Kalmar, Grant Park Musicians Give Strong and Eloquent Advocacy to American Music, Circa 1935

June 27, 2009

 At a time when few American conductors seem interested in excavating the vast riches of our musical past, all credit to Carlos Kalmar for his consistent and eloquent dedication to American music, which was shown again Friday night at the Harris Theater.

As July 4th approaches, programs of American music across the nation accelerate, and the Grant Park Music Festival is certainly doing its part over the next week. On Friday, Carlos Kalmar led the Grant Park Orchestra in a program of American works written in the 1930s (to be repeated tonight), and next week the festival will serve up a choral program of more homegrown music, in addition to the July 4th holiday concert.

It’s a good time to take stock of the state of the nation in terms of advocacy of our own musical heritage. Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein are repertorial cornerstones, as they deserve, and contemporary composers such as John Adams, John Corigliano and Philip Glass are critically lauded and popular with audiences.

But what of the vast array of 20th-century American composers whose music has largely disappeared from domestic concert halls? The best works of David Diamond, Walter Piston, Howard Hanson, Paul Creston and Peter Mennin are among the finest of our cultural legacy and remain scandalously neglected. Would it be a crime if for every tenth performance of the dreary Lincoln Portrait, we heard Piston’s Incredible Flutist or one of Diamond’s magnificent wartime symphonies? Read the full article at www.chicagoclassicalreview.com.

Lawrence Johnson, Chicago Classical Review.