Whatever became of Bill Schuman?

Whatever became of Bill Schuman?


norman lebrecht

March 26, 2016

Anyone alive in the 1960s will remember William Schuman, a power in the land of American music.

President of Juilliard and the Lincoln Center, he won two Pulitzer prizes and a National medal for the Arts for his abundant orchestral music, which included ten symphonies.

Not a note of his gets played nowadays. Chicago psychotherapist Gerald Stein wonders why.

In his day (1910-1992), only Aaron Copland was a more prominent living American composer in the classical world. Moreover, as president of the Juilliard School and then of the emerging Lincoln Center, no one had a greater influence on serious music in the middle portion of the last century. Schuman also wrote 10 symphonies among other works, and won the first Pulitzer Prize ever given for musical composition. His Symphony #3 is arguably the greatest such piece written by an American.

Read on here.

william schumann

Still perplexed? Read Bruce Duffie’s interview with Schuman here.

Early on I said to myself,You can do anything else that you want to do, but you have to find between six hundred hours and a thousand hours to be alone in a room.  That’s a sine qua nonof the conditions for composing, as far as I’m concerned.  So I used to keep a little diary of time.  I’d go to the school maybe at 8:30 in the morning, having worked for an hour first, so I’d put down one hour.  Or, if I went at 11:23, I’d put down two hours and twenty-three minutes.  By the end of the week I’d add up the hours and the minutes that I actually worked, and by the summer time I would usually have about three hundred hours chalked up.  Then, of course, in the summer time I had more time to work.  I rarely reached a thousand, but it was never less than six hundred.  It sounds like a very cold way of going about it, but it was the only practical way that I could devise of assuring myself the time; the reason being that everything else you do is so much easier than writing music.



  • MacroV says:

    Schuman, Hanson, Diamond, Piston, Randall Thompson, Harold Shapero (whose Symphony for Classical Orchestra is the best of the lot) – all gone and their music generally neglected, if not actually forgotten.

    It speaks extremely poorly of American orchestras that they don’t guard and preserve their musical patrimony the way the Austrians, Germans and French do theirs. To their credit, Gerard Schwarz and Leonard Slatkin, among others, have done a lot of the years to champion many of these composers, but they couldn’t do it on their own. But orchestras, as we all know, have to sell tickets, and they face audiences who not only know (and attend) what they like, they like what they know.

    • Jeffrey Biegel says:

      Joseph Polisi, current President of The Juilliard School, has written a 2008 book about William Schuman, which took a decade to complete. It is fabulous: “American Muse: The Life and Times of William Schuman”. Walter Piston influenced many composers, including his teachings at Harvard to a young Leroy Anderson, and even the late Keith Emerson studied his book, ‘Counterpoint’. Howard Hanson’s music, as you mention, has been recorded and championed by Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony, and he has a Piano Concerto which rarely receives a hearing and is very beautiful and rhythmically exciting–and quite tonal from 1948. Curiously, many choirs still champion the music of Randall Thompson throughout the US.

      • William Safford says:

        Polisi’s book is a worthy read. I was pleased (but not surprised) to see my great-uncle (technically, my great-uncle’s partner) mentioned in it.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I agree with your argument on the orchestras’ neglect of their “musical patrimony”.

      On the other hand, US orchestras routinely include some 20th or 21st century music in their programs. But they either gravitate towards living composers or modern classics like Shostakovitch. I am not sure how this is effective for ticket sales. I’ve seen in Boston conservative patrons skip the modern pieces, and others attend the contemporary work(s) and skip, say, the Brahms symphony.

      The composers you mention are not favored at all by newspaper critics, who push for new music. Also, am I alone in thinking they pooh-pooh anything older american music if it is not serial?

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        Perhaps a survey of music and composers programmed with orchestras might yield more accurate data. Many orchestras do indeed program 20th and 21th century music in their programs, and new works quite frequently. There may be isolated places where audience do, as you say, leave, for their own personal reasons, but the music directors these days have been attentive to new works. They are also active in commissioning new works. There are a good number of composers today leaning back toward tonality creating music I self-titled Neo-Impressionist. Quite often, music takes several decades to re-surface, and needs time to be appreciated. This could afford future programming for many of the composers mentioned in this thread.

