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Walter Piston (1894-1976)

Walter Piston, composerWalter Piston was a leading light among those mid-twentieth century American composers who opted to explore traditional musical forms and language. Although he was perhaps better known as a teacher and the author of a widely used book on harmony than as a composer, Piston's music displays superb craftsmanship within his selected neo-Classic-Romantic idiom. Piston was born in Rockland, ME, and moved to Boston in 1904. In his teens, Piston's musical education commenced with piano and violin lessons. At that time, however, painting was his main interest, but he conceded the superiority of his future wife, Kathryn Nason, in that field and concentrated on music. With the entry of the United States into the First World War, Piston hurriedly crammed the rudiments of saxophone technique and enlisted in the Navy as a band musician. In between rehearsals and performances, he familiarized himself with most of the other instruments in the band, learning to produce at least a few tunes on each one. This was an invaluable experience for one whose name would become linked to orchestral composition. After the war, Piston entered Harvard, graduating in 1924, and from there he went to Paris to study with Paul Dukas and Nadia Boulanger. Piston returned to the U.S. in 1926 and joined the faculty of Harvard, retiring in 1960. In 1938 his ballet The Incredible Flutist was performed, and the suite from this was for many years his most celebrated work. Piston commenced upon his series of eight symphonies with his First in 1937. With these, the composer revealed his prowess in the field of large-scale absolute music, garnering a steady stream of prestigious awards and honors, among them the New York Music Critics Circle for the Second Symphony (1945), and the Pulitzer Prize for the Third Symphony (1948) and the Seventh Symphony (1959). In the last year of his life, Piston achieved what may have been his largest audience when a performance of the Second Symphony was televised on PBS's Evening at Symphony.  As a composer, Walter Piston remained an enlightened conservative, taking the Neo-classic mode of expression and infusing it into larger Romantic forms with flawless craftsmanship, making him one of the great bearers of the symphonic tradition in the twentieth century.
-  Wayne Reisig/AllMusic

COMPOSITIONS                                                            Piston Links     ~ ~ ~     Works by Genre
Fugue pour quatuor cordes sur un sujet de Fenaroli, string quartet (no date [1924-26?], unpublished)
Orchestra Piece (1925, unpublished)
Three Pieces, flute, clarinet and bassoon (1925) [1926?]
Piano Sonata (1926, unpublished; withdrawn)
Symphonic Piece (1927, unpublished)
Minuetto in stile vecchio, string quartet (1927, unpublished; withdrawn)
Suite (No. 1) for Orchestra (1929)
Flute Sonata, flute and piano (1930)
Suite, oboe and piano (1931)
Concerto for Orchestra (1933)
String Quartet No. 1 (1933)
Prelude and Fugue, orchestra (1934)
Piano Trio No. 1, violin, cello and piano (1935)
String Quartet No. 2 (1935)
Symphony No. 1, orchestra (1937)
Piano Concertino, piano and chamber orchestra (1937)
The Incredible Flutist, ballet (1938)
    - Suite from The Incredible Flutist, orchestra (1938)
Carnival Song, male chorus and brass (1938) [text: L. de Medici]
Violin Concerto No. 1 (1939)
Violin Sonata, violin and piano (1939)
March, chorus (1940)
Chromatic Study on the Name of BACH, organ (1940)
Sinfonietta, chamber orchestra (1941)
Fanfare for the Fighting French, brass and percussion (1942)
Flute Quintet, flute and string quartet (1942)
Interlude, viola and piano (1942)
Prelude and Allegro, organ and string orchestra (1943)
Symphony No. 2, orchestra (1943)
Passacaglia, piano (1943)
Fugue on a Victory Tune, orchestra (1944, unpublished)
Variation on a Theme by Eugene Goossens, orchestra (1944) [1 of 10 "Jubilee Variations"]
Partita, violin, viola and organ (1944)
Sonatina, violin and harpsichord (1945)
Improvisation, piano (1945)
Divertimento, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, string quartet and double bass (1946)
Suite No. 2 for Orchestra (1947)
Symphony No. 3, orchestra (1946–47)
String Quartet No. 3 (1947)
Toccata, orchestra (1948)
Duo (Duet), viola and cello (1949)
Piano Quintet, piano and string quartet (1949)
Symphony No. 4, orchestra (1950)
Tunbridge Fair (Intermezzo), symphonic band (1950)
String Quartet No. 4 (1951)
Fantasy for English Horn, Harp, and Strings (1952) 
Symphony No. 5, orchestra (1954)
Symphony No. 6, orchestra (1955) [composed for the 75th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra]
Serenata, orchestra (1956)
Wind Quintet (1956)
Viola Concerto (1957)
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1958) [1959?]
Psalm and Prayer of David, chorus, fl, cl, bsn, vln, va, vc, db (1958)
    - O Sing unto the Lord a New Song (Ps xcvi)
    - Bow Down thine Ear, O Lord (Ps xxcvi)
Three New England Sketches, orchestra (1959)
Symphony No. 7, orchestra (1960)
Violin Concerto No. 2 (1960)
Symphonic Prelude, orchestra (1961)
Lincoln Center Festival Overture, orchestra (1962)
String Quartet No. 5 (1962)
Variations on a Theme by Edward Burlingame Hill, orchestra (1963)
Capriccio for Harp and String Orchestra (1963)
Piano Quartet, piano, violin, viola and cello (1964)
String Sextet (1964)
Pine Tree Fantasy, orchestra (1965)
Symphony No. 8, orchestra (1965)
Variations for Cello and Orchestra (1966)
Piano Trio No. 2, violin, cello and piano (1966)
Ricercare, orchestra (1967)
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1967)
Souvenir, flute, viola and harp (1967)
Ceremonial Fanfare, brass and percussion (1969)
Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra (1970)
Variation on Happy Birthday, piano (1970, unpublished)
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (1971)
Duo, cello and piano (1972)
Three Counterpoints, violin, viola and cello (1973)
Bicentennial Fanfare, orchestra (1975)
Concerto for String Quartet, Wind Instruments and Percussion (1976)


