William Bolcom - Symphony No. 1

April 28, 2022

Robert G. Hasty conducts the Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra in William Bolcom's Symphony No. 1. 

(00:23) Allegro molto
(05:54) Adagio
(11:42) Tempo di menuetto
(14:20) Allegro

Bolcom received the Bienen School's 2021 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition. The biennial prize recognizes a composer who shows the highest level achievement in a body of work and a unique creativity.

Program Note

Bolcom’s First Symphony was composed in 1957 at the age of nineteen. Symphony No. 1 was premiered by the Aspen Festival Orchestra in July of the same year, under the baton of Carl Eberl. The symphony is expressive, colorful, and humorous, demonstrating Bolcom’s early command of orchestration and expression for the chamber orchestra. In this recording, NUCO is performing from the 1989 edition of the First Symphony, with revisions calling for a brisker tempo. The Allegro molto opens the symphony with muscularity and drama as the energetic interplay between the woodwinds, strings, and brass propels the work forward. The brooding second movement features anguished and angular lyricism rising to great intensity over an ostinato of pizzicato strings. The Tempo di Menuetto features a return to the first movement’s drama with humorous dissonance interspersed to conclude phrases. Finally, the march-like Allegro features a delightful melding of color between the woodwinds, brass, and strings.

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