Author Topic: Robert Ward  (Read 6346 times)

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kentel

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Robert Ward
« on: June 13, 2010, 09:38:07 AM »
I saw no thread about him (let's hope I didn't miss any...)

I've listened to several Albany recordings lately, and discovered this very interesting composer. As many other American composers, his music his influenced by Copland's Open Prairie Sound, but he has a sense for melody and soft colors which I found really gripping in some pieces.

To say it shortly, I've heard these (Albany) cds :





I'm especially enthusiastic about his peaceful and velvet-like Violin Concerto (1993).  His Saxophone Concerto (1983) is another very beautiful, meditative and still piece.  Albany recorded only 4 of his 6 symphonies.  the 1st and the 3rd are really beautiful, though I wasn't that much fond of the 2 others (the 4th and the 6th).

Albany issued 2 of his operas : The Crucible (1961) and Roman Fever (1993). The first is based upon the play of the same name by Arthur Miller; the storyline is gripping, and Ward's melodic talent especially great in this piece. Roman Fever is not as enthralling as the Crucible. The libretto is based upon a novel by Edith Warthon which is quite good in itself, but this is mostly a conversation and nothing really happens. Thus, the possibilities of musical illustration are limited.

I enjoyed also the two violin sonatas (1950 & 1991), the very singing Appalachian Ditties and Dances for violin & piano, and the pastoral Bath Country Rhapsody for quintet and piano. Among his orchestral pieces, I think that the very badly entitled Sonic Structure is the most interesting : colourful, soft and very evocative.

Well, there are other interesting pieces, but I said I would do it short :) In fact, I heard very few uninteresting pieces, each of these cd's is at least worth the try.

--Gilles




Offline False_Dmitry

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2010, 11:28:26 AM »
Ward's name has cropped up on the opera discussion threads recently - mostly with reference to THE CRUCIBLE, of course. 

For anyone interested - who can live with it being split into 10-minute YouTube chunks - the entire opera is on YouTube in a very worthwhile performance from the Szeged Festival:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shFkfE88pD8&feature=related

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"Of all the NOISES known to Man, OPERA is the most expensive" - Moliere

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2010, 12:48:58 PM »
Just discovered his Symphony No 3 (thanks to jowcol), which I really like, especially the entry of the jazzy piano. Also I enjoy Symphony 2 very much and, to a lesser extent, No 4 both of which I have on CD. Certainly a worthwhile composer, although Ronald Lo Presti is a composer even more neglected and in even greater need of discovery (thanks to jowcol again for introducing me to this fine composer).
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

kentel

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2010, 01:03:25 PM »
Just discovered his Symphony No 3 (thanks to jowcol), which I really like, especially the entry of the jazzy piano. Also I enjoy Symphony 2 very much and, to a lesser extent, No 4 both of which I have on CD.

May I ask you on which cd you got the 2nd and the 4th ? (I suppose this is not an Albany cd...).

By the way, the 1st is also available on this Naxos Archive recording :




On this other you have his Adagio for orchestra with Cowell's Sixth. The Adagio is fine, nothing extraordinary though.



Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2010, 01:37:47 PM »
I have the Symphony No 4 which is in the picture you posted (blue cover) and Symphony No 2 on the CD below. Is the archive Symphony No 1 on Naxos a download or an actual CD?


"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

kentel

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2010, 11:45:49 PM »
Is the archive Symphony No 1 on Naxos a download or an actual CD?

I guess it's a download since I've heard it on the Naxos Music Library. On their site they say that All recordings on Naxos Classical Archives are available for streaming and downloading only.
. In fact they have it here : http://www.classicsonline.com/catalogue/product.aspx?pid=646349&affid=50

Thank you for the picture :) I'll try to find this 2nd symphony.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2010, 11:54:44 PM »
Thanks for info.

I think that this is the same recording:
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

kyjo

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2013, 01:44:28 PM »
Allow me to "bump" this thread. As some of you may know, Mr. Ward died last April, leaving Ned Rorem as the "Grand Old Man of American Music". While he was not a composer on the level of Barber, Schuman, Piston or Diamond, he composed accessible and enjoyable music in the "Western" vein of some of Copland's and Harris' music. His music is often criticized for being unmemorable, unoriginal or bombastic (criticisms which I can understand, to a certain degree), but I think anyone who enjoys the "wide open spaces" music of some of the composers listed above should definitely give Ward a try. :) His music has been generally well-served on disc, but a few substantial works, such as Symphonies 5 and 7, are still outstanding from his discography. His opera The Crucible is generally regarded as his best work, though I have not heard it. I can safely recommend all the Albany and Citadel discs of his orchestral music, especially the Citadel one with the PC and Symphonies 2 and 3. I can't say the performances on these discs (the Albany ones, especially) make the best case for Ward's easily overblown music, though. Imagine what Bernstein could've done with his music! One can dream.....

