Gillis: Symphony No. 4

Ian Hobson (piano), Sinfonia Varsovia

Catalog #: TROY0729
Release Date: December 1, 2004
Format: Digital

In an essay in the program booklet called Revelry's Ringmaster Ray Bono writes: "The gift of creating music that is immediately likable, that brings a smile to the listener's face on first gearing, is a gift not bestowed on all composers, not even all the great ones. But in 19th - century Europe such congeniality did shimmer in the works of composers like Offenbach, von Suppe and the Strausses. In 20th -century America, their counterparts included individuals who frequently alternated between the concert hall and the pop-culture domains of Broadway, Hollywood, radio and television - individuals ranging in renown from Gershwin and Bernstein to John Williams, Leroy Anderson, Ferde Grofe and Don Gillis. Donald Eugene Gillis was born in Cameron, Missouri and studied trumpet and trombone in school and by his early teen years was composing dance-band music. His family moved to Texas, where he earned his degrees at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and North Texas University in Denton. Before moving to Manhattan in 1944 to serve as producer, scriptwriter and commentator for NBC radio programs (including those of the famed NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini), the multitalented young man had already worked as a jazz musician, a band and symphony orchestra organizer, an arranger, a conductor and - for station WBAP in Fort Worth and then NBC in Chicago - a radio production director. Amid all this and while raising a family, he pursued an energetic composing career. His early works already point to Gillis's most memorable characteristic of all: an untrammeled love of the lighthearted, laced with a dislike for pomposity. As he himself put it, speaking of his household's musical preferences: 'We hate stuffed-shirtism in musicians, and phony artistry, and anything but the fact that music is a normal function of people's living. Gillis thrived during his New York decade with NBC. Following the 1954 retirement of his much-admired Toscanini (who called him 'Jeelee'), he went to Michigan where from 1958 to 1961, he was vice-president of the Interlochen Music Camp. He then assumed a succession of academic chairmanships at Southern Methodist University in 1967, the Dallas Baptist College in 1968, and in 1973, the University of South Carolina in Columbia. The composer appears to have been as unaffected and good-humored as the music he wrote. 'I am convinced,' Don Gillis once said about music 'that it is the heart which must speak - and not the brain alone.'" This says everything there is to say about the music on this disc, which will make a perfect gift for the music lover on your list for whom you have no idea what to get for Christmas. This is music which is well crafted and enjoyable. The gifted English pianist and conductor plays this music as if he has lived with it all his life. This is the first time the Symphony No. 4 has ever been performed, let alone recorded. There will be more of Gillis's music appearing in 2005.


Hear the full album on YouTube


Choose your platform

Track Listing

Title Composer Performer
Symphony No. 4: The Pioneers Don Gillis Sinfonia Varsovia, Ian Hobson, conductor
Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra Don Gillis Sinfonia Varsovia, Ian Hobson, conductor, Ian Hobson, piano


  • "I love this guy!...This is what it means to be a craftsman, with a truly individual voice.....lively, vivid performances....Tired of the usual tiresomely anonymous 'modernity'? Then you owe it to yourself to hear this."

    – Classics Today

  • "Frivolous, joyous, or what you will; the music of Don Gillis is very special."

    – American Record Guide

*Album cover provided for Editorial use only. ©Albany Records. The Albany Imprint is a registered trademark of PARMA Recordings LLC. The views and opinions expressed in this media are those of the artist and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views and opinions held by PARMA Recordings LLC and its label imprints, subsidiaries, and affiliates.