Utah came to the stage of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, musically speaking, on this date in 1989, when the Orchestra of St. Luke’s premiered a “Utah Symphony” by the American composer John Duffy. His Symphony No. 1 was commissioned by Gibbs Smith, the president of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. Smith’s idea was to draw attention to the endangered and pristine wilderness lands of his home state.
John Duffy knew this region firsthand. “I began sketching musical ideas for the symphony while hiking through southeastern Utah in the spring of 1988,” wrote Duffy. “The landscape of this glorious state astounded me: Dramatic contrasts of light and shadow… violent changes in weather… expansive vistas. Here in the ancient Indian ruins, canyons, cathedral-like Mesas, and fantastical slabs of rock is a spiritual presence and aesthetic wonder of pure, majestic, humbling wilderness.”
John Duffy is perhaps best known for writing the score to the 9-hour PBS documentary series Heritage: Civilization and the Jews. He was born in the Bronx and studied with Aaron Copland and Henry Cowell, among others.
In addition to composing over 300 works, in 1974, Duffy founded Meet The Composer, an organization dedicated to the creation, performance, and recording of music by American composers. Duffy acted as the organization’s President for almost 20 years, and helped advance the careers of dozens of today’s leading American composers.
Music Played in Today's Program
John DuffySymphony No. 1 (Utah)Milwaukee Symphony; Zdenek Macal, cond.Koss 1022