Author Topic: Harold Shapero (1920 - )  (Read 4541 times)

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Offline Guido

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Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« on: March 20, 2009, 05:04:27 AM »
On a spate of listening to stuff I haven't heard in ages, I dug out Shapero's Symphony for classical orchestra the other day and was again reminded by what a great piece it is. Several people have commented that it has the finest slow movement of any American symphony. I'm not sure I could ever say which was my favourite, but I can clearly see why people say that. His music is firmly in a neoclassical mould, very finely wrought, every gesture perfectly proportioned and beautiful. The attention to detail and consistent beauty reminds me of Irving Fine's music to an extent, though what I have heard has generally been a little less dissonant, and closer to the stereotypical image of an 'American sound' than Fine's music. He was as highly regarded as Fine in the 40s, drawing praise from both Copland and Stravinsky, but his (and Fine's) compositional career got sidetracked, Shapero's because of the evolving tastes of the establishment and a reluctance to change with the fashions, and Fine's by his untimely death.

I also own a recording of the three piano sonatas based on Haydn's models and a CD of his chamber music for strings and a CD with his sonata for piano four hands. The nine minute overture is coupled with the Previn recording of the classical symphony. I have loved everything that I have heard so far:



This website:
http://members.tripod.com/~del_Arte/composers/shapero_discog.html
lists a much larger discography, but I haven't been able to locate any of it. I would particularly like to hear the violin sonata and other various piano sonatas and pieces. I wonder if an 88 year old man uses email?

The early trumpet sonata has been recorded here:
http://www.amazon.com/Trumpet-Comes-Age-Jean-Coulthard/dp/B000003J62/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1237552816&sr=1-14

There is this CD too:
http://www.amazon.com/Americans-Rome-Various/dp/B001FA2WAK/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1237553675&sr=1-9
but it is unclear what music of Shapero is on here, and it is also very expensive.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2009, 05:12:22 AM by Guido »
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2009, 06:08:12 AM »
Must give the Shapero Symphony another listen to then :)

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2009, 06:22:45 AM »
Must give the Shapero Symphony another listen to then :)

Me too. I have the old Bernstein recording (great performance in poor sound) and was very impressed by it.

It appears that the Shapero oeuvre is quite meager.  :'( Why?
« Last Edit: March 20, 2009, 06:24:23 AM by Spitvalve »
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Offline Guido

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2009, 06:30:17 AM »
He stopped bothering as much essentially when his music was completely out of fashion in the 50s and 60s... he became interested in electronic music though, and was part of the music faculty at Brandeis University for 37 years.
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Offline Cato

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2015, 02:58:19 PM »
Many moons ago, when I was growing up in Dayton, the public library there was a marvel, in that their record collection for classical music included the contemporary composers then active: many are now forgotten, but I recall the records (in some cases rather vivdly).  Many of the composers were shown wearing those thick black-framed glasses popular back then, with a cancer stick in their hands, in a turtle-neck sweater, or in a white shirt with a thin tie.  Goatees (e.g. Robert Helps )and moustaches (e.g. Roger Sessions ) were not unknown.   :D

Besides Helps and Sessions (I agree that the latter is still fairly well known), the library also offered records with works of (severely squeezing the brain here to remember people not well known any more): Jack Beeson, David Van Vactor, Mario Davidovsky, Andrew Imbrie, Stefan Wolpe, Gene Gutche', Donald Erb, Ralph Shapey, Ross Lee Finney, Gail Kubik, Robert Mohaupt, Robert Starer, George Barati...

Why this walk down memory lane?

Because...

A Wall Street Journal article today (Jan. 16th) by Terry Teachout has a nice overview of Harold Shapero.   0:)

Quote
The American composer Harold Shapero, who died two years ago at the age of 93, is a prime example of the perpetually rediscovered artist. He was extravagantly admired by his contemporaries, foremost among them Aaron Copland, who praised his “phenomenal ear” and “wonderfully spontaneous musical gift.” Bernstein gave the premiere of his Symphony for Classical Orchestra in 1948, then recorded it to thrilling effect five years later. Alas, the winds of favor blew elsewhere, and soon Shapero was devoting most of his energies to teaching instead of writing music of his own...

