Dello Joio: Family Album, Piano Works, Vol. 3



Family Album


Norman Dello Joio




debra torok and marylène dosse, pianists












Norman Dello Joio


The distinguished professional musical career of Norman Dello Joio began for him at age fourteen when he became a church organist and choir director of the Star of the Sea Church on City Island, New York. A descendant of Italian church organists, he was born January 24, 1913 in New York. His father was an organist, pianist, singer, and vocal coach. Dello Joio recalls that his father was working with singers from the Metropolitan Opera who used to arrive in their Rolls Royces, and that his childhood was surrounded with music and musicians at home. Dello Joio's father taught him the piano at age four, and in his teens he began studying organ with his godfather, Pietro Yon, organist at Saint Patrick's Cathedral. In 1939, he was accepted as a scholarship student at the Juilliard School, and studied composition with Bernard Wagenaar.


As a graduate student at Juilliard, he arrived at the conclusion that he did not want to spend his life in a church choir loft, as composition began to envelop all of his interest. In 1941, at Tanglewood and Yale, he began studies with Paul Hindemith, the man who profoundly influenced his compositional style. It was Hindemith who told Dello Joio, “Your music is lyrical by nature, don't ever forget that.” Dello Joio states that, although he did not completely understand at the time, he now knows what he meant: “Don't sacrifice necessarily to a system, go to yourself, what you hear. If it's valid, and it's good, put it down in your mind. Don't say I have to do this because the system tells me to. No, that's a mistake.”


In the latter part of the forties, Dello Joio was considered one of America's leading composers, and by the fifties had gained international recognition. He received numerous awards and grants including the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Award, the Town Hall Composition Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He won the New York Music Critics' Circle Award in 1948, and again in 1962. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for Meditations on Ecclesiastes for string orchestra and an Emmy Award for his music in the television special, Scenes from the Louvre. In 1958, CBS featured him in a one-hour television special, “Profile of a Composer.”


Dello Joio taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Mannes College of Music, and was Professor of Music and Dean of the Fine and Applied Arts School of Boston University. From 1959 until 1973, he directed the Ford Foundation's Contemporary Music Project, which placed young composers in residence in high schools with a salary to compose music for school ensembles and programs. The project placed about ninety composers, many who successfully continued their careers. In 2001, at the age of 88, Dello Joio continues to compose with no signs of retiring. He is frequently being commissioned, as his music remains in constant demand.


Dello Joio's life achievements and compositions have enriched the landscape of American music. Everyone who has sung choral music has been moved by the lyric and emotional sonorities Dello Joio has so wonderfully set down for us. He is a national treasure and it is with great pride and esteem that we offer this collection of his complete piano works.


Debra Torok


Pianist Debra Torok is a gifted and expressive artist who has devoted much of her time and energy to projects which promote contemporary and American music. She brings an in-depth, intelligent understanding to her performances of these recent works with passion and sensitivity. She has the rare ability to move her audiences and leave them with a new understanding and love for these as yet unfamiliar works. Debra Torok has performed throughout the United States and Europe and has been on the piano faculty of New York University. She studied in New York and Philadelphia with Jerome Lowenthal, Alexander Eydelman, Susan Starr, Antonio Barbosa, and Joseph Villa, and holds a Ph.D. in Piano Performance. She has released several CDs including Through and Within This Century Past containing works by American composers from each decade of the 20th century. Fanfare describes it as “a compelling snapshot of a particular view of American piano music.” She has received wide recognition for her highly acclaimed series of the first recordings of the complete piano works of Norman Dello Joio. Clavier magazine, acknowledging her “considerable performance talent,” identified her as “a well-known champion of Dello Joio's music.” Clavier concludes: “These highly recommended CDs belong in all piano recording collections.”


Debra Torok first spoke with Norman Dello Joio about this recording project, the first complete recordings of the composer's piano works, in the beginning of May 1997. Their initial meeting had been anticipated by Torok who, through research and performance, saw a need to make the public aware of these pieces. They began working together on interpretation and accuracy of the scores. During this time, Dello Joio continued to compose, giving her a rare glimpse into the composer and his works in progress. New pieces include Songs Without Words, premiered on volume one of the recording series, and Simple Sketches premiered on this CD. Additionally, a newly published complete edition of his piano works will be released, compiled and edited by Dr. Torok.


In addition to performing and recording, Dr. Torok presents workshops, master classes and lectures, and is currently teaching at Moravian College and Lehigh University. She has also been featured on National Public Radio and PBS.


