Podcast: Cowell’s Melting Pot

Symphonic Series Part 5!

Pianist Guy Livingston brings us orchestral music by this little-known American master, Henry Cowell: the grand and bold Thesis Symphony, the ecentric Concerto Piccolo, and the eclectically cheerful American Melting Pot.

In this episode of American Highways, we discover more of Henry Cowell, one of the great American composers, who wrote an astonishing variety of symphonic works – large and small, intimate and bombastic, funny and poignant. An ardent ethnomusicologist, his influences range from Navaho chants to Japanese theater.

cowell teaching drums

Henry Cowell, percussionist


AMERICAN HIGHWAYS #65: Henry Cowell – “Melting Pot”

Theme Music :
Henry Cowell
Symphony #11 “Seven Rituals of Music
VI. Vivace
Robert Whitney: Louisville Orchestra
First Edition FECD-0003

Henry Cowell
Thesis: Symphony #15 (1961)
1.I.a. Largo
2. I.b. Andante
3. I.c. Presto
4. I.d. Allegretto
5. I.e.(i) Allegro
6. I.e.(ii) Recapitulation
7. II. Moderato
Robert Whitney: Louisville Orchestra
First Edition FECD-0003

Henry Cowell
8. Song In The Songless
Mary Ann Hart, Jeanne Golan
Albany Troy 240

Henry Cowell
American Melting Pot (1940)
9. Air (African-American)
10. Alapria (Oriental-American)
11. Chorale (Teutonic-American)
12. Rhumba (Latin-American)
13. Satire (French-American)
14. Slavic Dance (Slavic-American)
15. Square Dance (Celtic-American)
Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, Richard Auldon Clark
Koch 3-7220-2 HI

Henry Cowell
Concerto Piccolo
16. I
17. II
18. III
Conductor – Michael Stern; Orchestra – Radio Symphony Orchestra Saarbrücken; Piano – Stefan Litwin
Col Legno ‎– WWE 1CD 20064


Some notes about Thesis

from Henry Cowell’s program notes:
There is no extra-musical program. The form is unusual: five tiny movements, a choral-like introduction, an impassioned melody, a scherzo, a longer quiet melody, and irregular rhythm dance which leads into a recapitulation of these elements in one movement, and at the end a sonata-form movement based on an extension of the primary motive (a descending whole followed by a half step) which is the mainstay of all movements.

Alfred Frankenstein (critic): The work as a whole is one of the strongest, most eloquent, and powerful in Cowell’s huge list, and is a crushing reply to those who would write hm off as one of the conservative elder statesmen of modern American music



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