                 

(Apologies for the wildly different-sized pictures!)

 :)
« Last Edit: August 15, 2013, 01:52:52 PM by kyjo »

Sean

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2013, 07:26:35 PM »
I got to know the Third symphony a while ago, which is in the bleak Stravinsky style of American writing, somewhere between Symphony in three movements (and it is in three), Shostakovich and Hollywood. Actually it's fairly good with some very memorable material.



Thanks for the reminder- I think I'll explore the Adagio and allegro next-


kyjo

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2013, 07:30:30 PM »
I got to know the Third symphony a while ago, which is in the bleak Stravinsky style of American writing, somewhere between Symphony in three movements (and it is in three), Shostakovich and Hollywood. Actually it's fairly good with some very memorable material.



Thanks for the reminder- I think I'll explore the Adagio and allegro next-



Interesting that you were reminded of Stravinsky and Shostakovich in Ward's music! I align him much more with the Copland/Harris axis, though, come to think of it, there is a touch of neoclassicism in Ward's writing, but it is not the spare, dry brand favored by Stravinsky. Symphony no. 3 is one of his best works IMO, along with Symphony no. 2 and the Piano Concerto. Glad you enjoyed it! :)
« Last Edit: August 15, 2013, 07:32:30 PM by kyjo »

kishnevi

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2013, 07:54:51 PM »
Allow me to "bump" this thread. As some of you may know, Mr. Ward died last April, leaving Ned Rorem as the "Grand Old Man of American Music". While he was not a composer on the level of Barber, Schuman, Piston or Diamond, he composed accessible and enjoyable music in the "Western" vein of some of Copland's and Harris' music. His music is often criticized for being unmemorable, unoriginal or bombastic (criticisms which I can understand, to a certain degree), but I think anyone who enjoys the "wide open spaces" music of some of the composers listed above should definitely give Ward a try. :) His music has been generally well-served on disc, but a few substantial works, such as Symphonies 5 and 7, are still outstanding from his discography. His opera The Crucible is generally regarded as his best work, though I have not heard it. I can safely recommend all the Albany and Citadel discs of his orchestral music, especially the Citadel one with the PC and Symphonies 2 and 3. I can't say the performances on these discs (the Albany ones, especially) make the best case for Ward's easily overblown music, though. Imagine what Bernstein could've done with his music! One can dream.....




I saw a performance of The Crucible in Atlanta some thirty five years ago (c. 1978).  From my recollection,  a comparison to Barber would be most apt.  The performance suffered from a pronounced tendency for the brass to drown out the singers; don't know whether this was a quirk of the acoustics,  or something specific to the performance, or the fault of Ward's orchestration--but it did seem as if the brass very often doubled the vocal line, especially the trombone,  with unfortunate results.     Hopefully a well engineered recording would remedy that defect. (Libretto seemed to be a complete or almost complete setting of Miller's play.)
I don't remember hearing anything more by Ward, so I don't know how The Crucible compares stylistically to the rest of his compositions.

kyjo

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2013, 08:09:29 PM »
I don't remember hearing anything more by Ward, so I don't know how The Crucible compares stylistically to the rest of his compositions.

You mentioned a comparison to Barber.....much of Ward's music shares Barber's general tonal language and use of neo-romantic elements, but Ward's music is generally less dark and intense than Barber's. Ward's music is more in keeping with the music of Copland's "American" period and that of Roy Harris than Barber's more European-influenced music. That said, I've never heard The Crucible; perhaps it's one of Ward's more serious works in tone? I'll have to check it out.....

Sean

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2013, 10:27:05 PM »
I see there's an amateur performance here but can't serve as a way to get into this significant work in American opera.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8_Fhmbtbj4

I'll bear those recommendations in mind kyjo...

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2013, 01:38:03 AM »
You mentioned a comparison to Barber.....much of Ward's music shares Barber's general tonal language and use of neo-romantic elements, but Ward's music is generally less dark and intense than Barber's. Ward's music is more in keeping with the music of Copland's "American" period and that of Roy Harris than Barber's more European-influenced music. That said, I've never heard The Crucible; perhaps it's one of Ward's more serious works in tone? I'll have to check it out.....

