The Fort Smith Symphony in Arkansas recently released the second recording in its multi-year cycle of symphonic works by William Grant Still for the Naxos label. The orchestra’s newest CD is the first commercial recording of Still’s Poem for Orchestra (1944) and Symphonies No. 4 (“Autochthonous,” 1947) and 5 (“Western Hemisphere,” 1945, rev. 1970), led by Music Director John Jeter. Still (1895-1978), often referred to as “the dean of African-American composers,” was born in Woodville, Mississippi and spent most of his childhood and teenage years in Arkansas. His music incorporates elements such as blues, spirituals, and jazz, within a romantic idiom. The Fort Smith Symphony’s first recording in the cycle (2005) included the Symphony No. 1 (“Afro-American”), In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy, and Africa, a symphonic poem. The recording session for the final release, of Still’s 2nd and 3rd symphonies and "Woodnotes," is set to take place in 2011.
Posted November 12, 2009