Happy Independence Day! The Classical MPR staff have put together an online music mix of a few of our favorites, for your holiday listening. This list is only a sampling–what are some of your favorite pieces for Fourth of July? Would you like to hear other similar mixes? Enjoy the music, and let us know your thoughts.
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Here’s the playlist:
Alf Houkom, arr: Oh, Shenandoah
Dale Warland Singers
Blue Wheat (American Choral Classics 122)
Here, a classic American ballad meets the great Minnesota choral tradition.
John Williams: Liberty Fanfare
John Williams/Boston Pops
By Request (Philips 420 178)
In 1986, the Statue of Liberty was 100 years old. To mark the anniversary, the Statue got a complete restoration–and this fanfare.
Aaron Copland: At the River, from Old American Songs
William Warfield, baritone; Aaron Copland, piano
Modern American Vocal Works (CBS/Sony 60899)
It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without Aaron Copland, who enriched the repertoire with classics like “Appalachian Spring,” “Billy the Kid,” “Lincoln Portrait,” and the “Old American Songs.”
Jerome Moross: Main Title, from The Big Country
Tony Bremner/Philharmonia Orchestra
The Big Country Soundtrack (Silva 1048)
One of the classic Wild West themes, by a composer who wrote for Hollywood, the concert hall, and Broadway.
Stephen Foster: Hard Times Come Again No More
James Taylor, guitar and vocals; Yo-Yo Ma/Edgar Meyer/Mark O’Connor
Appalachian Journey (Sony 66782)
Stephen Foster was born on the fourth of July–literally. Over the years, his songs have been sung everywhere from vocal recitals to summer camp. As this performance suggests, his songs continue to resonate with American musicians of many genres.
Joseph Lamb: Ragtime Bobolink
Virginia Eskin, piano
American Beauties (Koch 7495)
Joseph Lamb was a contemporary of Scott Joplin, and brought his own elegant, personal style to ragtime.
Randall Thompson: Largo, from Symphony No. 2
Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic
Bernstein Century: American Masters (Sony 60594)
If you’ve sung in a church or school choir, you may have sung Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia,” one of the classics of American choral music. As this section of his Second Symphony shows, he could also express himself eloquently in orchestral music.
George Gershwin: Summertime
Kathleen Battle, soprano; Andre Previn/Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Honey and Rue (DG 437 787)
A memorable melody–and equally memorable words. Stephen Sondheim points out that it would have been easy to write, “Summertime, when the livin’ is easy.” Of course, it’s actually, “And the livin’ is easy” – one little word makes all the difference.
Earl Robinson: Joe Hill
Paul Robeson, bass-baritone
Songs of Free Men (Columbia/Sony 63223)
This is the best-known piece by Earl Robinson, who also wrote “Ballad for Americans” (also recorded by Robeson), “The House I Live in” (recorded by Frank Sinatra), and a concerto for banjo.
Leonard Bernstein: Make Our Garden Grow, from Candide
Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Bernstein Songbook (CBS/Sony 44760)
Voltaire’s novel “Candide” ends with the words, “We must cultivate our garden.” At the end of his stage version, Leonard Bernstein turns that terse observation into a soaring, expansive anthem.
Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag
New England Conservatory Ensemble
The Red Back Book (EMI 47193)
MacDowell: To a Wild Rose
Roderick Phipps-Kettlewell, piano
Singer (Amade 6395)
Edward MacDowell was one of the first Americans to play a part on the international classical music scene on an equal footing with European musicians. He excelled in the musical miniature, such as this favorite, played by Minnesota pianist Roderick Phipps-Kettlewell.
Stephen Foster: Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair
Chanticleer: A Portrait (Teldec 49702)
Here’s Chanticleer, giving a sophisticated close-harmony spin to Foster’s ballad.
John Klohr: The Billboard
Frederick Fennell/Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra
March World, Vol. 4 (Brain 7504)
You may not recognize the title of this march, or the composer–but you’ll definitely recognize the big tune.
Leonard Bernstein: Tonight, from West Side Story
Original Cast Recording
West Side Story (Columbia/Sony 32603)
“West Side Story” is still going strong, 52 years after its premiere. Check out this online exhibition from the Library of Congress.
Virgil Thomson: Allegro, from Symphony on a Hymn Tune
Howard Hanson/Eastman-Rochester Orchestra;
Virgil Thomson was an American original: a Missouri boy who went to Harvard, moved to Paris in the Jazz Age, knew everyone from Picasso to Frank O’Hara, and wrote some of the most memorable music criticism of any American. This symphony shows off some of his Parisian cheekiness–but his affection for his Baptist childhood comes through.
Kurt Weill: September Song
Walter Huston, vocals; Victor Young & His Orchestra
Hits of ’46 (ASV 5246)
Hard to guess from listening to this bittersweet ballad that it comes from a Broadway show satirizing Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Peter Schickele: Lively, from Piano Quintet
Lark Quartet; Peter Schickele, piano
Schickele on a Lark (Arabesque 6719)
Peter Schickele says that his quintet “couldn’t be more American” — echoes of the blues, boogie and fiddle music abound.