Norman Dello Joio: Piano Works, Vol. 1



Complete Works for Piano, Volume 1


Norman Dello Joio


Debra Torok, Piano






Norman Dello Joio




The distinguished professional musical career of Norman Dello Joio began 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 musicians and music in the 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, he began studies with Paul Hindemith, the man who profoundly influenced his compositional style, at Tanglewood and Yale. 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 he 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 in high schools young composers who were salaried to compose music for school ensembles and programs. The project placed about ninety composers, many who successfully continued their careers. In 1999, at the age of 86, 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




Debra Torok is a gifted and expressive artist who has devoted her time and energy to projects motivated by an earnest desire to promote contemporary and American music. As a pianist, she brings an in-depth, intelligent understanding of these recent works with passion and sensitivity. She has the ability to move her audiences, who are left with a new understanding and love for these yet unfamiliar works. Debra Torok studied in both New York and Philadelphia with pianists such as Jerome Lowenthal, Susan Starr, Joseph Villa, Antonio Barbosa, and Alexander Eydelman, and holds a Ph.D. in Piano Performance. Dr. Torok has performed throughout the United States as both soloist and accompanist. She has also played in Europe and Scandinavia, and has been on the piano faculty of New York University. She has recorded a CD entitled Through and Within This Century Past. It contains works from each decade of the twentieth century American solo piano repertoire. Fanfare magazine describes it as: "a compelling snapshot of a particular view of American piano music." In addition to performing and recording, Dr. Torok presents workshops, master classes, and lectures, and has taught at music schools and colleges in addition to New York University, including Moravian College and Lehigh University.




Debra Torok first spoke with Norman Dello Joio about this recording project in the beginning of May 1997. Their initial meeting had been anticipated by the artist who, through research and performance, saw a need to make the public aware of these pieces. They began working together on interpretation and to correct 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 the Songs Without Words, premiered on Volume One. This two volume set of the solo piano music is the first recording of the complete piano works of Dello Joio. These will be followed by a CD of children's works, which the composer wanted recorded separately from the solo piano works, and will also include the pieces for four hands and two piano. Justin Dello Joio, Norman's son, who is also a composer, will be joining Debra Torok. The CD will also include Norman Dello Joio speaking about his thoughts on music. Additionally, a newly published complete edition of his piano works will be released, compiled and edited by Dr. Torok.




Capriccio on the Interval of a Second




Written in 1968, this work was commissioned for the Third Van Cliburn Quadrennial International Piano Competition as the mandatory contemporary piece for all competitors. It is a most effective and fascinating treatment of this interval, while drawing on the technique of the performer. The dramatic opening, Lento espressivo, announces the descending seconds that are answered by massive chords. These eventually subside into a brief lyrical cantabile before returning, anticipating the Allegro non troppo. This intense, energetic, and rhythmic section, the largest of the work, concludes with a brief recapitulation of the opening Lento espressivo.




Nocturne in E




This Nocturne was written and published in 1950. It is a lyrical Adagio in the true sense of the form consisting of melodic material over rich harmonic sonorities. Simply stated, the melodic line, mostly thirds, is embellished in the opening cantabile section. The contrasting middle section starts pianissimo with its short melodic segments being echoed back and forth in lower and higher registers of the piano. It builds to a strong and expansive statement before a cantabile transition to the brief return of the opening, which creates an atmosphere invoking the quiet tranquility and calm of the conclusion.




Nocturne in F-Sharp Minor




Similar to the Nocturne in E in form and mood, it is dissimilar with its greater intensity in color, texture, and tonality. The piece opens with almost pensive-like melodic interplay before continuing with a melody that moves forward, then suspends while harmonic activity progresses, then moves forward again. Starting with a lilting delicato passage of slurred seconds, the middle section builds in dynamics and intensity with the thematic descending second recurring and continuing to the conclusion of the work. Although this Nocturne was written four years earlier than its companion work, it is a perfect complement.




Piano Sonata Number One




This sonata was written for, and dedicated to, Sidney Foster in 1943. Dello Joio enjoys telling the story of how it originated. One day he was caught in a sudden rainstorm in New York City. He sought shelter in a doorway where, by chance, pianist Sidney Foster was also standing. Foster told Dello Joio that he was playing at Carnegie Hall in two weeks and asked him if he might write a piece for him. Even though the composer exclaimed that it was rather short notice, he wrote this sonata, Foster learned and memorized it in a week, and played it at his recital. The sonata is written in a typical three movement classical sonata form. The first movement, marked With intensity, is a Chorale Prelude in a modal setting. The second movement, Calm, is a Canon, and the third, With drive, is a Capriccio. The third movement is in striking contrast to the more somber previous movements, as it is filled with lively, syncopated rhythmic


and toccata-like figures.




