Composers Datebook®

William Schuman on the George Washington Bridge

Composer's Datebook - July 30, 2023
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Synopsis

On today's date in 1950, at the Interlochen Summer Music Camp, the Michigan All-Star Band, under the direction of Dale Harris, gave the premiere performance of a new work entitled George Washington Bridge. This music was written by the American composer William Schuman, who was experiencing an especially creative period in the early 1950's. Schuman was living in New Rochelle, New York, but as president of the Juilliard School, spent much of his time in Manhattan, and, as Schuman explained:

"There are few days in the year when I do not see the George Washington Bridge. I pass it on my way to work as I drive along the Henry Hudson Parkway on the New York shore. Ever since my student days when I watched the progress of its construction, this bridge has had for me an almost human personality, and this personality is astonishingly varied, assuming different moods, depending on the time of day or night, the weather, and, of course, my own mood as I pass by… I have walked across it late at night when it was shrouded in fog, and during the brilliant sunshine hours of midday… It is difficult to imagine a more gracious welcome or dramatic entry to the great metropolis."

The piece itself is in ABCBA form—a little like the rising and falling arch of a suspension bridge, in fact, and, since its 1950 premiere at Interlochen, Schuman's George Washington Bridge has won a secure place as a classic of the wind band repertory.

Music Played in Today's Program

William Schuman (1910 - 1992) George Washington Bridge Rutgers Wind Ensemble; William Bertz, conductor. Naxos 572230

On This Day

Deaths

  • 1968 - Icelandic composer Jon Leifs, age 68, in Reykjavik

Premieres

  • 1965 - Duke Ellington: "The Golden Broom and the Golden Apples," by the New York Philharmonic, with the composer conducting, on the same concert as the belated premiere of Ives: "From the Steeples and the Mountains," with Lukas Foss conducting

  • 1983 - Michael Torke: "Ceremony of Innocence," for chamber quintet, at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass., by fellows of the Tanglewood Center, Gunther Schuller conducting

Others

  • 1829 - On a visit to Edinburgh, Mendelssohn visits Holyrood Palace and writes down the first measures of his "Scottish" Symphony

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®