Marylène Dosse


Identified by Vienna's Die Zeitung as a “superior talent” and praised by the Cincinnati Enquirer as “an outstanding musician, a thorough delight, an adventure, a discovery,” Marylène Dosse is an artist of international stature. She has performed extensively in France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, England, Switzerland, Greece, Luxembourg, Mexico, South America, Africa and in most major cities in the United States. After a series of recitals at Lincoln Center, Raymond Ericson of the New York Times said, “She plays with ease, showing marked concern for color, and rhythmic and melodic finesse.” Dosse has also presented a series of concerts and master classes in Japan, and toured China for three weeks, giving concerts that were televised via satellite throughout the nation. She has made numerous live television appearances in Europe and the United States.


Dosse has released over twenty recordings on the Vox and Pantheon labels, performances which have been broadcast over major radio stations worldwide. Included are recordings of the complete piano works of Saint-Saens and Granados. The latter was chosen as best recording by High Fidelity Magazine. Her discography also includes rarely heard concertos by Massenet, Saint-Saens, Debussy, Gounod, Lalo, Pierne, Mendelssohn and F.X. Mozart, as well as many solo works of the French repertoire from Chabrier to Poulenc.


After winning first prizes in the Paris Conservatory and two international prizes in Salzburg and Naples, she studied in Vienna with Paul Badura-Skoda and Alfred Brendel. Marylène Dosse has been a guest faculty member of Indiana Univeristy-Bloomington and artist in residence at the University of Wisconsin. She is currently Professor of Music at The Pennsylvania State University and is a member of the resident Castalia Trio.


Family Album


Family Album is a short set of pieces written in 1962 for Dello Joio's own children. The group of five pieces, written for four hands at one piano, is dedicated to Dello Joio's family. These very simple pieces generally depict a day in the life of a typical family. The set begins with Family Meeting and continues with Play Time, Story Time, and Prayer Time. The set ends, appropriately, with Bed Time consisting of long sustained harmonies before the reiteration of the thematic material heard in the opening piece of the set.


Five Images


Composed in December 1966, Five Images is a group of pieces written for four hands at one piano. Similar to the Family Album, the set was also composed for Dello Joio's children but, unlike the earlier work, the pieces demand more skill to keep pace with their improvement over a four-year period of time. The opening Cortège is followed by Promenade and Day Dreams. Charming and graceful, The Ballerina is the fourth piece and the set concludes with the highly energetic and rhythmic The Dancing Sergeants.


Christmas Music


This delightful set of seven pieces consists of both settings of familiar Christmas carols and original works inspired by the holiday. Published in 1968, the group was written for four hands at one piano. The set begins with the Yuletide favorite, O, Come All Ye Faithful, attributed to John Reading in the 17th century. The second piece, The Holy Infant's Lullaby, is an original composition by Dello Joio. After the traditional God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is another original composition, simply titled A Christmas Carol. The fifth work is a setting of Franz Gruber's Silent Night, and is followed by another original composition by Dello Joio titled, Bright Star (Light of the World). The final piece is Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. It is a unique and joyous setting and a most appropriate concluding carol.


Stage Parodies


Stage Parodies, a Piano Suite for Young Players, consists of four works for one piano, four hands. Of this composition Dello Joio writes in his “Note” on the score: “This work, written in the Spring of 1974, was conceived for developing young pianists. Of medium difficulty, each piece is a satiric portrait of various theatrical types.” The set begins with The Actor and is followed by The Writer. The Singer starts boisterous and fortissimo with the accompaniment figures resembling those in Ich Grolle Nicht from Schumann's Dichterliebe. The final piece, The Dancer, with its lively interaction between the two pianists, builds in momentum to its climactic glissando ending.


Suite for the Young


The Suite for the Young has been delighting piano students and their teachers since it was published in 1964. Written for solo piano, it consists of ten short and simple descriptive pieces for the young pianist. Each title serves the purpose the composer intended: to simply help the student interpret each work without having to depend on a teacher's assistance. Pedagogical dimensions include legato, staccato, balance, rhythmic paterns, echo effects, articulation, ostinato, and jazzy syncopations. The final piece, Chorale Chant, is a setting of the Lord's Prayer. Directions in the score tell the player: “To discover how the words inspired the composer, write or sing them to the music.”


Simple Sketches


Simple Sketches for solo piano is the most recent piano composition of Norman Dello Joio. Begun in the fall of 1999 (it was in progress at the time of the interview with the composer which follows these program notes) it was published in 2001. When Dello Joio first conceived the work, he thought it may have been appropriate for children, but as he began to develop the three pieces in the set, it became more apparent that they “could maybe be played by a talented youngster.” The set of pieces, dedicated “to my Barbara,” consists of thematic material that the composer also intended to use for various string groups.


