Persichetti was born of German
and Italian parents in Philadelphia. He remained very much
a Philadelphia figure though for much of his life he taught
at the Juilliard.
His catalogue runs to 160
works of which there are nine symphonies and twelve piano
sonatas. His language accommodated both the lyrico-Americana
strand and atonality. We hear both in this collection.
The present works represent
part of his contribution to the vital high school and college
wind band movement. For this market his style often had
a strong lyrical emphasis. The same lyrical scene was also
served by compositions by Giannini, Hanson, Schuman, Harris
and Piston. And it is into this broad grouping that Persichetti's
music on this disc slides although Parable and Pageant ensure
that it is not a perfect fit.
six Stravinskian melodic movements are not separately tracked
although there are clear pauses between each section. The
stunning Psalm has the impulsive Western
skies energy and epic bearing of a Roy Harris symphony. O
God Unseen, the latest piece here, is more subtle
with its hesitant wisps of melody and cortege rather suggestive
of Sibelius. These gradually coalesce at one point achieving
a craggy grandeur then disintegrate into shards and motes. Pageant -
Persichetti seems to have had a fondness for P titles -
is dominated in its first part by a Whitmanesque elegy-soliloquy.
Then at 4:02 a boisterous element enters with rolling waves
of horns recalling both Moeran and Roy Harris. Masquerade embraces
atonality for the first time. It is based on a theme from
his textbook Twentieth Century Harmony. There are
ten little variations. Then back to those Ps. Parable for
band is one of his twenty-five parables. Like Pageant this
is explosively atonal not that this rules out a certain
loose-limbed craggy majesty. Bells and other percussion
add further facets. O Cool is the Valley, though
later than Pageant, is balmy,
peaceful and evocative of country scenes.
A wide-ranging and satisfying
conspectus of Persichetti's windband music first issued
in 1994 on Harmonia Mundi.
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Seen & Heard
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