A declaration of symphonic independence!
Today's selection in our week-long afternoon series of Great American Symphonies begins with a near-quote from Dvořák's "New World" (premiered in Carnegie Hall) and ends with a Bronx Cheer (perfected at Yankee Stadium). Along the way, it evokes fifes & drums, brass bands, barn dances and cozy parlors. You'll hear echoes, if not outright quotations, of "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," "Long, Long Ago," "Camptown Races," "America the Beautiful" and "Reveille." European in form, the content is 100% U.S. Grade A American. Optimistic, brash, at times sentimental to the point of corniness, it confronts no Hugely Significant Ideas, as do later works in the form, not to mention later works by its composer, but tells a story as timeless and ingenuous as "Tom Sawyer" and "Little Women." Speaking of its composer, he was a 28-year old church organist when he completed most of the work on it, but continued to fiddle with it during and after his successful career as an insurance executive. Hardly as audacious as his more ear-stretching works, it still waited decades for its premiere, by which time the composer, then in his late-seventies, was too frail to attend, though he listened on the radio, and was said to have done a dance of vindication when he heard the huge ovation that followed. Could it be The Great American Symphony? Probably not. But I don't mind saying that it's My Favorite American Symphony. And it might turn out to be yours, too, if you tune in just before 1:00 this afternoon for the Symphony No. 2 by that visionary Connecticut Yankee of classical music, Charles Edward Ives.