A Quartet of New World Neoclassicists

Carol J. Oja

in Making Music Modern

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780195058499
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865031 | DOI:
A Quartet of New World Neoclassicists

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The Copland-Sessions Concerts celebrated youth, giving performance opportunities to composers who would eventually emerge as leaders in the United States. The stylistic range of music performed on the series was far broader than is generally recognized, yet there is no denying that one of its main constituencies was made up of composers with varying inclinations toward neoclassicism. Four of them are Roger Sessions, Walter Piston, Roy Harris, and Carlos Chávez, who, when placed alongside Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson, broaden our perspective on the diversity of American attitudes toward neoclassicism. Sessions and Piston both adopted fairly traditional stances toward the aesthetic yet achieved quite different results, whereas Harris and Chávez took much more idiosyncratic approaches. All four negotiated individual contracts with this transatlantic aesthetic in some of their earliest mature works. Among American composers born around the turn of the century, Sessions was the one most comfortable with his connection to the music and traditions of Western Europe.

Keywords: Roger Sessions; Walter Piston; Roy Harris; Carlos Chávez; neoclassicism; Europe; composers; modernist music; new music

Chapter.  6842 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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