Still: Orchestral Works
Mississippi-born William Grant Still discovered his stepfather’s record collection in his youth and determined on a career in music. After study with George Whitefield Chadwick and Edgard Varèse, he pursued that goal, composing almost 200 works, including in Hollywood, writing the score for the 1936 Bing Crosby movie Pennies From Heaven. This album includes world-premiere recordings of 13 works by the man known as the Dean of Afro American Composers, played by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Many of them, including the American and Violin suites, draw on Still’s African American heritage, with their spiritual-like melodies and jazzy rhythms. “Pastorela”, for violin and orchestra, is more harmonically inventive and very appealing. Still’s “Threnody in Memory of Jean Sibelius” is lush and clearly heartfelt; no wonder his music was championed by the likes of Monteux, Barbirolli and Stokowski.