Persichetti, Vincent (Ludwig)

views updated May 11 2018

Persichetti, Vincent (Ludwig)

Persichetti, Vincent (Ludwig), remarkable American composer and pedagogue whose finely amalgamated instrumental and symphonic music created an image of classical modernity; b. Philadelphia, June 6, 1915; d. there, Aug. 13, 1987. His father was a native of Abruzzi, Italy, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1894. His mother was of German descent, hailing from Bonn. Persichetti’s middle name was given to him not to honor Beethoven but to commemorate his maternal grandfather who owned a saloon in Camden, N.J. He studied piano, organ, double bass, tuba, theory, and composition as a youth; began his career as a professional musician when he was only 11 years old; became a church organist at 15. He took courses in composition with Russell King Miller at the Combs Cons. (Mus.B., 1936); then served as head of the theory and composition dept. there; concurrently studied conducting with Reiner at the Curtis Inst. of Music (diploma, 1938) and piano with Samaroff and composition with Nordoff at the Philadelphia Cons. (M.Mus., 1941; D.Mus., 1945); also studied composition with Harris at Colo. Coll. From 1941 to 1947 he was head of the theory and composition dept. of the Philadelphia Cons.; in 1947, joined the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music in N.Y.; in 1963, was named chairman of the composition dept. there. In 1952 he became director of music publishing of Elkan-Vogel, Inc. With F. Schreiber, he wrote a biography of William Schuman (N.Y., 1954). He publ, a valuable manual, Twentieth Century Harmony: Creative Aspects and Practice (N.Y., 1961). His music is remarkable for its polyphonic skill in fusing the ostensibly incompatible idioms of Classicism, Romanticism, and stark modernism, while the melodic lines maintain an almost Italianate diatonicism in a lyrical manner. The skillful concatenation of ostensibly mutually exclusive elements created a style that was characteristically Persichetti’s. He was not interested in program music or in any kind of descriptive tonal works (exceptionally, he wrote a piece of background music for the Radio City Music Hall organs which was performed in 1969). His significance for American music, therefore, is comprised in his 9 syms., and, most particularly, in his 12 piano sonatas and 6 piano sonatinas. Although he stood far from the turmoil of musical politics, he unexpectedly found himself in the center of a controversy when he was commissioned by the 1973 Presidential Inauguration Committee to write a work for narrator and orch. for a perf. at President Richard Nixon’s 2nd inauguration. Persichetti selected the text of a speech by President Abraham Lincoln, his 2nd inaugural address, but, surprisingly, objections were raised by certain groups to the passionate denunciation of war in the narrative, at a time when the Vietnam War was very much in the news. The scheduled performance by the Philadelphia Orch. was hurriedly canceled, and the work’s premiere was deferred to a performance by the St. Louis Sym. Orch. on Jan. 25, 1973. In 1987 Persichetti contracted a cancer of the lungs, but even when racked by disease he continued to work on his last opus, Hymns and Responses for the Church Year, Vol. II. He requested that his body be donated to medical science. His devoted wife suffered a stroke and died on Thanksgiving Day in the same year. Her monograph on her husband (1960) remains unpublished.


