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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, October 17

Schuman starts on third

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1941, the Boston Symphony gave the first performance of a new symphony by a 31-year old American composer named William Schuman.

It is numbered as Schuman’s Third Symphony but, in reality, you might as well say it’s his First.

Now, Schuman was not an early devotee of the New Math. The explanation is a fairly simple one: Schuman had written two earlier symphonies, but these were composed very much under the influence of his teacher, the American composer Roy Harris. Schuman wrote his first symphony in 1935 and a second in 1937. The Second was very well received, and had even been played by the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky. It was Koussevitzky who commissioned Schuman to write a Third Symphony, and conducted its premiere on today’s date in 1941.

It was with this work that Schuman felt he really found his own distinct voice as a composer. He withdrew his two earlier symphonies, and they were never published.

By the time of his death in 1992, William Schuman had completed a Symphony No. 10. So—subtract the first two, and that makes eight “authentic” and “officially authorized” William Schuman symphonies in all.

Music Played in Today's Program

William Schuman (1910 – 1992) Symphony No. 3 New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond. Sony Classical 63163

Additional Information

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