176 Shulman

Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2010 by Fred Flaxman

Program 176
"Alan Shulman"


MUSIC: excerpt from Shulman: Rendezvous performed by clarinetist Maureen Hurd with pianist Barbara González-Palmer [MSR Classics MS 1314, track 6]
[under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. Stay with me for the next hour and we’ll explore the tuneful, romantic music of the 20th Century American composer Alan Shulman.

MUSIC: Fades out

Alan Shulman, who lived from 1915 until 2002, was a cellist as well as a composer. He played with the NBC Symphony Orchestra under conductor Arturo Toscanini, and with its successor, the Symphony of the Air. He and his brother helped form the once famous Stuyvesant String Quartet in 1938, which remained active through 1954.

Shulman wrote pieces for symphonic orchestra, string orchestra, chamber music, jazz, piano, songs and film scores. And we are going to begin this hour with his most famous composition -- famous, at least, amongst violists -- his Theme and Variations for Viola. This work comes in two different versions: one for viola and orchestra; the other for vila and piano. As I can’t decide which version I like better, I’ll open the hour with the version for viola and orchestra and close it with the version for viola and piano.

The orchestra is the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra conducted by Richard Rosenberg. The violist in this Crystal Records compact disc is Yizhak Schotten. Schotten was born in Israel but was discovered and brought to the United States by the famous violist William Primrose. Schotten has since performed all over the world while also serving as a professor of viola at my alma matter, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Here, then, is Alan Shulman’s Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra.

MUSIC: Shulman: Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra performed by violist Yizhak Schotten with the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra conducted by Richard Rosenberg [Crystal Records CD 635, Track 9] [13:26]

Alan Shulman’s Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra. The Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra was conducted by Richard Rosenberg. The violist was Yizhak Schotten in this compact recording from Crystal Records. That CD also includes one of my very favorite chamber music pieces: Schubert’s Sonata for Arpeggione as performed on the viola by Schotten, as well as works by Marin Marais and Benjamin Britten.

You are listening to the music of Alan Shulman on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m you guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

Alan Shulman was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of a Russian-immigrant father and Jewish mother. His father died when he was just one-and-a-half years old. Alan’s brother became violinist; his sister became a pianist, and the three of them formed the Shulman Trio when Alan was only eight years old. They performed concerts throughout the Baltimore area. All three children attended the Peabody Conservatory, where alan Shulman wrote his first music composition.

When Shulman was 14 his family relocated to Brooklyn, New York, where he won a scholarship from the New York Philharmonic and performed with the National Orchestral Association. He entered the Juilliard School in 1932 where he studied for five years. During the 1930s and 40s he worked as an arranger for André Kostalanetz, Arthur Fiedler and others, while teaching orchestration to Nelson Riddle, who later became famous as an arranger for singers Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole.

The Shulman brothers joined the brand new NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1937, which was established especially for conductor Arturo Toscanini. The following year the brothers were among the founding members of the New Friends of Rhythm, a symphonic jazz group that made many recordings between 1939 and 1947.

In 1946 famed jazz and classical clarinetist Benny Goodman asked Alan Shulman to write a short piece to play with the quartet on his summertime network radio series. The result was Rendezvous. Although Goodman played it only that one time, Artie Shaw picked it up and subsequently recorded it with the New Music Quartet. It has also been recorded by clarinetists Richard Stoltzman and Al Gallodoro.

But the version we’re going to listen to now is the premiere recording of Shulman’s own version for clarinet and piano. The clarinetist is Maureen Hurd; the pianist, Barbara González-Palmer. This is from a 2009 MSR Classics compact disc.

MUSIC: Shulman: Rendezvous performed by clarinetist Maureen Hurd with pianist Barbara González-Palmer [MSR Classics MS 1314, track 6] [5:04]

Alan Shulman’s Rendezvous performed by Maureen Hurd, clarinetist, and Barbara González-Palmer on piano. Hurd, a native Iowan, has been teaching clarinet at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University since 2002, serving as head of the woodwinds department since 2005. She has appeared in concerts throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, as has pianist Barbara González-Palmer, who also makes her home at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts. She directs the graduate piano program there.

In this lifetime Alan Shulman was highly respected by his fellow professional musicians as a cellist, as a composer, and as an arranger. In 1955 the famous violinist, Jascha Heifetz, recorded Shulman’s take on the Irish folk song, Cod Liver ‘Ile, with pianist Brooks Smith.

MUSIC: Shulman: Cod Liver ‘Ile , performed by Jascha Heifetz, violin; Brooks SMith, piano [RCA Victor Red Seal RCA 61766, track 12] [1:14]

Jascha Heifetz playing Alan Shulman’s Cod Liver ‘Ile with pianist Brooks Smith. That was No. 4 from Shulman’s Suite on American Folk songs. It was from an RCA Victor compact disc recording, Volume 35 of the Heifetz Collection.

