Sound Recording Reviews

By Mauskapf, Michael | Notes, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Sound Recording Reviews


Mauskapf, Michael, Notes


For the past one hundred and twenty years, the symphony orchestra has served as one of America's premiere cultural institutions, presenting timeless music to audiences across the nation, and more recently, throughout the world. The American orchestra does more, however, than passively present concerts to a captive audience; it has actively participated in the creation of public taste through the selection and distribution of certain works by particular composers, ultimately functioning as a powerful arbiter of twentieth-century music. Examining what types of composers and music were supported through commissioning, performance, and commercial recording reveals the orchestra as an important distributor of new music.

This discography will highlight works commissioned, premiered, and/ or recorded by American orchestras since World War II. While the list is in no way exhaustive, the recordings and scholarship referenced in this essay were chosen carefully to represent some of the most important orchestras and composers working in the last half of the twentieth century. The focus here is on American orchestras and composers which had ongoing professional relationships, and goes beyond the so-called "Big Five" orchestras and the works of established composers such as Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, though their legacies remain integral to this story. (1) The result is a handful of compositions that, in addition to their significant contribution to the canon of Western classical music, show how institutions and organizations have shaped and refracted consumer tastes by recording and distributing certain musics for a mass audience.

This is not to say that orchestras have always strived for popular appeal. In fact, the founding of the modern American orchestra was rooted in the distinction between high and popular culture. Indeed, the American orchestra "emerged in the period between 1850 and 1900 out of the efforts of urban elites to build organizational forms that, first, isolated high culture and, second, differentiated it from popular culture." (2) Before 1870, orchestras in America were organized as cooperative enterprises, communal associations, or even for-profit firms. The New York Philharmonic was one of the first, presenting a series of concerts as a loosely organized association as early as 1842. According to orchestra scholar John Spitzer, the so-called enterprise, or privately run, orchestras present in nineteenth-century Europe and America "were commercial ventures," with musical performances labeled as products and players as employees, not artists. (3) Others, like the Boston Symphony Orchestra, were founded as autocracies under a wealthy patron or entrepreneurial conductor.

Not surprisingly, these cooperatives were unable to secure the complete loyalty and support of their members, forcing the most successful organizations to seek out alternative operating models. In Europe, this meant government support for the arts. In the United States, however, orchestras began to move towards a more sustainable private model. The nonprofit structure adopted by American performing arts organizations around this time was thus a direct result of the growing distinction between high and popular culture. Yet, some fifty years later, these same organizations began to experience the liability of being elite, and found themselves trying to reengage with popular culture and reassert a connection to a mass audience. The repercussions from this shift in function were immediately apparent in the populist works of Aaron Copland and the rhetoric of "music for the masses" employed by conductors such as Serge Koussevitzky and Leopold Stokowski. (4)

In the decades following World War II, the ideology of mass consumption continued to resonate throughout the American orchestral scene as major ensembles signed lucrative recording contracts and continued to broadcast their concerts on radio. Much of the repertory recorded, however, consisted of masterworks from the nineteenth century, not newly commissioned works for orchestra. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Sound Recording Reviews
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.