Sonata Number Two for the Piano




Written in 1943, this sonata demonstrates Dello Joio's diversity and pianistic writing style. The first movement, Presto martellato, consists of rapid leaps and octaves, and contains two contrasting thematic motives, one a massive and percussive statement, the other cantabile. The middle movement, Adagio, contains haunting lyricism, as the harmonic texture creates suspense throughout. The last movement, Vivace spiritoso places demands on the pianist's technique and control, especially in the recurring repeated note sections. According to Dello Joio, he deliberately composed this work to accommodate and showcase the ability of Jorge Bolet, a pianist with massive-sized hands and a formidable technique.




Piano Sonata Number Three




Composed in 1947, this is the sonata, according to Dello Joio, that everybody plays. It is a four movement work, a departure from his first two sonatas. The first movement, a theme with variations, uses the melody of the Kyrie in the Mass of the Angels, the same thematic material used in an orchestral work written that same year. The second, Presto e leggiero, is brief, rapid, and filled with rhythmic vitality, syncopations, and jazz elements. The third, Adagio, is Dello Joio at his lyric best. In it he explores the sonority of the piano in a most expressive and alluring manner. The last movement, Allegro vivo e ritmico, also utilizes thematic material from the orchestral work. It contains rhythmic vitality and energy that continues to its surprising conclusion.




Prelude: To a Young Musician




Written in 1944, this prelude begins with a gently lilting moderato accompaniment figure, and, as the meter changes, the melody enters p semplice e legato. The melodic content of the first section is contrasted by the middle section with its repeated chordal figures that form the melodic line. The expressive opening melody returns in the final section. When asked if this piece was composed for anyone in particular, Dello Joio replied that it was written for himself, whereas the companion Prelude: To a Young Dancer, was for his wife, a dancer.




Prelude: To a Young Dancer




This prelude was written a year after the Prelude: To a Young Musician. With a brief introduction, the piece proceeds in compound time with changing meters. The feeling of continual motion is sustained by this rhythmic consistency throughout the work. The melody propels the piece forward with even greater intensity by its magical modal lines in the opening section, which shift in tonality and register in the middle section with an interplay within the hands in the inner voice. The middle section builds pochettino piu mosso and sempre un poco piu agitato, to an expansive fortissimo peak. A cantabile transition ushers in the return of the opening melody displaying an innocence and simplicity most appropriate for this enchanting work.




Two Songs Without Words (Andantino · Largo)




These two short pieces were written in 1997 at the request of Carl Fischer for a special publication. It was to be included in a compilation, with other composers, of works that were more accessible for the less advanced pianist. Consisting of an Andantino and a Largo, these delightful pieces are prime examples of the superb lyricism so apparent in all of Dello Joio's compositions. They are simple, tonal statements that allow the melodies to be highlighted in a most expressive manner.






Volumes 1 and 2 Recorded October 22, 23, 28, 29, 1998 at the Purchase College Conservatory of Music Recital Hall, Purchase, New York ·Yamaha CF IIIS Concert Grand Piano




Photographs: Don Hunstein




Graphic Design: Bates Miyamoto Design




Debra Torok expresses special thanks to




Barbara and Norman Dello Joio




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




In Loving Memory of Ida Kuplen Torok




Project Coordinator








Norman Dello Joio


Complete Works for Piano, Volume 1


Debra Torok, Piano




Capriccio on the Interval of a Second (6:13)




Nocturne in E (3:22)




Nocturne in F-Sharp Minor (4:36)




Sonata 1




Chorale Prelude (4:26)




Canon (3:26)




Capriccio (3:51)




Sonata 2




Presto martellato (3:01)




Adagio (6:30)




Vivace spiritoso (3:51)




Sonata 3




Theme and Five Variations (6:43)




Presto e leggiero (1:32)




Adagio (6:15)




Allegro vivo e ritmico (2:50)




Prelude: To a Young Musician (2:52)




Prelude: To a Young Dancer (5:31)




Two Songs Without Words




Andantino (2:11)




Largo (2:14)