    • Paul says:

      Yes, we should all be thankful for the efforts of Gerard Schwarz, Leonard Slatkin, as well as those recordings of the Louisville Symphony I believe with Lawrence Leighton Smith and others. Could it be that non-American conductors feel no duty to program American music? I would expect an American music director like for instance David Robertson, Robert Spano, or Michael Tilson Thomas to be more passionate about programming music of American composers from the past, than would say for instance Muti, Dudamel, Eschenbach, Nezet-Seguin, Nelsons, Honeck, Welser-Most, Vanska, Jarvi, Orosco-Estrada, van Zweeden, … in short, the American orchestra administrators seem to have long held on to a fetish for non-American artists which could be the cause of so little programming of American music.

      • Mikey says:

        Even here in Canada, Nezet-Seguin barely promotes Canadian music with the Orchestre Metropolitain.
        The expression “nul n’est prophète dans son pays” (none is a prophet in their own land) seems to apply wherever music gets made.

      • cherrera says:

        Indeed if Muti stopped programming at Chicago third-rate Italian composers from the turn of the early 20th century (his teachers and their friends), there’d be a lot more room for American composers from the midcentury.

        You can always tell that these ARE quixotic lightweight choices, because whenever Muti falls ill, his replacements throw those pieces out of the program like stale cold pizza left over from last night’s party (which they ARE).

        Unfortunately, the replacement conductors don’t put in American music either, but that is the fault of management.

        Leonard Slatkin pulls his weight with midcentury American composers whenever he guest conducts Chicago. But he’s just one man. MTT champions the eccentric New England and popular West Coast composers, so you can’t do it all.

        Finally, conductors make their mark by their interpretation of the core European repertoire, so what’s the incentive to teach and learn these pieces? Chicago and Boston are never going to select a music director based on her complete recordings of the symphonies of Bill Schuman.

        Bob Schumann perhaps but never Bill Schuman.

  • Jay Shulman says:

    Also on the missing list – Quincy Porter, Ross Lee Finney, Roy Harris, Irving Fine, Paul Creston, Elie Siegmeister and Alan Shulman, among others.

  • Paul says:

    “In his day (1910-1992), only Aaron Copland was a more prominent living American composer in the classical world.” Although I am a fond advocate of William Schuman, that seems to be a rather bold generalization. Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber were not perhaps more prominent?

  • Nicola Lefanu says:

    I think it’s similar to what happened to Michael Tippett’s reputation here in UK.

    • Halldor says:

      Many composers suffer a reputational dip for a generation after their death. But happily, I think Tippett now seems to be emerging from it – I’m thinking of major recent revivals of The Ice Break and King Priam, and high-profile performances (some recent, others scheduled in the near future of A Child of Our Time, the piano concerto and symphonies).

      These post-war American tonal symphonists seem to me to have more in common with the likes of Alwyn, Grace Williams, Rubbra, Rodney Bennett, W. Wordsworth, L Berkeley, Simpson etc – and their neglect is directly comparable. The entire genre and generation is deeply unfashionable.

      • Herbert Pauls says:

        I would certainly agree that the post-war American and British tonal traditions do have a lot in common in that they have always had their loyal followers among specialist music lovers even while they were neglected in the concert hall. Luckily, in direct response to the demands of such dedicated connoisseurs, both parallel streams are now reasonably well represented by the major independent record labels such as Albany, Chandos, Hyperion, and Naxos, even though the traditionalism of such composers represented in their time was once seen as regressive and was studiously ignored by most standard textbooks of the late 20th Century (which chose to focus more on the most radical streams of that era).

        The resurgence on record of the mid 20th C tonal tradition is a good illustration of why Finzi scholar Stephen Banfield called the recording industry a lifeline between unfashionable composer and unfashionable public. Such recordings have been very well received among specialist music lovers and the standard record review journals. Bearing this in mind, there are well-founded practical reasons for believing that the mid 20th C tonal tradition could, even today, do much to inject life into everyday concert programming as well.

