Virgil Thomson (1886-1989, American)

I never quite understood the standing that Virgil Thomson seemed to enjoy as a composer among his peers. Is it because he was also a redoubted music critic and concert organizer, and better kowtow than antagonize? I don’t know, but the music of Thomson I’ve heard is rarely very forward-looking and memorable, or memorable for being often very backward looking, despite the advocacy of great performers like Stokowski.

I’ve reviewed the following:

Second String Quartet by the Kohon Quartet in Vox’s invaluable The American Composers Series, American String Quartets 1900-1950 (with works of William Schuman, Howard Hanson, George Gershwin, Roger Sessions, Charles Ives, Peter Mennin, Walter Piston, Aaron Copland), VoxBox CDX 5090 (1993). Of the quartet I say “It was written in 1931, and it sounds like it had been written by some epigone of Dvorak, when not Schubert”)

Louisiana Story (Suite). Westphalian SO, Siegfried Landau (released 1973) in The American Composers Series: American Orchestral Music (with works of Ned Rorem, William Schuman, Howard Hanson, Gunther Schuller, Edward MacDowell). VoxBox2 CDX 5092 (1992)

Symphony No. 3. New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra, James Bolle (with works of David Diamond: Romeo and Juliet, Lee Hoiby: Piano Concerto). Bay Cities BCD 1003 (1989) barcode 094659100327 (see my review on pending repost here; it is titled “Appallingly derivative, to the point of pastiche”. The Symphony is a reworking of the Second Quartet, so….)

Portraits for Orchestra, Three Pictures, Four Blake Songs. Mack Harrell, Philadelphia Orchestra, Virgil Thomson, Eugene Ormandy. Bay Cities BCD 1006 (1989) barcode 094659100624 (with Ernest Bloch: Three Jewish Poems by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Walter Hendl) (see my review on – “some fine Thomson, but the antiquated sound limits this CD’s interest to the historically-minded collector” –  pending repost)