dramatic: Opera: Parable XX: The Sibyl (1976; Philadelphia, April 13,1985). orch.: Piano Concertino (1941; Rochester, N.Y., Oct. 23, 1945); 9 syms.: No. 1 (1942; Rochester, N.Y., Oct. 21, 1947), No. 2 (1942), No. 3 (1946; Philadelphia, Nov. 21,1947), No. 4 (1951; Philadelphia, Dec. 17, 1954), No. 5, for Strings (1953; Louisville, Aug. 28,1954), No. 6, for Band (St. Louis, April 16, 1956), No. 7, Liturgical (1958; St. Louis, Oct. 24,1959), No. 8 (Berea, Ohio, Oct. 29,1967), and No. 9, Sinfonia Janiculum (1970; Philadelphia, March 5, 1971); Dance Overture (1942; Tokyo, Feb. 7, 1948); Fables for Narrator and Orch. (1943; Philadelphia, April 20, 1945); The Hollow Men for Trumpet and Strings (1944; Germantown, Pa., Dec. 12, 1946); Serenade No. 5 (Louisville, Nov. 15,1950); Divertimento for Band (N.Y., June 16, 1950); Fairy Tale (1950; Philadelphia, March 31, 1951); Psalm for Band (Louisville, May 2, 1952); Pageant for Band (Miami, May 7, 1953); Serenade No. 11 for Band (1960; Ithaca, N.Y., April 19,1961); Bagatelles for Band (Hanover, N.H., May 21, 1961); Piano Concerto (1962; Hanover, N.H., Aug. 2, 1964); So Pure the Star, chorale prelude for Band (Durham, N.C., Dec. 11,1962); Introit for Strings (1964; Kansas City, Mo., May 1, 1965); Masquerade for Band (1965; Berea, Ohio, Jan. 23, 1966); Turn Not Thy Face, chorale prelude for Band (1966; Ithaca, N.Y., May 17,1967); Night Dances (Kiamesha Lake, N.Y., Dec. 9,1970); O Cool is the Valley, poem for Band (1971; Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 5, 1972); Parable IX for Band (1972; Des Moines, April 6,1973); A Lincoln Address for Narrator and Orch. (1972; St. Louis, Jan. 25, 1973; also for Narrator and Band, Russelville, Arks., Feb. 1, 1974); Concerto for English Horn and Strings (N.Y., Nov. 17, 1977); O God Unseen, chorale prelude for Band (Winston-Salem, N.C, Nov. 4, 1984). chamber:Serenade No. 1 for 10 Winds (1929), No. 3 for Violin, Cello, and Piano (1941), No. 4 for Violin and Piano (1945), No. 6 for Trombone, Viola, and Cello (1950), No. 9 for 2 Recorders (1956), No. 10 for Flute and Harp (1957), No. 12 for Tuba (1961), No. 13 for 2 Clarinets (1963), and No. 14 for Oboe (1984); 4 string quartets (1939; 1944; 1959; Parable X, 1972); Suite for Violin and Cello (1940); Violin Sonata (1940); Concertato for Piano Quintet (1940); Fantasy for Violin and Piano (1941); Pastoral for Woodwind Quintet (1943; Philadelphia, April 20,1945); Vocalise for Cello and Piano (1945); King Lear for Woodwind Quintet, Timpani, and Piano (1948; 1st perf. as The Eye of Anguish, Martha Graham Dance Co., Montclair, N.J., Jan. 31, 1949); Sonata for Solo Cello (1952); Piano Quintet (1954; Washington, D.C., Feb. 4, 1955); Little Recorder Book (1956); Infanta Marina for Viola and Piano (1960); Masques for Violin and Piano (1965); Parable I for Flute (1965), II for Brass Quintet (1968), ÍÍÍ for Oboe (1968), IV for Bassoon (1969), VII for Harp (1971), VIII for Horn (1972), X7 for Alto Saxophone (1972), XII for Piccolo (1973), XIII for Clarinet (1973), XIV for Trumpet (1973), XV for English Horn (1973), XVI for Viola (1974), XVII for Double Bass (1974), XVIII for Trombone (1975), XXI for Guitar (1978), XX7Í for Tuba (1981), and XXI7J for Violin, Cello, and Piano (1981). keyboard:Piano: Serenade No. 2 (1929), No. 7 (1952), and No. 8 for Piano, 4-Hands (1954); 12 sonatas (1939, 1939, 1943, 1949, 1949, 1950, 1950, 1950, 1952, 1955,1965, 1980); Poems (3 vols., 1939,1939, 1941); Sonata for 2 Pianos (1940); Variations for an Album (1947); 6 sonatinas (1950, 1950, 1950, 1954, 1954, 1954); Concerto for Piano, 4-Hands (1952); Parades (1952); Little Piano Book (1953); Parables XIX (1975); Reflective Studies (1978); Little Mirror Book (1978); 4 Arabesques (1978); 3 Toccatinas (1979); Mirror Etudes (1979). Organ: Sonatine (1940); Sonata (1960); Shimah b’koli (1962); Drop, Drop Slow Tears, chorale prelude (1966); Parable VI (1971); Do Not Go Gentle (1974); Auden Variations (1977); Dryden Liturgical Suite (1980); Song of David (1981). harpsichord:8 sonatas (1951, 1981, 1981, 1982, 1982, 1982, 1983, 1984); Parable XXIV (1982); Little Harpsichord Book (1983); Serenade No. 15 (1984). vocal:Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for Chorus and Piano (1940); Canons for Chorus (1947); 2 Cummings Choruses for 2 Voices and Piano (1948); Proverb for Chorus (1948); 2 Cummings Choruses for Women’s Chorus (1950); Hymns and Responses for the Church Year for Chorus (1955; Philadelphia, Oct. 7, 1956); Seek the Highest for Voices and Piano (1957); Song of Peace for Men’s Chorus and Piano (1959); Mass for Chorus (1960; N.Y., April 20, 1961); Stabat Mater for Chorus and Orch. (1963; N.Y., May 1, 1964); Te Deum for Chorus and Orch. (1963; Philadelphia, March 15, 1964); Spring Cantata for Women’s Chorus and Piano (1963; Boston, April 1, 1964); Winter Cantata for Women’s Chorus, Flute, and Marimba (1964; Troy, N.Y., April 9, 1965); 4 Cummings Choruses for 2 Voices and Piano (1964); Celebrations for Chorus and Wind Ensemble (River Falls, Wise, Nov. 18, 1966); The Pleiades for Chorus, Trumpet, and Strings (1967; Potsdam, N.Y., May 10, 1968); The Creation for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1969; N.Y., April 17, 1970); Love for Women’s Chorus (1971); Glad and Very for 2 Voices (1974); Flower Songs (Cantata No. 6) for Chorus and Strings (1983; Philadelphia, April 20, 1984); several songs, including the major cycle Harmonium for Soprano and Piano, after poems of Wallace Stevens (1951; N.Y., Jan. 20, 1952).


D. and J. Patterson, V P.: A Bio-Bibliography (West-port, Conn., 1988).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Persichetti, Vincent (Ludwig)

views updated May 23 2018

Persichetti, Vincent (Ludwig) (b Philadelphia, 1915; d Philadelphia, 1987). Amer. composer, conductor, and teacher. Teacher of comp. at Philadelphia Cons. 1941–7 and at Juilliard Sch. from 1947 (chairman of comp. dept. from 1963). Publishing executive and lecturer. Prolific and fluent composer in wide range of styles. Works incl. opera The Sibyl (1976); 9 syms.; 15 serenades; pf. conc.; 12 pf. sonatas; 6 pf. sonatinas; 9 hpd. sonatas; 4 str. qts.; septet King Lear; pf. quintet; Stabat Mater; songs; and 25 works (1965–86), mostly for solo instr., under name Parable. Wrote Twentieth-Century Harmony (NY, 1961).

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