        It is very promising and gratifying to see the outpouring of support in this thread for Schuman and others like him. Much high quality music is to be found among their works.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Agreed. While typing this, I’m listening to Schuman’s 3rd symphony, and it is really good music, strong, well-made, personal, a bit grumpy but strongly communicating. But it does not sound ‘American’….. maybe that was the problem? If you would not know the composer, you would guess it’s East-European.

  • Respect says:

    Even more shameful is the failure to mention Roy Harris, Schuman’s mentor, whose third symphony is the direct inspiration for Schuman’s oeuvre.

    The parallels to Tippett is valid. I regularly listen to all of this repertoire (Diamond is a marvelous composer), but haven’t had any chance to hear these composers live since living in a city where Slatkin was frequent. Thank goodness for the hard work the recording industry put into it.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Norman Lebrecht’s answer to why Schuman is neglected seems to be in the interview excerpt he quoted… Schuman regarded his work as something to clock in and clock out of with no other reason for starting or stopping than to log the hours.

    He didn’t regard his work as compelling, the audience doesn’t either. And so, his work has fallen aside.

  • cherrera says:

    Patriotism aside, can we talk honestly though? The music of Schuman, Piston, Hanson et al, are dry academic exercises in counterpoint, like eating dried toast and cold black coffee, no butter, no milk, no sugar. Good for the cholesterol, not so good for the palate.

    • Mikey says:

      It seems evident that you don’t actually know the oeuvre of the composers you listed. if you can accuse them of being dry and academic then you haven’t listened to anything by them, or have done so with a pre-established bias against them.

    • Stuard Young says:

      Nothing dry in the least about Piston’s “Incredible Flutist”, or Hanson’s “Romantic” and “Requiem” symphonies!

  • Cubs Fan says:

    There are a lot of reasons for Schuman’s neglect, not the least of which is much of his music is too cerebral and doesn’t make an emotional connection with the audience. Musician may appreciate it, but on first hearing, the public just doesn’t understand it. Then, it’s hard to play and after all that work, is it worth it? Does it make you want to leap out of your seat at the end? Nope. And it’s not cheap to rent, either. Why pay $1000 to rent the score and parts for a couple of performances when you have the New World in the library royalty-free? Nonetheless, I find it abominable that orchestras and conductors (them especially) avoid and neglect American composers. There’s a great deal of wonderful music from the earlier generation (Beach, Converse, Chadwick, et al) which would make a great relief from the tired, worn-out, overplayed Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, and others. But Schuman, Piston, Sessions, and company will never become popular.

    • Mikey says:

      Why yes, it DOES make me want to leap out of my seat and yell “bravo” when it is performed properly. His third symphony is a brilliant and exciting work with a most definitely crowd-pleasing ending.

      His “Song of Orpheus” brings tears to me eyes.
      “Casey at the Bat” is another exciting work of his.
      His 4th, 5th and 6th symphonies are wonderfully expressive and accessible.

      And when even the slightest effort is put into it – as with some of the great “standards” of the symphonic repertoire – his less-obvious works are more than worth a listen.

      • NYMike says:

        The 3rd Symphony was recorded, first in mono by Philadelphia/Ormandy and then in stereo by NYPO/Bernstein. I still have the Philly recording. I think it deserves equal plaudits with Copland’s and Harris’ 3rds.

  • Joe Shelby says:

    I first discovered Schuman’s works through the Bernstein Century release of Symphonies 3,5,8. I have since completed the Schwartz recording of the cycle and it has been a regular of my playlist for almost half a decade now.

    But then again, I am very much a “cerebral” listener.

  • La Verita says:

    Andre Previn opened Carnegie Hall’s Centennial season (1990) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic – William Schuman’s 3rd Symphony was on the program. I don’t believe New York has heard it since.

  • chris says:

    I completely agree that Schuman’s music should be heard more. The 3rd Symphony as mentioned above is one of the greatest American symphonies (I put that and Ives 2nd at the top). I would also make a case for Peter Mennin whose 5th Symphony is a true masterpiece and many of this symphonies are first rate.

