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Composer and conductor review the score of Symphony no. 4 in April 1971

With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Georg Solti led two world premieres by American composer and Northwestern University music professor Alan Stout.

The first was the world premiere of Stout’s Symphony no. 4, given on April 15, 1971. It had been commissioned by The Orchestral Association for the 80th anniversary season and was dedicated to Solti. The work also incorporates a small chorus, and for these performances members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by associate director Ronald Schweitzer) were engaged.

According to Arrand Parsons‘s program note, “Although the chorus is used in an instrumental manner at several points in the score, in the Chorale of the fourth movement it is used to project the Latin text which is taken from Chapter 5 of The Lamentations of Jeremiah. . . . The score of Symphony no. 4 utilizes the musical language of this day without following any single line. Expressive and dramatic use of sound and of sonorous groupings is the principal motivating force in the music; a wide range of densities and textures is to be found organized in a way which may best be described as architectonic. Orchestral clusters of sound often serve as the foundation for the projection of thematic elements. The symphony is of a sectional nature, but with a continuity running from beginning to end, often punctuated by floods of sound, and with a sensitive orchestration which gives coherence to the whole.”

The second Stout premiere conducted by Solti was the George Lieder (Poems from Das neue Reich), given on December 14, 1972. English baritone Benjamin Luxon was the soloist.

According to Parsons, “The George Lieder, based on an ‘Epigraph’ and three poems from Stefan George‘s Das neue Reich (The New Kingdom), comes from 1962. In this work Stout has captured in the music the expressive mood of the poetry—the poems are all love poems of a mystical, transcendental nature. The first and second songs are set to the last poems written by George. They speak ‘about a sweet and burning light that drives even the steadfast soul hard to the abyss,’ wrote Ernst Morwitz in his commentary on the poet’s works. Musically, the first poem is set to quiet contemplation; the second song takes its cue for an intense and driving musical realization from the words: ‘Into deepest calm/In contemplative day/Suddenly intrudes a glimpse/Of unimagined terror/Disturbing the soul. . . .’ The final song, again in the words of Morwitz, ‘tells of the flawless and slender flame that shines victorious in consuming passion.’ This sustained piece builds to a climax on the words, ‘Ich küsse dich mit jedem duft [I kiss you with every scent],’ and then gradually dissolves into silence (niente).”

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