Lyric Pieces for the Young


In comparison to the Suite for the Young, the Lyric Pieces for the Young, written for solo piano, are not only longer and more developed, but also more difficult and sophisticated. Published in 1971, the six compositions in this set have no central theme. The gently flowing Boat Song is followed by the slow and expressive Prayer of the Matador. Street Cries, a fast and energetic descriptive work contrasts with Night Song and The Village Church. The almost raucous Russian Dancer brings the set to a lively conclusion.


Aria and Toccata


Published in 1955, the Aria and Toccata was written for two pianos. The pensive Aria combines response and imitation from the second piano with frequent meter changes. In three distinct sections, the Aria's expressive opening is followed by a subtle change of tempo and a theme that propels the work forward from a soft legato to a powerful forte with a detached accompaniment figure. It subsides to a piano level and calando by the conclusion of the section before proceeding to the final section, and ending pianissimo. The highly rhythmic Toccata is written true to the form. With dynamic short, marked, and detached figures, Dello Joio fully utilizes the sonorities and ranges of both pianos. He also uses syncopated figures, meter changes, and dramatic pauses.


A Recent Interview with Norman Dello Joio


Would you talk about how you compose for children and what it means to you?


Well, as a father I decided to give children the opportunity, instead of listening to me, to make music themselves. My oldest boy, Justin, was very musical by nature because he responded very much to music without being able to play. He was about three years old, but I could tell that he obviously had talent. So, I had the chance to make a recording for a very well-known public school outfit that did music for children. So, I had him play with me as I wrote the first piece in the group I did for children, which was called the Family Album. After a few lessons, he was playing already quite well. So I even got my second son, who was much younger, into it and he just did his voice. It was kind of cute the two of them talking to one another and then me getting into the act as a father. We played the music very well, and the recording went well, and it was published. I became entranced with the idea of writing for children because I began to see the problems of a little hand, which I had never encountered before. I started making a bit more advanced music for them and, to my great surprise, the publishers of these works were delighted because there seemed to be a great market for this, which had never occurred to me from the point of view of sales. But, they're still selling an enormous amount of music for children. It's something I've had no difficulty writing. It was so simple and I enjoyed it, and they did too.


How do you feel about communicating with the young?


Well, really the only young people were my children. In terms of young people, I've always dealt with college age because of the various trips I would make for interviews and visitations to various colleges. But that was very different from the children's music.


This CD is called Family Album. Was the idea that members of a family could listen to, or sit at one piano, to play some of this music? Was this concept behind what you were doing?


Well, yes. It was very cute because I would get fan letters from children. One very amusing letter from a little girl stands out in my mind. I had written a jazzy little piece and she wrote, “I play this music with my grandmother, and I like it but she doesn't.” That is the kind of wonderful attitude they have. I can't think off-hand of how many pieces I did, but I wrote a good quantity of work for children. Now that they're all grown up, I stopped doing it for children.


What about your grandchildren? How old are they now?


Two of my youngest son's, the girl is about twelve and the boy is about ten. They are taking music in school. She plays the clarinet. She tried playing for me during a visit, and I was as encouraging as I could be. The boy has no interest in music at all. Now my other son has a daughter about three. Her father is a musician, and she shows an aptitude for music, but he's the one in charge.


Is there anything you would want to say just generally to people listening to this CD?


Well, often children don't like their teachers because many of them, from the children's point of view, are very dull. They keep talking to them about things that they are very disinterested in. I just titled the pieces so that when they are playing them, they would have that title in mind and that would be enough to see a relationship between the title and the music they were playing. And that was enough. I always left it up to the children. I also never forced my children to take music. If that's what they wanted, it was fine. If they didn't, I just left them alone.


How do you feel at this point of your life about being a composer and a musician?


I guess as far as I'm concerned, I didn't have too much choice because my father was a musician, and he was a very strict musician. I started the piano with him, and as I grew older, I began to have a greater understanding, and I had talent playing. When I had gone to Juilliard and started my formal studies in counterpoint and harmony, and all of those necessary subjects, I began to be more interested in the aspect of making and writing music rather than playing it. I played very well. As a matter of fact, my first professional job as an organist was at fourteen. My father was an organist too. I played up until about the age of thirty-three, and then, by this time, I was so decided in my own mind that playing and being a church organist was not what I wanted to be, that I took the risk of just being a composer.


I wrote, and gradually things just began to emerge, as I would write. I began to be technically proficient with the way I was handling notes. I ended my training with a man who had a great influence on my attitude towards music. That was Paul Hindemith, the great German composer, who is now out of fashion. He said to me “Dello Joio, you have a lyric talent, don't be afraid to use it.” I took that to heart and I'm now the arch conservative of all time.


I've always felt it [composing] was the thing I could do best instead of being a player. I've had some good successes and some colossal failures, but that's par for the course. Right now I'm writing some very simple pieces [Simple Sketches] that I think could maybe be played by a talented youngster. They are just for piano, and I'm writing them so I can also use these pieces for string groups. I'll use the same pieces with slight variations because of the technical question of string writing as compared to piano writing with the thematic content pretty much the same.