    But, honestly, I wouldn’t lump the entire oeuvres of some of those composers mentioned above as deserving a hearing. Some of those symphonies by Piston, Harris, Diamond, Hanson, etc. are pretty dreadful or, at a minimum, not interesting. BUT there are some stand outs like the Piston 2nd and Diamond 4th that should be heard. (And although not a symphony, Ruggles’ Sun-treader is fantastic.)

    Is this though only an American problem? How often do symphonies by Simpson, Rubbra, and Bax, etc. get played by British orchestras? How often do symphonies by Langgaard get played by Danish orchestras? How often do symphonies by Pettersson get played by Swedish orchestras (aside from the current laudable project by Christian Lindberg, Norrköping and BIS)? Perhaps I’m wrong on this since, as an American, I see more readily what is being played and NOT played here but is this something happening in more countries?

    • John Borstlap says:

      True, this happens in every country. Underneath the more obvious causes like routine programming, anxiety of ‘unknown names’ on the programme, and the damaging propaganda of modernism over half a century with its ‘progress’ mania, there may be a cause both much more simple and less apparent: the degree of dissonance in the idioms, also in so-called tonal 20C music. The need to escape over-familiar idioms, which are drenched in consonance and therefore sound very coherent and, where handled with genius: radiant, drove composers towards personal variations outside the triadic modicum. Getting used to high degree of dissonance, has the effect of numbing receptivity of more triadic idioms, which we often see with composers who find Mozart and Beethoven ‘great’ but also rather boring. With listeners, it is often the other way around: the more gritty the 20C idiom (also if tonal), the more they long to clear their ears with triads. Would be interesting to have an extensive research programme of this point.

      Minimal music makes use of triads all the time and is therefore more accessible and digestible for concert audiences. But it has another disadvantage for the average music audience of classical music: it has a distant, cool quality and its pattern making is not very expressive in a narrative way. Even John Adams music, which is brilliant, does not get much ‘under the skin’ of the listener who can compare Adams with, say, Bach. It is not a matter of simple getting used to certain types of idiom, but a psychological thing.

  • maushaus says:

    You had me worried. I felt better after seeing that arkivmusic.com lists 77 recordings containing Schuman works, and youtube.com has many pages of Schuman works
    posted from a great variety of performers – both commercial releases and live musicians.

    I guess his works have not completely disappeared from enterprising listeners.

    We who listen learn not to be dependent on choices made by conductors and organizations that must put dollars first.

    Yes, I know recordings and internet postings are not adequate substitutes for live performances…..but surely welcome alternates when needed.

    And sometimes the performances are better….

  • David Boxwell says:

    “Mystery Guest” Bill pretty much stumped the ‘What’s My Line?’ panelists. That was his “superpower.”

    (It’s up on Youtube).

  • Morgen says:

    And, very likely, the same will happen to the Steven Stucky, Jennifer Higdon and many other “orchestral” composers who write the kind of well-crafted music that relies on continuing a tradition without doing anything to redefine it or ever taking any risks

    • Mikey says:

      And I guess you get to decide what “redefines” or “takes risks”?
      Surely nothing by Boulez, who was still writing music as though Schoenberg were still a young man.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The greatest risk for composers is to try to write a really good piece. But in 20C music, ‘taking risks’ mostly meant: risks on the level of musical language. But that is materialistic thinking, and driven by the illusion that there exists something like progress in musical language.

  • Thomas Roth says:

    I have been promoting Schuman, Harris, Piston and many more for years and nothing helps. Take a look at the San Francisco Symphony concert programmes and you will find no less than five Mahler symphonies next season. But none of the above.

    I discussed American composers with Tilson Thomas a few years ago and he showed almost no enthusiasm. I asked him about Roy Harris and I will never forget his reply:

    “If I were to do that kind of music I’d rather do Sibelius”.

