Saturday, July 25
Today’s date is the birthday of the Italian composer Alfredo Casella—or “Alfred Casella” as he was known during his tenure as conductor of the Boston Pops in the later 1920s.
Casella was born in Turin in 1883, and died in Rome in 1947. He studied at the Paris Conservatory, attended Fauré’s composition classes, and counted Ravel as a friend. His enthusiasms included much of the “new” music of his day, including the works of Debussy, Richard Strauss, and Mahler in the early years of the 20th century… and Bartók, Schoenberg and Stravinsky as those composers came on the scene. As a composer, conductor, and festival organizer, Casella became one of the most important figures on the Italian music scene between the wars, composing symphonies, concertos, chamber music songs and operas.
This little march from Casella’s “Serenata” for chamber orchestra was composed in 1927, the same year he came to America as the newly-appointed director of the Boston Pops. According to the Boston Symphony historian Richard Dyer, Casella “made the only great mistake in the Pops' history: He sought to elevate the audiences.” Although he programmed popular pieces such as Gershwin's brand-new "An American in Paris," Casella also included entire Beethoven symphonies on his Pops programs and even works by contemporary avant-garde composers such as Arthur Honegger.
Casella's contract was not renewed, and the Bostonians turned to one of their own, a 35-year-old viola player in the Boston Symphony named Arthur Fiedler, as Casella’s successor.
Music Played in Today's Program
Alfredo Casella (1883 – 1947) Serenata per Piccola Orchestra, Op. 46a Haydn Orchestra Bolzano e Trento; Alun Francis, cond. CPO 999 195