About this Recording
FECD-0019 - DELLO JOIO, N.: Homage to Haydn / The Triumph of St. Joan
English 

Norman Dello Joio

Norman Dello Joio

 

In 1955, Henry Pleasants, a respected Philadephia Evening Bulletin, New York Times, and New York Herald Tribune music critic, shocked the musical world by publishing a book titled The Agony of Modern Music. He argued that modern music is an invalid attempt to stretch a thread - that of traditional European music - that can no longer be stretched.

 

We should not dismiss this argument lightly. After the previous turn of the century, many important composers indeed did conclude that the (to them) extravagant chromaticism of, for example, Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and Richard Strauss (1864-1949) had effected a coup de grâce to traditional European music. In other words, they concluded that this thread was not merely stretched, but broken. Among composers abandoning this tradition were Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951), for dodecaphony; Karlheinz Stockhausen (b. 1928), for electronic instruments; and John Cage (1912-1992), for aleatory.

 

Norman Dello Joio (b. 1913) disproves Pleasants’s viewpoint. The New York born composer perceives a healthy organism within the chromaticism of late Romanticism and, to this day, fans the flame of traditional European music. Applying his Pulitzer Prize-winning vision and skill, he breathes freshness into a musical tradition that some see as moribund.

 

One surmises that the initial source of Dello Joio’s optimism about European music was his family, which surrounded him with the traditional classics, along with church music, opera, jazz, and show music. Further, this optimism was encouraged through his studies, beginning in 1941, with Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), who urged the young musician always to follow only his deepest musical truths.

 

In his 1969 Homage to Haydn, Dello Joio captures, in unabashedly twentieth century language, the essences of Haydn’s music: adherence to Classical form; emphases on melody and rhythm; abrupt mood changes; and overall craftsmanship, inventiveness, and good humor. In the first movement, Dello Joio provides a typically Classical slow Introduction; followed by a profusion of delightful, lighthearted melody (albeit of a chromatic bent); and playfully abrupt mood changes. In the second movement, he conveys the tenderness typical in a Haydn symphony. In the third movement, even with twentieth century syncopation and chromaticism, Dello Joio communicates Haydnesque lightheartedness.

 

In the opening prelude to the first movement of The Triumph of St. Joan Symphony, “The Maid,” Dello Joio immediately reminds us that his is an original and well-crafted voice, introducing us to Joan through an inventive set of variations that is worthy of his beloved Haydn (1732-1809). In the second movement, “The Warrior,” he conveys discord through dynamic variation and relentless eighth notes. His choice to change meter from 12/8 to 4/4 is brilliant: it effectively transforms the pessimistic mood associated with war, to the optimism inherent in a coronation ceremony. In the final movement, “The Saint,” he conveys, through low string and brass sonorities, and by rhythmic tranquility, the prevailing peace that surrounded Joan of Arc’s impending death and ultimate sainthood.

 

Dello Joio’s audiences profit from his faith in the resilience of the western European classical tradition; and his students may take succor from the viability of his vision. Taken together, his compositions and teachings prove a South Carolina state motto: dum spiro spero (poetically rendered, “where there is life, there is hope”). As a bonus, and to Dello Joio’s great credit, also they prove the reverse: that where there is hope, there is life.

 

- David M. Kaslow

 

 

Homage to Haydn

 

The following is reprinted from the original First Edition LP release.

 

The title indicates my intense admiration for Haydn – his seeming simplicity and also good humor. The more intimately I get to know his work, the more I am struck by his endless imagination. The strong affinity I feel for him as a composer is due to the directness of his communication which tends to be characteristic of my own efforts.

 

- Norman Dello Joio

 

I. Introduction and Allegro scherzando. After a somber beginning adagio sostenuto, Hadynesque themes are delightfully interpolated by the strings. The movement is thoroughly charming, spiced with wit and inspired by Haydn’s liveliness.

 

II. Adagio, molto sostenuto. The most chromatic of the three sections, this movement derives its power, not only from its compelling harmonies, but also from a fascinating use of triplets in various rhythmical surroundings.

 

III. Allegro giocoso. Lively syncopated rhythms establish the warmth and freedom of the final movement. Popular modern rhythms abound. Had Haydn been a twentieth century man, given his exuberance and love for the melodies and rhythms of the people, he might have scored a similar movement.

 

 

The Triumph of St. Joan Symphony

 

The following is reprinted from the original Columbia Masterworks LP release.

 

Each movement is introduced by a Prelude. The body of the first movement (The Maid) are variations that are based upon a tune in 6/8 introduced by flute and oboe.

 

The body of the second (The Warrior) starts at the 12/8 which drives relentlessly to the climax before the more stately 4/4 which should finish in a stage of glory or in the mood of a coronation.

 

I cannot urge you strongly enough to have the orchestra sing the last movement (The Saint). I do not feel the end of this piece should be tragic but rather one of triumphant serenity. Joan must have welcomed the fire for it was the final test which led to her salvation.

 

- Norman Dello Joio

 

When the Louisville Orchestra gave the premiere of this composition at its concerts of its concerts of December 5 and 6, 1951, the eminent dancer Martha Graham mimed the work, using her own choreography. For the performance she supplied her own annotation, drawing quotations from Joan of Arc’s trial in 1431. The notes follow:

 

“Burned as a heretic, May 30, 1431. Canonized as a Saint, May 16, 1920. ‘I have done nothing except by Revelation.’ The Garden. ‘The voice came towards the hour of noon, in summer, in my Father’s garden.’ The Field. ‘Take the standard in the name of the King of Heaven.’ The Square. ‘Take everything peacefully: Have no care for thy martyrdom; in the end thou shalt come to the Kingdom of Paradise.’”

 

It is obvious, then, that the Symphony depicts Joan in her three phases, first as the simple and dedicated maid of Domreny who hears heavenly voices commanding her to rid France of the English, secondly as the warrior leading the troops against the aliens, and then attending the coronation of the King of France, and finally as the martyr, burned at the stake as a heretic, and at the last, achieving eternal glory as a Saint.


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