    • Larry W says:

      The third symphonies of William Schuman and Roy Harris are among the greatest of American works, worthy of regular performances. If Sibelius had stopped composing after his first symphony, he would still be immortal. In 30 years, who will speak of lesser conductors?

    • John Borstlap says:

      That’s awful. But somewhere I can understand what he meant: pre-modern music is not ‘infected’ by all the problems of idiom, modernity, audience anxiety about unfamiliar names. Much responsibility has to be laid at the feet of the composers themselves. Around 1900 audiences flocked to concerts with a première on the program, also if the new work was written by an unfamiliar composer. All that has changed.

      While typing this, I am listening to Howard Hanson’s 2nd symphony, the ‘romantic’. However sympathetic the idiom and brilliant the scoring, it is so close to film music and thus, emanates a perfume of mediocrity and cheapness, that overshadows the moments that are indeed beautiful and musically strong. This may be the problem of many 20C American tonal composers. It is not a matter of not being up to standards, but of the circumstance of living in the 20th century, nobody can fully escape the psychological climate of the time and place in which they are living.

  • Jeff says:

    Schuman does live on through his works (and transcriptions thereof) for wind band. Show me a college band or wind ensemble who hasn’t done George Washigton Bridge. Also, military bands, the premiere ones in DC especially, have often programmed his works. Listen to the Marine Band’s recent recording of New England Triptych and you’ll hear a wonderfully nuanced and cared for presentation.

  • David Hattner says:

    The Portland Youth Philharmonic here in Oregon, which happens to be the oldest such organization in the USA (currently in its 92nd season) has always included American composers in its repertoire. The orchestra in previous decades commissioned and recorded works from such composers as David Diamond, Roy Harris, William Bergsma and Benjamin Lees (all can be heard on the standard streaming services). I have conducted the orchestra for nearly 8 seasons, and have regularly included works by American composers in the programs of the Philharmonic orchestra and Camerata PYP (our chamber orchestra).

    Here is a listing of American composers performed since 2008:

    Leroy Anderson
    Efrain Amaya
    Stephen Amundson
    Jacob Avshalomov
    Samuel Barber (4)
    Mason Bates
    Marion Bauer
    William Bergsma
    Leonard Bernstein
    Kenji Bunch (An Alumnus of PYP) (4)
    Aaron Copland (3)
    Henry Cowell (3)
    Stephen Dankner (2)
    David Diamond
    Osvaldo Golijov
    Charles Griffes
    Howard Hanson (2)
    John Harbison
    Charles Ives
    Jennifer Higdon
    Jonathan Newman
    Walter Piston (2)
    Sylvestre Revueltas
    Wallingford Riegger (3)
    James Stephenson (3)
    John Phillip Sousa (2)
    Tomas Svoboda
    Deems Taylor
    Christopher Theofanidis (2)
    Kevin Walczyk

    When the Portland Youth Philharmonic was invited to perform at the Grant Park Music Festival as part of the orchestra’s 90th anniversary, half of the program was made of of American Music (Bunch, Theofanidis and Cowell). The review from the Chicago Tribune may be read here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/ct-grant-park-portland-review-20140707-story.html

    As the conductor, I feel it is important for American music students to be exposed to their native repertoire. By performing it regularly, many develop a deep love for it which will last a lifetime, and which will influence programming of organization they will be involved with in the future. This was perhaps most evident in the 2010-11 season when the musicians voted to perform Howard Hanson’s Symphony #3 for their graduation concert, preferring it to Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis.

    Unfortunately, William Schuman is not on this list, although we did perform his orchestration of the Variations of America by Charles Ives. I hope that his Symphonies 3 and 5 will be included at some point in the future.

    I would like to point out that Leonard Slatkin is conducting Schuman’s Symnphony #3 in Detroit this year. Interestingly, Mr. Slatkin conducted (as far as I know) the only performances of the complete version of this symphony (the known version was cut by the composer) when he was in Washington. Perhaps he will record the Symphony with these unknown restored bars.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    Check out the NY Phil recording of Schumans 3rd. It will convince you the work should be the standard repertoire.