During the 1950s Alan Shulman wrote numerous popular songs with entertainer Steve Allen and did several arrangements for Skitch Henderson and Felix Slatkin. In 1959 he was asked to join a Soviet-American composers’ symposium organized for NBC. In addition to Shulman, the symposium included American composers Roy Harris and Howard Hanson and Russian composers Shostakovich and Kabalevsky.

In 2010 Albany Records issued a compact disc devoted entirely to the cello music of Alan Shulman. Let’s listen to three excerpts from that 63-minute CD with Wesley Baldwin on cello and Kevin Class on piano: first Homage to Erik Satie, then Latin Serenade from Shulman’s 1960 Suite for the Young Cellist, and finally his 1941 composition, Serenade.

The Homage to Erik Satie was written to fit within the format of radio broadcasts of the era. This required a movement that was under three minutes for a 10-inch, 78 RPM record, or four minutes for a 12-inch record. The piece is written in the style of its honoree and was first performed by the composer in a version with string orchestra over the NBC Radio Network in June 1938.

MUSIC: Shulman: Homage to Erik Satie with Wesley Baldwin, cello, and Kevin Class, piano (Albany Troy 1187, track 4) [1:52]

Shulman’s Suite for the Young Cellist, from which we’ll hear the Latin Serenade next, was written for and is dedicated to his son Jay. I dedicate this program as well to Jay, for he’s the one who brought his father’s music to my attention. The Suite was first performed in Scarsdale, New York, in 1961.

MUSIC: Shulman: Latin Serenade with Wesley Baldwin, cello, and Kevin Class, piano (Albany Troy 1187, track 6) [2:09]

You can easily hear the influence of popular music of the middle of the 20th Century in Alan Shulman’s Serenade. The melody is almost like that of a popular song of the period. Although the piece was completed in New York City in 1941, its first performance did not take place until 1950. That was over the NBC Radio Network with the composer on cello.

MUSIC: Shulman: Serenade with Wesley Baldwin, cello, and Kevin Class, piano (Albany Troy 1187, track 9) [4:12]

Three pieces for cello and piano by Alan Shulman. First you heard Homage to Erik Satie, then Latin Serenade, and finally Serenade. Wesley Baldwin was the cellist; Kevin Class, the pianist.

You are listening to the music of Alan Shulman on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

I mentioned earlier that Alan Shulman was a cellist with the NBC Symphony Orchestra for its entire history. In 1954 he wrote a short, humorous piece which was recorded by the NBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Don Gillis. In 2002 Bridge Records issued a CD devoted entirely to the music of Alan Shulman as performed by the NBC Symphony Orchestra that concludes with that piece, The Bop Gavotte.

MUSIC: Shulman: The Bop Gavotte performed by the NBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Don Gillis (Bridge 9119, track 8) [2:53]

Alan Shulman’s The Bop Gavotte performed by the NBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Don Gillis.

In 2006 Albany Records issued a compact disc called “Voices of the Valley” on which soprano Danielle Woerner sings music by Hudson River Valley composers. The CD begins with Alan Shulman’s 1934 setting of text from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. It is called Song of the Moon Festival in the Woods. It was written when Shulman was 19 and still a Julliard student. It was his first publicly performed work, and was originally part of the incidental music he wrote to The Chinese Nightingale, a play based on Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of an emperor and his caged songbird. The piano accompaniment is provided by James Fitzwilliam.

MUSIC: Song of the Moon Festival in the Woods performed by soprano Danielle Woerner accompanied by pianist James Fitzwilliam (Albany TROY877, track 1) [1:56]

Alan Shulman’s Song of the Moon Festival in the Woods performed by soprano Danielle Woerner accompanied by pianist James Fitzwilliam.

If you were with me from the beginning of this hour devoted to the music of Alan Shulman, you’ll remember that it started with Shulman’s beautiful Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra. I promised to conclude the hour with Shulman’s equally beautiful version of the same music, but for viola and piano. Here it is now with violist Cathy Basrak accompanied by pianist Robert Koenig on a Cedille Records compact disc issued in 2000.

MUSIC: Shulman: Theme and Variations (1940) performed by Cathy Basrak, viola, and Robert Koenig, piano (Cedille Records CDR 90000 053, track 5) [14:02]

Alan Shulman’s Theme and Variations from 1940. The violist was Cathy Basrak; the pianist, Robert Koenig.

MUSIC: excerpt from Shulman: Rendezvous performed by clarinetist Maureen Hurd with pianist Barbara González-Palmer [MSR Classics MS 1314, track 6] [under the following]

And that concludes this hour of Compact Discoveries. This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening, and reminding you to go to compactdiscoveries.com for complete information on all of these programs as well as the opportunity to stream them on demand, read their transcripts, order CDs used in the programs, and enjoy articles about compact discs. This is program number 176 should you desire to hear it again or to read the script for details on the recordings used.

MUSIC: Up and out

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Total Program Timing: 58:00