WORKS BY GENRE                                                            Piston Links     ~ top of page ~
Ballet
The Incredible Flutist, ballet (1938)

Orchestra
Orchestra Piece (1925, unpublished)
Symphonic Piece (1927, unpublished)
Suite (No. 1) for Orchestra (1929)
Concerto for Orchestra (1933)
Prelude and Fugue, orchestra (1934)
Symphony No. 1, orchestra (1937)
Suite from The Incredible Flutist, orchestra (1938)
Sinfonietta, chamber orchestra (1941)
Fanfare for the Fighting French, brass and percussion (1942)
Prelude and Allegro, organ and string orchestra (1943)
Symphony No. 2, orchestra (1943)
Fugue on a Victory Tune, orchestra (1944, unpublished)
Variation on a Theme by Eugene Goossens, orchestra (1944) [1 of 10 "Jubilee Variations"]
Suite No. 2 for Orchestra (1947)
Symphony No. 3, orchestra (1946–47)
Toccata, orchestra (1948)
Symphony No. 4, orchestra (1950)
Symphony No. 5, orchestra (1954)
Symphony No. 6, orchestra (1955) [composed for the 75th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra]
Serenata, orchestra (1956)
Three New England Sketches, orchestra (1959)
Symphony No. 7, orchestra (1960)
Symphonic Prelude, orchestra (1961)
Lincoln Center Festival Overture, orchestra (1962)
Variations on a Theme by Edward Burlingame Hill, orchestra (1963)
Pine Tree Fantasy, orchestra (1965)
Symphony No. 8, orchestra (1965)
Ricercare, orchestra (1967)
Ceremonial Fanfare, brass and percussion (1969)
Bicentennial Fanfare, orchestra (1975)

Band
Suite from The Incredible Flutist, band (1938) [arr. by ???]
Tunbridge Fair (Intermezzo), symphonic band (1950)

Soloist(s) w/Orchestra
Piano Concertino, piano and chamber orchestra (1937)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (1939)
Prelude and Allegro, organ and string orchestra (1943)
Fantasy for English Horn, Harp, and Strings (1952) 
Viola Concerto (1957)
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1958) [1959?]
Violin Concerto No. 2 (1960)
Capriccio for Harp and String Orchestra (1963)
Variations for Cello and Orchestra (1966)
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1967)
Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra (1970)
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (1971)
Concerto for String Quartet, Wind Instruments and Percussion (1976)

