Author Topic: Paul Creston (1906-1985)  (Read 2359 times)

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kyjo

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Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« on: July 27, 2013, 11:47:08 AM »
I was rather surprised to find that there is no Creston thread here, so allow me to start one. I am a great admirer of Creston's music, which is an appealing blend of vigorous, rhythmic neo-classicism and warm, melodic neo-romanticism, with occasional borrowings from jazz. Creston never plumbed the depths with his music, but produced some delightful, bold, ecstatically melodic music that is never subject to clichés or triteness. It is, quite simply, feel-good music. He could be loosely grouped with composers such as Barber, Copland, Harris, Schuman, Diamond, Mennin, Piston, Giannini, Flagello and Menotti, but his music never copies any of these composers' styles.

Creston was quite prolific, but I haven't heard a work of his yet that has less than impressed me. A good deal of his music has been recorded, primarily by Naxos and Delos. As for his best works, I would consider the Symphonies 2-4, Violin Concerto no. 2, Toccata for orchestra, Chant of 1942 for orchestra, Choreographic Suite for small orchestra and Gregorian Chant for string orchestra prime candidates. It's virtually impossible for me to single out one or two best works. I've seen Creston criticized of having a limited compositional style, but I can't exactly see where those that have raised that criticism are coming from. To me, there is great contrast between, for example, the unbridled energy of the Toccata and Choreographic Suite, the mystical beauty of Symphony no. 3 and Gregorian Chant, and the noble power of Chant of 1942 and Symphony no. 2.

Though I am most grateful for the appearance  of much of Creston's music on disc in recent years, it is still worth mentioning what remains unrecorded. The most significant orchestral works that have not made it on CD yet include: Poem for Harp and Orchestra, Piano Concerto, Missa Solemnis, Violin Concerto no. 1 (which can be found on YouTube), Pavanne Variations, Chthonic Ode: Homage to Henry Moore (which can be found on YouTube), Sadhana for Cello and Orchestra, and, most importantly, Symphony no. 6 for Organ and Orchestra. I had hoped Naxos would have some of these works in the pipeline, but their once-strong American Classics series seems to be losing steam, unfortunately :(

Any other Creston fans?

 :)
« Last Edit: July 27, 2013, 11:48:55 AM by kyjo »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2013, 11:06:22 PM »
Yes, me again ( 8).

 I especially like Symphony No 2, which I have on a Chandos CD with Neeme Jarvi conducting (I think). It has a wonderfully 'catchy' section in it which stays in the memory. I have a long car journey today, so I'll try to fish it out to play. Come to think of it I think that I have a Koch CD with a Polish orchestra and there is a Naxos recording too. The 'Three Mysteries' Symphony did not make quite such an impression on me but I still enjoyed it and will have another listen to it.
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Offline lescamil

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Re: Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2013, 01:32:17 AM »
I'd love to hear the piano concerto in a modern recording. I once heard an old broadcast recording of Earl Wild playing it in the 1950s, and it was a nice mix of very pianistic flourishes, somewhat like Rachmaninoff, but with a more advanced harmonic language. Almost reminds me of the Romantisches Klavierkonzert by Joseph Marx, in terms of how downright dense the piano part is. I also heard the Symphony No. 6 once, but I have the same problem I have with the piano concerto, and, well, most of the other works I've heard by Creston. They're nice and enjoyable in the moment, but not a whole lot sticks around with me after I'm done with the recording. I've had more success with other American symphonists lumped in with Creston, such as Schuman, Persichetti, Mennin, and Piston. Still, I'd love to hear many of these unrecorded works. For now, I'll just have to dig up these old recordings again...
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kyjo

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Re: Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2013, 07:01:43 AM »
Lescamil, you have really whetted my appetite to hear Creston's PC! If it reminds you of both Rachmaninov and Marx's Romantisches Klavierkonzert (one of my favorite PCs), but in a more advanced language, that sounds like it would be right up my alley!

I think maybe your problem with Creston is that he didn't exactly set out to change the world with his music. It doesn't have that dark, emotional power that you find in Schuman and Mennin's music. But, to me it has its own sort of quiet, understated power. In this regard Creston reminds me a bit of Ned Rorem (now "The Grand Old Man of American Music"), in that it does not take you on a wild rollercoaster ride of emotions, but rather exudes a fresh, melodic air. I truly hope that makes any sense; I am terrible at wording things ;D

kyjo

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Re: Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2013, 07:08:24 AM »
Yes, me again ( 8).

 I especially like Symphony No 2, which I have on a Chandos CD with Neeme Jarvi conducting (I think). It has a wonderfully 'catchy' section in it which stays in the memory. I have a long car journey today, so I'll try to fish it out to play. Come to think of it I think that I have a Koch CD with a Polish orchestra and there is a Naxos recording too. The 'Three Mysteries' Symphony did not make quite such an impression on me but I still enjoyed it and will have another listen to it.

Symphony no. 2 is one of Creston's most immediately appealing works-it just sweeps you away in its almost Bernstein-esque energy. In comparison to its predecessor, Symphony no. 3 The Three Mysteries may seem a little slow-going, but on its own it is a touchingly beautiful piece. I found myself reminded of Respighi's "ancient" music in parts due to the music's lush yet restrained antiquity.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2013, 07:09:32 AM »
This is from the concert we sang in March.  IIRC, Paul Cienniwa initially chose these because there was not yet any recording of them.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/lFU0Yl5yG8U" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/lFU0Yl5yG8U</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/JUdOOhF8V1s" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/JUdOOhF8V1s</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/g_APLjev3WQ" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/g_APLjev3WQ</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/_j2K60horks" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/_j2K60horks</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/bvX0EDWXi_g" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/bvX0EDWXi_g</a>
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Offline lescamil

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Re: Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2013, 09:55:30 AM »
Lescamil, you have really whetted my appetite to hear Creston's PC! If it reminds you of both Rachmaninov and Marx's Romantisches Klavierkonzert (one of my favorite PCs), but in a more advanced language, that sounds like it would be right up my alley!

I think maybe your problem with Creston is that he didn't exactly set out to change the world with his music. It doesn't have that dark, emotional power that you find in Schuman and Mennin's music. But, to me it has its own sort of quiet, understated power. In this regard Creston reminds me a bit of Ned Rorem (now "The Grand Old Man of American Music"), in that it does not take you on a wild rollercoaster ride of emotions, but rather exudes a fresh, melodic air. I truly hope that makes any sense; I am terrible at wording things ;D

You know, I was also reminded of Ned Rorem's early Piano Concerto No. 2, which was recently dug up by Naxos. I think they were written roughly around the same time. We can only hope Simon Mulligan or a comparable pianist takes up the Creston Piano Concerto on Naxos or a similar label.
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Offline Rons_talking

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Re: Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2013, 11:16:04 PM »
Thanks for starting a Creston thread. As much American music as I've heard, Creston was unfamiliar to me. I'm presently listing to the Naxos recording and as many of you have said, the music is very well wrought and has an exuberant quality. I like it.

kyjo

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Re: Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2013, 07:48:33 AM »
Thanks for starting a Creston thread. As much American music as I've heard, Creston was unfamiliar to me. I'm presently listing to the Naxos recording and as many of you have said, the music is very well wrought and has an exuberant quality. I like it.

My pleasure :) Pleased to hear you enjoy Creston's music! That exuberant quality you speak of is what really made me fall in love with his music.

Sean

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Re: Paul Creston (1906-1985)
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2013, 06:35:39 PM »
I know the Second symphony and Saxophone concerto, characterized by open air American homophony with some Sibelian ice and clarity.

I'll be hearing the Toccata today.