Symphonic Stucky

My colleague Steven Stucky is the latest composer to claim that the symphony, as a genre, ain’t dead yet. His new Symphony, performed by the LA Philharmonic, can be heard this weekend, streamed live on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 5 Eastern / 2 Pacific over both KUSC.org and NPR. The NPR site will also have a live chat room available. The performance will be archived online at NPR music and KUSC.org through Oct 7, and will then be available for streaming from Oct 8-14 on APM’s Symphonycast on over 130 radio stations and at Symphonycast. The piece will also be done by the New York Philharmonic on Nov. 29 and 30, and Dec. 1.

The contemporary symphony seems to be an American phenomenon – besides Stucky, one can think of Harbison, Rouse, Wernick, Zwillich, Wuorinen, Hartke, and several others. It’s harder to name living European composers who write symphonies – only Henze, Knussen and Davies come to mind. Who am I forgetting?

2 thoughts on “Symphonic Stucky

  1. I don’t know them, but Penderecki has eight symphonies. Gorecki (recently alive!), has three. Going back a bit but staying in Poland, I’m sure Steven Stucky would quickly point out Lutoslawski’s four. But certainly among living composers it seems the symphony has been a more favored genre in the US. I suspect this is directly connected with the lineage of composers who wrote the “Great American Symphony” all through the 20th-century: Ives, Hanson, Copland, Piston, Harris, Sessions, Rochberg, Diamond, and Schuman, all come quickly to mind. It is a tragedy that most of these works are almost never performed by orchestras today, especially considering the quality of the music and the fact that much of it would be very accessible to concertgoers. Thinking about some of these pieces brings back memories of my listening assignments with Christopher Rouse and his enjoyment in referred to this category of works with an acronym: GAS.

  2. Thanks for your note, Matt. I think you are quite right about the popularity of the genre today in the States having to do with the predecessors you mention. I also agree that it is a great pity that those works are so rarely played. The Rochberg 2nd is a fantastic piece, to name just one example.

    Now that you mention the Polish symphonists I realize there is another one – Andrzej Panufnik wrote 10 symphonies.

    The GAS acronym was used by C. Curtis-Smith for his work called “The Great American Symphony (GAS!)”.

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