Choral
Carnival Song, male chorus and brass (1938) [text: L. de Medici]
March, chorus (1940)
Psalm and Prayer of David, chorus, fl, cl, bsn, vln, va, vc, db (1958)
    - O Sing unto the Lord a New Song (Ps xcvi)
    - Bow Down thine Ear, O Lord (Ps xxcvi)

Chamber
Fugue pour quatuor cordes sur un sujet de Fenaroli, string quartet (no date [1924-26?], unpublished)
Three Pieces, flute, clarinet and bassoon (1925) [1926?]
Minuetto in stile vecchio, string quartet (1927, unpublished; withdrawn)
String Quartet No. 1 (1933)
Piano Trio No. 1, violin, cello and piano (1935)
String Quartet No. 2 (1935)
Flute Quintet, flute and string quartet (1942)
Fanfare for the Fighting French, brass and percussion (1942)
Partita, violin, viola and organ (1944)
Divertimento, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, string quartet and double bass (1946)
String Quartet No. 3 (1947)
Duo (Duet), viola and cello (1949)
Piano Quintet, piano and string quartet (1949)
String Quartet No. 4 (1951)
Wind Quintet (1956)
String Quartet No. 5 (1962)
Piano Quartet, piano, violin, viola and cello (1964)
String Sextet (1964)
Piano Trio No. 2, violin, cello and piano (1966)
Souvenir, flute, viola and harp (1967)
Ceremonial Fanfare, brass and percussion (1969)
Duo, cello and piano (1972)
Three Counterpoints, violin, viola and cello (1973)

Instrument and Piano or Harpsichord
Flute Sonata, flute and piano (1930)
Suite, oboe and piano (1931)
Violin Sonata, violin and piano (1939)
Interlude, viola and piano (1942)
Sonatina, violin and harpsichord (1945)

Piano or Organ
Piano Sonata (1926, unpublished; withdrawn)
Chromatic Study on the Name of BACH, organ (1940)
Passacaglia, piano (1943)
Improvisation, piano (1945)
Variation on Happy Birthday, piano (1970, unpublished)


PISTON  LINKS                                                            Works by Genre      ~ top of page ~
[under construction]
American Harmonies: The Music of Walter Piston (Leon Botstein, American Symphony Orchestra)
An Awful Lot of Notes - - Sketches of Walter Piston (Cait Miller, Library of Congress)
Walter Piston: 1894–1976 (Carol J. Oja, American Symphony Orchestra)

Reappraising Walter Piston (Carol J. Oja, NewMusicBox)

Composer website (at G. Schirmer)    . . .   inquire about Walter Piston:  here

Piston @ Wikipedia
Piston @ American Music Center
Piston @ Answers.com
Piston @ Art of the States
Piston @ Classic Cat
Piston @ Classical Archives
Piston @ Classical Composers Database
Piston @ Classical Music Review
Piston @ Classical Net
Piston @ ClassicsToday
Piston @ Dr. Estrella's Incredibly Abridged Dictionary of Composers
Piston @ Facebook
Piston @ Infography
Piston @ InstantEncore
Piston @ Karadar Classical Music
Piston @ Kunst der Fuge
Piston @ Modern Classical
Piston @ MSN Music
Piston @ MusicWeb International
Piston @ Naxos
Piston @ The New York Times
Piston @ NNDB
Piston @ W.W. Norton
Piston @ PBS
Piston @ The Pulitzer Prizes
Piston @ G. Schirmer
Piston @ Suite101
Piston @ Wind Repertory Project

Publisher
Piston @ Associated [G. Schirmer]
Piston @ Boosey & Hawkes
Piston @ E.C. Schirmer
Piston @ G. Schirmer

Streaming Audio
Piston @ Art of the States
Piston @ Classical Archives
Piston @ Forum Network/The Creative Mind: The Composer as Creator - Interview
Piston @ last.fm
Piston @ Rhapsody.com

Recordings
Piston @ Amazon.com
Piston @ ArkivMusic
Piston @ CD Universe
Piston @ ClassicsOnline
Piston @ Discogs

Video
Piston @ YouTube
Piston @ Google Video

Piston on Piston: The Creative Mind: The Composer as Creator/Lyman Bryson (streaming audio)

Walter Piston, composerComposers Speak on the Web at Pytheas
                            ~ click on composer picture to listen ~







. . . and check out more    Composers Speak on the Web    at Pytheas

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