Would you have done it any other way? Would you have been anything else besides a musician?


Well I did have temptations of various kinds. I also loved baseball and played a great deal of it. You had to growing up in New York City. If you didn't play ball you were sort of a sissy. I had to prove to myself that I was capable. I played ball pretty well. When I finished high school I had my first job at a camp as a baseball coach. They let me off at six o'clock to play semi-professional ball since I was in an area that had semi-professional teams. At one of these games, unknown to me, there was a scout from one of the major league teams. I played particularly well and I remember I was playing second base. The scout came to me and asked if I would be interested in going to their training camp the next year. Of course, the dream of possibly someday reaching that incredible aristocracy of being a professional baseball player was something that I just thought about. Within myself I knew that I wouldn't make the big time.


Another thing was that I was constantly around churches and priests. I had a very wealthy “Prince of the Church” who took an interest in me and wanted me to write for the church. He said that he would send me to Rome to become a priest, but he would expect me to be writing music for the church all of the time. That was held out to me as a way of life. I remember thinking that over with my father. I was getting to be about sixteen or seventeen, and I remember saying to the monsignor that I appreciated his offer to do this but I was afraid the vows I would have to take would not be something I could follow because I was really starting to like girls. So those were the only things, and I fell back on the inevitable music.


And you're happy about it?


Content, I would say. Happy? Sometimes not, sometimes I am. So, now at my advanced age I'm still writing and had a work for orchestra premiered only last year. It was an unusual work because it featured the orchestral players in the orchestra itself. It was a work where a member from each of the sections would come forward and play part of the work and then go back and be part of the orchestra, then another, and so on. I wrote a work in which the orchestral player would come out front and play because very often it seems the conductor monopolizes all of the applause. I say he wouldn't be anywhere without those people, and they should be given some credit. You never read about individual players in an orchestra, their views, or anything else, very rarely. So that was something I always wanted to do. It's going to be published soon.


For an audio excerpt of this interview visit the Official Norman Dello Joio Web Site at








Recorded October 13, 14, 1999 at the Purchase College Conservatory of Music Recital Hall, Purchase, New York


Yamaha CFIIISConcert Grand Pianos


Family Album, Five Images, Christmas Music, Suite for the Young, Simple Sketches and Lyric Pieces for the Young are published by Edward B. Marks Music. Stage Parodies is published by Associated Music. Aria and Toccata is published by Carl Fischer.




Front Cover:Norman Dello Joio with children Norman IIand Victoria


Photographs:Don Hunstein


Debra Torok expresses special thanks to Barbara and Norman Dello Joio


Additional thanks to:Susan Muhler at Yamaha Artist Services, New York; Brenda Rundle and Francine Torok-Williams








Norman Dello Joio


Family Album• [6:21]


1 Family Meeting [1:06]


2 Play Time [1:04]


3 Story Time [1:26]


4 Prayer Time [1:19]


5 Bed Time [1:16]


Five Images• [7:15]


6 Cortège [2:11]


7 Promenade [:52]


8 Day Dreams [1:27]


9 The Ballerina [1:12]


10 The Dancing Sergeant [1:20]


Christmas Music• [12:24]


11 O, Come All Ye Faithful [1:46]


12 The Holy Infant's Lullaby [1:38]


13 God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen [1:29]


14 A Christmas Carol [1:56]


15 Silent Night [1:36]


16 Bright Star [1:54]


17 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing [1:45]


Stage Parodies• [7:58]


18 The Actor [1:19]


19 The Writer [2:16]


20 The Singer [2:39]


21 The Dancer [1:41]


Suite for the Young* [9:01]


22 Mountain Melody [:42]


23 Invention [:44]


24 Little Sister [:52]


25 Little Brother [:45]


26 Lullaby [1:06]


27 Echoes [:50]


28 Bagatelle [:42]


29 A Sad Tale [:50]


30 Small Fry [:50]


31 Chorale Chant [1:15]


Three Sketches* [8:38]


32 1 [2:54]


33 2 [3:35]


34 3 [2:01]


Lyric Pieces for the Young* [14:37]


35 Boat Song [2:32]


36 Prayer of the Matador [2:06]


37 Street Cries [1:45]


38 Night Song [3:48]


39 The Village Church [2:06]


40 Russian Dancer [2:03]


Aria and Toccata• [10:17]


41 Aria [5:49]


42 Toccata [4:27]




Total Time = 77:19




• Performed by Debra Torok and Marylène Dosse


* Performed by Debra Torok


Produced and engineered by Judith Sherman


Engineering and editing assistance: Jeanne Velonis