Vi salutiamo, compositori italoamericani!
Walter Piston. Brilliant composer in a neo-classical style. Influential teacher and theorist at Harvard. His Harmony and Counterpoint still standard texts.
Peter Mennin. An important symphonist like Piston. President of the Juilliard School for 21 years.
Harry Warren. Prolific songwriter. Wrote hits for Busby Berkeley ("Lullaby of Broadway"), Glen Miller ("Chatanooga Choo Choo"), Judy Garland ("On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe") and Dean Martin ("That's Amore").
Paul Creston. Self-taught, late-blooming composer of symphonies and other works of vividly rhythmic style.
What do they have in common, besides each being a significant American composer?
Piston was the grandson of a Genoese sailor named Antonio Pistone (pee-STOH-nay), though the family dropped the "e" before Walter came along in 1896. Mennin started off as Peter Mennini in 1923 before likewise amputating the final vowel from his surname (unlike his brother). Warren came into the world in 1893 as Salvatore Antonio Guaragna.
Perhaps the most remarkable transformation was the composer born in New York City 102 years ago today as Giuseppe Guttoveggio. Nicknamed "Cress" after a character he portrayed in a school play, he lengthened the nickname, picked a good "American" first name, and became Paul Creston. Two of Creston's works will be part of WFCR's classical music today; that's him on the left above, alongside two well-known actors who would have been good choices to portray Creston had a biopic ever been made of his life. Can you identify them?