I have been listening to the Bay Cities CD today featuring Ward's Piano Concerto and symphonies 2 and 3. I especially liked the Symphony No 2 performed by the Japan PO under William Strickland (whose recording of Barber's 1st Symphony is my favourite recording of that work). I also love the poignant piano entry in Symphony No 3. Ward may not be amongst the greatest American composers but I find his work to be both enjoyable and touching in places. The Piano Concerto has a lovely tune in the opening movement.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

kyjo

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2013, 05:55:04 AM »
I have been listening to the Bay Cities CD today featuring Ward's Piano Concerto and symphonies 2 and 3. I especially liked the Symphony No 2 performed by the Japan PO under William Strickland (whose recording of Barber's 1st Symphony is my favourite recording of that work). I also love the poignant piano entry in Symphony No 3. Ward may not be amongst the greatest American composers but I find his work to be both enjoyable and touching in places. The Piano Concerto has a lovely tune in the opening movement.

I agree, Jeffrey; that Bay Cities disc is far and away the best disc of Ward's music out there. Not only because the pieces on that disc are some of Ward's best, but the performances are superb compared to those on the Albany discs, which sound underrehearsed and without character.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2018, 06:20:59 AM »
I just discovered Symphony 1 (1942) - the CD pictures in the opening post of this thread. I really like it; it is very short (under 13 minutes in three movement) but it is oddly moving. I know that Ward is not considered alongside Copland, Harris etc but this work moved me and I have already played it several times. It is a lyrical and memorable work with a touching slow movement. The whole CD is very enjoyable. The Quintet for Oboe reminded me of Bliss's Oboe Quintet (his greatest chamber work IMHO).

I'm rather sorry that this thread isn't called 'Almost at the end of the alphabet - Ward'  8)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Cato

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2018, 04:32:51 AM »
Robert Ward!

I remember him well!   :D  Back in the '50's and 60's he was pretty big, especially because of his setting of The Crucible, but some of the symphonies and Euphony gave the impression of lasting fame.

Others from back then have faded e.g. (off the top of my balding head): Robert Helps, Robert Muczynski, Richard Mohaupt, Benjamin Lees, George Barati,  David del Tredici, Robert Starer, Andrew Imbrie, Donald Martino.

A good number of "Roberts" back then!  8)  Many of them I discovered via the Composers' Recordings Inc. label.
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2018, 06:24:16 AM »
Robert Ward!

I remember him well!   :D  Back in the '50's and 60's he was pretty big, especially because of his setting of The Crucible, but some of the symphonies and Euphony gave the impression of lasting fame.

Others from back then have faded e.g. (off the top of my balding head): Robert Helps, Robert Muczynski, Richard Mohaupt, Benjamin Lees, George Barati,  David del Tredici, Robert Starer, Andrew Imbrie, Donald Martino.

A good number of "Roberts" back then!  8)  Many of them I discovered via the Composers' Recordings Inc. label.
Thanks Leo. I wasn't expecting much response to this. I recall liking Symphony 2 in particular and there was also an enjoyable Bay Cities CD (I nearly typed 'Bay City Rollers' but they are something quite different).  8)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline arpeggio

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2018, 01:18:45 PM »
The Band Junkie Strikes.

He composed some nice works for concert band.  The most famous, which I have performed a few times, the Prairie Overture .

Link to a nice performance by one of the Air Force Bands:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GioN4sw1_Po

snyprrr

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Re: Robert Ward
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2018, 02:09:10 PM »
Robert Ward!

I remember him well!   :D  Back in the '50's and 60's he was pretty big, especially because of his setting of The Crucible, but some of the symphonies and Euphony gave the impression of lasting fame.

Others from back then have faded e.g. (off the top of my balding head): Robert Helps, Robert Muczynski, Richard Mohaupt, Benjamin Lees, George Barati,  David del Tredici, Robert Starer, Andrew Imbrie, Donald Martino.
redici
A good number of "Roberts" back then!  8)  Many of them I discovered via the Composers' Recordings Inc. label.

Oy vey, so much "bad music" on CRI, lol,... I keep a sampling of the ones I can't stand, or whatever, just to remind myself every now and then,... Martin Boyken, Starer, Lees, Ezra Sims, Donald Harris, Berger, Tredici, if I could only tell you the Most Annoying Composer of All it has to be in the CRI catalog...

Halsey Stevens anyone?

I also liked Leslie B... oh what's his name, 'Invisible World'...


(searches for Robert WARD),... was there an Emerson SQ disc?... (rummaging),...