  • cherrera says:

    Their music sounds like the way Lincoln Center looks: earnest, formal, correct.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Which American music would sound like the Jefferson Memorial, or the Supreme Court in Washington, or Jefferson’s Monticello, or – very ambitiously symphonic – the Capitol? Nowadays they can build classically like the Schermerhorn Symphony Centre in Nashville; why not in music?

      Schuman’s 8th symphony sounds indeed like something built of concrete and on a very rainy day.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    The truth be told, Bill Schuman and the American composers from that era and circle, were at best painfully average. Occasionally they produced an interesting work, but the paint-by-the-numbers approach they took is the antithesis to true art and basic musical good taste.

    Gerald Schwartz probably is one of the few conductors who could make the case for them, but it’s an upwards battle. The public hates these works, and I suspect the players do as well. Leon Botstein is the only other conductor that seems to have an ear to salvage the least egregious works from that era, and program it with the American Symphony Orchestra.

    • Cubs Fan says:

      So-called experts and trained musicians can wring their hands all they want about the neglect of music they consider to be masterworks, such as the music under discussion here. What these people don’t get is that the average listener is not a trained musician and listens at a more shallow level and what they want are good tunes, beautiful harmonies, and brilliant orchestration. They want music they can hum the tunes and tap their toes. Schuman, Diamond, Piston and gang never provide this. But then neither do Bax, Rubbra, or Schnittke. Boulez and his ilk never understood that music must make an emotional connection to the listener if the composer wants it to be loved. Paint-by-numbers is a great way to look at it. Why is it that hardly anyone can write tunes like Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Schumann and even Sibelius? Is their music so viciously difficult to play so as to hide their lack of talent? A single symphony of a lesser composer like Kalinnikov is more entertaining and worthwhile than the entire output of Boulez, Stockhausen, Berio and their ilk.

      • boringfileclerk says:

        There’s nothing wrong with complex music, and I think the general public could like such works. Messiaen, Xenakis, Boulez, or anyone from the Spectral School all have deep emotional connections with their works. Heck, I’d even throw in some of the so-called Third Viennese School as well. And Messiaen was not shy about composing a well crafted tune.

        You can have both. It’s just that the American (and British) composers from that era where exceptionally uninspiring and bland. They just slavishly adhered to their text books without any concern about how it sounded. I don’t think the public avoided Schuman et all’s works because it was complex, but because it wasn’t complex in any way. It takes no effort at all to break out your abacus and phone in a symphony. I’m sure even if they had the ability to write a decent tune, they’d still find a way to make it unappealing. Somewhere deep down I think they all just hated good music. Just listen to Schuman’s violin concerto as evidence.

        • Ppellay says:

          If you think Schuman’s Violin Concerto corroborates your outrageously sweeping claims, I wouldn’t want to have your ears……….

    • HugoPreuss says:

      It is a simple fact of life that 90 percent or more of music written at any period in time and in any country will be forgotten quickly. The age of recordings has changed that a bit, at least to the extent that theoretically many works of (may I say: minor) American composers are available to those who want to listen (thanks to Naxos!).

      But other than that? How much Raff, Herzogenberg, Fuchs, Sommer, Dopper, Bendix and others have you heard lately? And these guys are still relatively well known. How many composers actually make it into the repertoire? And even of those who make it, how many of their works survive? Donizetti has written ca. 72 operas – how many people have seen more than a handful of those? Haydn has 104 symphonies to his credit. And don’t get me started on the cantatas of Telemann, most of which have never been recorded. And Telemann is not a second tier composer.

      I understand that the Schuman fans (or insert any other name) are not content. But there is very little one can do about it. At least you can enjoy their work on Naxos or on youtube, which is much more than previous generations had available.