Now Shapero is in the news again, albeit in a modest way: Sally Pinkas, who teaches piano at Dartmouth, has released a superlatively well-played CD of his piano music on Toccata Classics. It actually came out a few months ago, but I only just heard about it last week via a Twitter posting by Richard Brody, a Shapero fan who writes about film for the New Yorker. Somehow it seems fitting that it was a film critic, not a music critic, who drew my attention to this album, which includes an exquisite performance by Ms. Pinkas and Evan Hirsch, her husband, of the sparkling Sonata for Piano, Four Hands that Shapero wrote in 1941. It’s a masterpiece, but the chances that you’ve heard it, or of it, are microscopic.

What is it about artists like Shapero that keeps them from winning the fame they deserve? His own answer was blunt and to the point: “I’m not good at pushing, or at cultivating people.” No less important, though, is the fact that he wrote in a once-popular idiom that is now unfashionable. Shapero was a true believer in the gospel of neoclassicism, the lean, crisp style forged in the 1920s and ’30s by Igor Stravinsky,...



See:
http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-celebrated-unknown-1421374986?KEYWORDS=shapero
« Last Edit: January 16, 2015, 04:07:52 PM by Cato »
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Offline Abuelo Igor

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2015, 03:42:36 PM »
It appears that the Shapero oeuvre is quite meager.  :'( Why?

I read somewhere that he had shown the score of the "Symphony" to Stravinsky and the latter was quite disparagaring in his remarks. Maybe he got discouraged.
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Offline Cato

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2015, 04:14:34 PM »
I read somewhere that he had shown the score of the "Symphony" to Stravinsky and the latter was quite disparagaring in his remarks. Maybe he got discouraged.

I believe there is a similar story about a young Henry Cowell showing  a work to... Rachmaninov   ???   who began crossing out notes in the work: "You have 37 false notes," said Rachmaninov.  (Or some such number.)  Cowell later complained that the loss of those notes robbed the piece of its character.  He, however, did not get discouraged.
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Offline Daverz

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - 2013)
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2015, 07:14:46 PM »
We really need a new recording of the Symphony.  The Bernstein is mono, and the Previn is stereo, but sounds like an FM broadcast.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2015, 08:01:12 PM by Daverz »

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2015, 07:55:49 PM »
We really need a new recording of the Symphony.  The Bernstein is mono, and the Previn is stereo, but sounds like an FM broadcast.

What current crop of conductors are carrying the torch for American composers? That's the question.
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Offline Daverz

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - 2013)
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2015, 08:18:19 PM »
What current crop of conductors are carrying the torch for American composers? That's the question.

It does seem that the sources for new recordings of mid-20th Century American symphonists have dried up.

Offline Cato

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2015, 05:55:40 AM »
What current crop of conductors are carrying the torch for American composers? That's the question.

Excellent question.

It does seem that the sources for new recordings of mid-20th Century American symphonists have dried up.

To be sure, there could be a reason why few recordings are available: a good number of composers back then cranked out "15-minute symphonies" of little interest.  (That is a paraphrase of criticism I read in the 1970's.)  Certainly some gems are there, like Shapero's!
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Offline Daverz

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Re: Harold Shapero (1920 - )
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2015, 03:39:52 PM »
a good number of composers back then cranked out "15-minute symphonies" of little interest.

Yes, but so did many European composers, and they still get championed by Chandos, Dutton, CPO, Bis, Hyperion, DaCapo, Ondine, etc.  I'm not blaming them (and some European labels have recorded obscure American symphonists, e.g. CPO's Antheil series).  Obviously the US does not have the kind of governmental and non-govermental support for the arts that these labels rely on for sponsorship of recordings by native composers, and we shouldn't expect them to do the job of championing dead American composers.  But I wish they would, since I know my own country just doesn't value it's past very much.