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William Schuman's Puzzling Seventh Symphony

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Uploaded on Dec 16, 2010

The Music Division of the Library of Congress and the American Musicological Society, in joint partnership, presented another in a series of lectures highlighting musicological research conducted in the division's collections. Steven Swayne of Dartmouth College discussed William Schuman's Seventh Symphony. Commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the fall of 1954, the symphony premiered in the fall of 1960, nearly five years after the 75th anniversary of the BSO. Schuman's correspondence unexpectedly reveals that much of the Seventh Symphony was written not for Boston, but for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Only when the Philadelphia commission collapsed did Schuman repurpose the already-composed music for Boston. Still more intriguing is the presence of a 12-tone row as the opening subject of the first movement. While others have noted the presence of 12-tone harmonies in Schuman's music, to Swayne's knowledge no one has ever remarked on this unusual appearance of a 12-tone melody. The manuscript of the Seventh Symphony in the Koussevitzky Collection of the Library of Congress solves the puzzle about the Philadelphia-Boston connection.

Speaker Biography: Steven Swayne teaches courses in music from 1700 to the present day, opera, American musical theater, Russian music and American music at Dartmouth College. He has received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His articles have appeared in The Sondheim Review, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, American Music, Studies in Musical Theatre, the Indiana Theory Review and The Musical Quarterly. He has contributed to commentaries on Sondheim developed by the John F. Kennedy Center and the Chicago Lyric Opera. His first book, "How Sondheim Found His Sound," was published in 2005. He is an accomplished concert pianist, with four nationally distributed recordings currently in release and a performance with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas to his credit. In addition to his work at Dartmouth, he has taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and at the University of California at Berkeley.

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