Sunday Gramophone - A first performance of A Suite For Judy for Piano and Orchestra by the (then) contemporary American composer Frederick Woltmann - with pianist Alfred Mouledous and the Eastman School Symphony conducted by Howard Hanson.
October 3, 2010

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As long as we were getting into Americana tonight. . .


Some almost completely forgotten Americana tonight. This by way of a broadcast from May 27, 1950 - the radio premier of Suite For Judy for Piano and Orchestra by the contemporary (for 1950) American composer Frederick Woltmann. With Alfred Mouledous, piano and the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra conducted by Howard Hanson and performed at the 1950 Spring Festival Of Contemporary Music at The Eastman School. Like Lily Bienvenu last week, I know virtually nothing about this composer, other than he was born in 1908 and was a Pulitzer Prize winning composer in 1937. As with so many American composers from this period, the specter of Aron Copland loomed large and most of the material has a decided " . . .and the land was good" tone about it. A lot of WPA era music went after folk legends and there were a staggering number of works either dedicated to or having some theme dealing with Paul Bunyan or New England in general.

The Woltmann piece is evocative of that Americana but it's not as intrusive as some of the pieces from that period are. There is a very good chance you've never heard this as it was never commercially recorded and, as far as I know, this is the only performance of the piece anywhere. It is an interesting piece from a fascinating period of time. And maybe it's not destined for concert hall immortality. It's just a nice piece of music for a Sunday night.

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