Harvard teacher to hold the Walter W Naumburg Chair of Music.
Robert Kurka, composer
The Good Soldier Schweik: Suite
Louisville Orchestra, Robert Whitney, conductor

Peter Mennin, composer
Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra
Louisville Orchestra, Janos Starker, cello, Jorge Mester, conductor

Walter Piston, composer
Symphony No. 1
Louisville Orchestra, Jorge Mester, conductor

"Here are three reissues from the Louisville Orchestra's "First Edition" LP series....Completed in 1937, Walter Piston's First symphony initiated one of the great series of American symphonies. That there's nothing tentative or immature about it is perhaps not surprising considering the composer was 44 when he wrote it. What does surprise is the distinctive personality of this symphony: its powerful dissonance, which culminates in the magnificent brass chorale just before the final movement ends; its dignity and propulsive energy; its moments of gorgeous lyricism; its sheer formal mastery....In short, this is Piston at his best - very good indeed." (American Record Guide)