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Van Vactor, David

Van Vactor, David

Van Vactor, David, American flutist, conductor, teacher, and composer; b. Plymouth, Ind., May 8, 1906; d. Los Angeles, March 24, 1994. He enrolled in the premedicai classes at Northwestern Univ. (1924-27), then changed to the music school there, studying flute with Arthur Kitti and theory with Arne Oldberg, Felix Borowski, and Albert Noelte (B.M., 1928; M.M., 1935); also studied flute with Josef Niedermayr and composition with Franz Schmidt at the Vienna Academy of Music (1928-29), and then flute with Marcel Moyse at the Paris Cons, and composition with Dukas at the École Normale de Musique in Paris. Returning to the U.S., he was engaged as a flutist in the Chicago Sym. Orch. (1931-43); also was an asst. conductor of the Chicago Civic Orch. (1933-34) and a teacher of theory at Northwestern Univ., where he was conductor of its sym. and chamber orchs. (1935-39). From 1943 to 1945 he was asst. conductor of the Kansas City Phil., where he also was a flutist; was founder-conductor of the Kansas City Allied Arts Orch. (1945-47); concurrently was head of the theory and composition dept. at the Kansas City Cons. From 1947 to 1972 he was conductor of the Knoxville Sym. Orch.; in 1947 he organized the fine arts dept. at the Univ. of Tenn., where he was a prof, until 1976. In 1941 he toured as a flutist with the North American Woodwind Quintet and in 1945, 1946, and 1964 as a conductor in South America under the auspices of the U.S. State Dept. He held Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships in 1957-58. In 1976 he was honored with the title of Composer Laureate of the State of Tenn. He publ. Every Child May Hear (1960). As a composer, Van Vactor adhered mainly to basic tonalities, but he enhanced them with ingeniously contrived melodic gargoyles, creating a simulation of atonality. The rhythmic vivacity of his inventive writing created a cheerful, hedonistic atmosphere.


ORCH: Chaconnefor Strings (Rochester, N.Y., May 17, 1928); 5 Small Pieces for Large Orchestra (Ravinia Park, 111., July 5,1931); The Masque of the Red Death,after Edgar Allan Poe (1932); Flute Concerto (Chicago, Feb. 26, 1933); Passacaglia and Fugue (Chicago, Jan. 28, 1934); Concerto grossofor 3 Flutes, Harp, and Orch. (Chicago, April 4, 1935); 8 syms.: No. 1 (1936-37; N.Y, Jan. 19, 1939, composer conducting), No. 2, Music for the Marines (Indianapolis, March 27, 1943; programmed as a suite, not a sym.), No. 3 (1958; Pittsburgh, April 3,1959; perf. and recorded as No. 2), No. 4, Waiden,for Chorus and Orch., after Thoreau (1970-71; 1stcomplete perf., Maryville, Term., May 9, 1971; listed as Sym. No. 3 at its premiere), No. 5 (Knoxville, Term., March 11, 1976), No. 6 for Orch. or Band (1980; for Orch., Knoxville, Nov. 19, 1981; for Band, Muncie, Ind., April 13, 1983), No. 7 (1983), and No. 8 (1984); Overture to a Comedy No. 1 (Chicago, June 20,1937) and No. 2 (Indianapolis, March 14, 1941); 5 Bagatellesfor Strings (Chicago, Feb. 7, 1938); Symphonic Suite (Ravinia Park, III, July 21,1938); Viola Concerto (Ravinia Park, July 13,1940); Variazioni Solenne (1941; 1stperf. as Gothic Impressions,Chicago, Feb. 26, 1942); Pastorale and Dancefor Flute and Strings (1947); Violin Concerto (Knoxville, April 10, 1951); Fantasia, Chaconne and Allegro (Louisville, Feb. 20, 1957); Suite for Trumpet and Small Orch. (1962); Suite on Chilean Folk Tunes (1963); Passacaglia, Chorale and Scamperfor Band (1964); Sinfonia breve (1964; Santiago, Chile, Sept. 3, 1965); Sarabande and Variationsfor Brass Quintet and Strings (1968; Knoxville, May 4, 1969); Requiescatfor Strings (Knoxville, Oct. 17,1970); Andante and Allegrofor Saxophone and Strings (1972); Set of 5for Winds and Percussion (1973); Nostalgiafor Band (1975); Prelude and Fuguefor Strings (1975); Fanfare and Choralefor Band (1977); The Elementsfor Band (Knoxville, May 22, 1979). CHAMBER: Quintet for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, and Flute (1932); Suitefor 2 Flutes (1934); Divertimentofor Wind Quintet (1936); 2 string quartets (1940, 1949); Piano Trio (1942); Flute Sonatina (1949); Duettinofor Violin and Cello (1952); Wind Quintet (1959); Children of the Stars,6 pieces for Violin and Piano (1960); 5 Etudesfor Trumpet (1963); Octet for Brass (1963); Economy Band No. 1for Trumpet, Trombone, and Percussion (1966) and No. 2for Horn, Tuba, and Percussion (1969); Musicfor Woodwinds (1966-67); 4 Etudesfor Wind Instruments and Percussion (1968); Tuba Quartet (1971); Suite for 12 Solo Trombones (1972); 5 Songsfor Flute and Guitar (1974). VOCAL: Credofor Chorus and Orch (1941); Cantata for 3 Treble Voices and Orch. (1947); The New Light,Christmas cantata (1954); Christmas Songs for Young Peoplefor Chorus and Orch. (1961); A Song of Mankind,1stpart of a 7-part cantata (Indianapolis, Sept. 26, 1971); Processional “Veni Immanuel”for Chorus and Orch. (1974); Brethren We Have Met to Worshipfor Chorus and Orch. (1975); Episodes—Jesus Christfor Chorus and Orch. (Knoxville, May 2, 1977); Processionalfor Chorus, Wind Instruments, and Percussion (Knoxville, Dec. 1, 1979).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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