1. A few years ago, Gloria Coates completed her 13th symphony, and in so doing became the most prolific female symphonist in history, one up on the obscure African-American Julia Perry (1924-79) of Kentucky. Yesterday, Gloria told me she has completed her Symphony No. 15, which ties her with Shostakovich. It will be available on Naxos in a few months. Gloria characteristically does a lot with long, slow string glissandos, often overlaid with tonal passages for a bizarre but gripping effect. I particularly recommend her Symphony No. 4, “Chiaroscuro.”
2. Really odd offerings continue to appear on the International Music Score Library Project. A pianist in Kansas has posted Sonatas Nos. 7 and 8 by Johann Nepomuk Hummel. It is enshrined in the literature that Hummel wrote only six piano sonatas, very important and impressive works: the fifth, in F-sharp minor, was considered the most difficult piano work ever written, and Beethoven is supposed to have written his Hammerklavier Sonata in competition with it. Grove Dictionary still lists only six Hummel sonatas, but apparently there are three earlier ones, werke ohne opus, which have been numbered 7, 8, and 9 as coming after his recognized ones – much as the three Bonn sonatas that Beethoven published when he was 12 are enigmatically listed as Nos. 33, 34, and 35 in certain complete editions of the Beethoven sonatas. Very curious. One of my favorite assigments in my “Evolution of the Sonata” class is to give students the first eight measures of Beethoven’s first Bonn sonata (without divulging the author) and have them write the remainder of an exposition, to see whether they can do as well as the prepubescent Beethoven did. Perhaps Hummel’s early sonatas will work as well.
IMSLP also offers some chamber music scores of the short-lived Hermann Goetz (1840-76), whom Bernard Shaw raved about as one of the greatest of 19th-century composers. I don’t quite agree, but I have found Goetz’s music as compelling, overall, as, say, Mendelssohn’s. And I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to look through the two piano concerti (in four movements, like the Brahms No. 2) of the Swedish patriarch Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927). They’re not very good. Stenhammar went through a tremendous style change later in life, and, studying Beethoven and Haydn in detail, became a neoclassicist. I am fond of his admittedly extremely conservative String Quartets Nos. 4 through 6, and I hope those will appear in due course. In any case, IMSLP offers an opportunity to study a much richer and more varied 19th century than one learns about in school.
3. I bought a scanner today, and can now upload as PDFs my scores that only exist in the old obsolete Encore notation program. Accordingly, my Desert Sonata is now available on my web site, where it will soon be joined by my early Disklavier studies, as well as Custer and Sitting Bull. I’m inspired to do this partly by IMSLP. My early scores are available from Frog Peak Music, but I love having 13,000 mp3s on my external hard drive, and I’m enjoying having PDF scores there as well. There’s something about being able to check out a PDF score online before going to the trouble of obtaining it, and I like giving people a chance to do that with my own music.
4. On a completely unrelated political note: There was a wonderfully telling moment in Sara Taylor’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention. She started out saying that, as a deputy assistant to the president, she “took an oath. And I take that oath to the president very seriously.” Senator Leahy was forced to point out to her that the oath she took was not to the president, but to the Constitution. She conceded her error. Doesn’t that just about sum up everything that’s been wrong with the Justice Department?