Podcast: Henry Cowell Legends



Part 3: American maverick composer Henry Cowell thought big when he composed symphonic music, and these works are no exception. Obsessed by Irish folklore, he experimented with Irish themes throughout his life. The grandiose and lush Four Irish Tales are based on his avant-garde Irish Legends which in turn are based on stories he may have heard from his father (a poet) or from spiritual guru John Varian (also a poet).

listen-to-CZ-buttonnow-on-itunes-buttonIn this episode of American Highways, pianist Guy Livingston brings us Henry Cowell’s legends, powerful music including the European radio premiere of Symphony Number 2, “Anthropos”, conducted by Leon Botstein.


Cowell showing off for reporters in the 1920s

AMERICAN HIGHWAYS: Henry Cowell’s “Legends”


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


Sarah Cahill

Cowell, Henry
Four Irish Tales:
I The Tides Of Manaunan
II Exultation
III The Harp of Life
IV The Lilt of the Reel
Conductor – Michael Stern; Orchestra – Radio Symphony Orchestra Saarbrücken; Piano – Stefan Litwin
Col Legno ‎– WWE 1CD 20064

Henry Cowell
Symphony No. 2 – “Anthropos
I. Repose
II. Activity
III. Repression
IV. Liberation
American Symphony Orchestra & Leon Botstein at Avery Fischer Hall
iTunes digital release of live perf. American Symphony Orchestra 2010


Chris Brown

Henry Cowell
Kroumata Percussion Ensemble, Johan Silvmark & Leif Karlsson
BIS (Sweden) LP 232

Henry Cowell
Three Legends
I The Tides Of Manaunan
II The Hero Sun
III The Voice of Lir
Stefan Litwin, piano solo
Col Legno ‎– WWE 1CD 20064


Here’s a tribute poem by Lou Harrison, one of Cowell’s students and friends:

Tens on Remembering Henry Cowell

Remembering Henry I realize
His central kindness and the gentle smile.
I remember his certain eagerness.
To like and to be liked and that he brought
A hundred kindred composers to meet
Each other out of that same amity.
The side life of his mind, I remember.
Was serene and free, as he was also.
Perfectly fearless in his melody
Those tunes that seeming had a folk-like turn
Still sing in constructs of objective thought.
Irish, he loved to talk, and spellbound all
With tales of populations, pianos
Or diesel engines, or performances
He spoke of marvels and taught by allure
He said “as you remember” and then told
Some wondrous thing you’d never heard til then,
Thus flattery disposed receptive minds.
He befriended pupils and was to me
Of all mentors most marvelous and whose
Steps part grass before me across the years.
-Lou Harrison

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