      • John Borstlap says:

        True. But: there may also be a problem with the idiom here. A traditionally-oriented 20C music using all the tonal dynamics available, but sporting a much higher degree of dissonance than older traditional music, invokes nostalgia for that older music. It has nothing to do with ‘tunefullness’: a rather dissonant work like Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ which has hardly any ‘tunes’ in it and a very excentric form, and an unusual combination of distance and passion, is a popular work in spite of its difficulties in performance (needs lots of reheasel time to get the music ‘off the ground’). But that music has an emotional and aesthetic depth, and a great aural beauty. The same with Ravel and early Stravinsky, and lots of Prokofiev. Dissonance is a dangerous weapon, and has to be handled with the greatest care. If employing lots of it, the music needs to have other very strong attractions to compensate for the lack of tonal radiance which comes with the triad.

        Audiences react strongly upon the first aural impression. Consonance has already an aesthetic beauty in itself, not having to justify itself, but dissonance has.

        • HugoPreuss says:

          Well, that is quite possible. Dissonances still sound like dissonances, even after decades of experiencing them. Still, some 20th century music was considered scandalous in the beginning (Stravinsky, anyone?) and yet sounds quite “classical” today. And even some atonal pieces have “made” it, e.g Berg’s violin concerto or his Wozzeck.
          Time will tell, but I am pretty sure that some composers will survive, while most will not. It is quite interesting to listen to recordings from the dawn of the recording industry. Singers had a very interesting repertoire in those days; quite different from what today’s opera houses and audiences prefer. And, BTW, it is the same with literature. How many novels or plays do you know from 100 years ago? Plenty, I am sure. 200 years ago? Not so many. 300 years? Almost none. 400 years? Aah,Shakespeare. Perhaps Marlowe. But there were a few more writers in those days…

          • John Borstlap says:

            Yes, and yes, and, … yes. But before 1800 there were less people around and much less artists, writers, composers, musicians. Also genres exploded in the 19th century and their spread, because of the industrial revolution and cheap printing procedures. Art in general was a very, very intimate affair in earlier ages, and only circulated among the elites. Today, there is so much more white noise and its spread through the media.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    Looks like the previous reply about Botstein was redacted. While his powers of conducting may be limited, he’s not bad. And he has very good taste about his choice of repertoire. He’s a true academic and artist. Part of the problem is that he runs his festivals and concerts on a shoestring budget. He’s not getting rich off of his concerts. He once commented that his lack of fame was a good thing because it allowed him the freedom to do what he wanted musically. And he does program works from Bill Schuman’s era on occasion….

  • William Safford says:

    Nobody in this thread has said anything about anyone who is a champion of Schuman’s music. Slatkin and Botstein are mentioned as conductors who do program Schuman’s music as part of programming 20th century American music in general. However, I cannot think of any nationally-known orchestral conductor who specifically is an advocate for Schuman. (I can name one or two who conduct at the collegiate level.)

    Schuman indirectly had thousands of students through his presidency at Julliard. He had students when he was a professor at Sarah Lawrence.

    But I cannot name off of the top of my head anyone who specifically studied composition with him, who is (or was) a known composer, conductor, or performer today. The Wikipedia article does not list any. Am I missing someone?

    When I was in the area youth symphony when I was in high school, the conductor programmed at least one Howard Hanson symphony each year. The conductor studied with Hanson at Eastman. Cause and effect. I may have performed a Hanson work now and again since then, but I sure played them back then.

    Perhaps this is one reason for the dearth of performances of Schuman’s music, as well as many of the other composers listed by others.

    In recent years I have performed various Schuman works, from George Washington Bridge, to Chester, to his arrangement of the Ives Variations on America, to his Quartettino. So they do get played at least a little bit.

  • VallinSFAS says:

    The NC Governor’s School Chorus once used Schuman/Taggard’s ‘Prologue’ as its “theme” song. It’s relatively easy to learn, and it’s rousing dynamics make it accessible to band geeks raised on Progressive Rock. I only have a 1978 vinyl LP recording of it. I’m surprised and saddened that no-one has recorded an updated version for streaming media. I would be overjoyed to produce such a project.

  • Scion says:

    Bernstein was one of the major proponents of the music – with his passing, it was rare anyone else picked up the Schuman torch. There is also the butts-in-seats factor – if Schuman has not grabbed hold of the audience in the same manner as Brahms or Mahler, the hall and the orchestra and the promoters can’t make a profit.