Norman Dello Joio: Piano Works, Vol. 2


Complete Works

for Piano

Volume 2

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 lyrical 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 pieces. Debra Torok studied in 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 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 include the pieces for four hands and two pianos. 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.

Suite for Piano

Premiered at Carnegie Chamber Music Hall on March 9, 1941 as Sanburg's Phrases, the Suite consists of four short movements. It was written for pianist Lillian Lefkovsky in 1940, and is the composer's first published piano work. As Dello Joio recalls, it is the first piece written after studying with Hindemith. Each of the four movements was inspired by the poetry of Carl Sandburg. The mood of the opening movement, marked Moderate, rises from a line in the poem Interior from Cornhuskers: “Out of the window … prairie lands.” The second movement, Bright, is taken from the line: “Why does a hearse horse snicker hauling a lawyer away?” from the poem titled The Lawyers Know Too Much. Lost, from Chicago Poems, is the source of inspiration for the third movement marked Calm. The first part of the poem reads:

Desolate and lone

All night long on the lake

Where fog trails and mist creeps,

The whistle of a boat calls and cries unendingly,

The last movement of the Suite, marked Moderate in the introduction, and continuing Fast, with ferocity, conveys “a jazz affair,” as described in Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio from Sandburg's Smoke and Steel. It is from this poem that we find the line of particular interest to the composer for the Suite's final movement: “The cartoonists weep in their beer.”

Salute to Scarlatti

This work, subtitled A Suite of Sonatas for Piano or Harpsichord, was written in 1979. Dello Joio employs Scarlatti thematic and rhythmic figures in this Suite of four sonatas. It begins with a sonata comprised of clear, crisp, concise tonal writing. Following this Allegretto deciso, is a contrasting Andante amabile. The third and fourth sonatas contain contrapuntal figures and hand crossing in a manner to which Scarlatti was well noted for at the harpsichord. The third, Allegro moderato e grazioso, is more legato and lyrical, while the fourth, Allegro scherzando, contains rapid accented toccata-like passages.


The Diversions, written in 1975, consists of five pieces which display the composer's prowess for lyrical melodic writing. The first, Preludio, is a slow and solemn introduction to the group. The second piece, Arietta, marked Andante commodo, consists of striking melodies over a chordal and repeated note bass figure. The Caccia provides contrast with its strongly marked opening bass figure. Marked Allegro animato, it continues with joyful staccato and legato melodies. The Chorale is a simply stated piece based on Good Christian Men Rejoice. The lively closing piece, Giga, with its detached and marked bass figure, adds a rhythmic vitality to the group of pieces with a bright and energetic conclusion, a perfect complement to the preceding Chorale.

Introductions and Fantasies on a Chorale Tune

Written in 1986, this work was commissioned by the U.S. Information Agency for the Artistic Ambassadors Program. The Introduction is based on the chorale theme, Herr Gott dich loben alle wir. The four fantasies that follow move from an Andante lyrical treatment into a dynamic octave Allegro con fuoco. The third fantasy is a blues-like, rhythmically playful Andantino. The closing fantasy, Allegro assai, scherzevole, dramatically recalls the theme in a powerful final statement.

Short Intervallic Etudes

The subtitle of this set of studies is For Well Tempered Pianists. This group of six short pieces was published in 1988. It consists of diverse treatments of fourths and fifths, thirds, seconds, sixths, sevenths, and octaves and unisons. Each study provides a variety of rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic settings and moods. The first etude, on fourths and fifths, along with the etudes on the sixths, number four, and sevenths, number five, are slow, expressive, and lyrical. In contrast, the etudes on the seconds, number three, and number six, on octaves and unisons, are fast and spirited with crisp articulation, both marked secco. The etude on thirds is marked Moderato, combining both melodic and harmonic intervals of the third as the basis for thematic material. This was the last work written for piano by the composer for nearly a decade until the recent Songs Without Words was composed in 1997 for a special Carl Fischer publication.

Concert Variants for Piano

The Concert Variants, written in 1980, consists of a theme with five variants. This piece is actually the piano transcription for an orchestral work written in 1981. The first variant, an intense Andantino, is followed by an Andante moderato in which thirds and sixths are characteristic. The third variant, Allegro, molto animato, consists of staccato leaps and octaves. Marked p sempre spumante, it is bright and energetic. In the fourth variant, Lento funebre, one can hear the drums from the onset, and continuing throughout this funeral march. The fifth variant, Allegro, molto animato, contains energetic staccato writing which drives to the fortissimo closing.

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 Service

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 2

Debra Torok, Piano

Suite for Piano

[1] I. Moderate (1:12)

[2] II. Bright (1:01)

[3] III. Calm (2:10)

[4] IV. Moderate; Fast, with ferocity (2:09)

Salute to Scarlatti

[5] I. Allegretto deciso (2:59)

[6] II. Andante amabile (3:13)

[7] III. Allegro moderato e grazioso (2:12)

[8] IV. Allegro scherzando (1:50)


[9] 1. Preludio (1:43)

[10] 2. Arietta (2:12)

[11] 3. Caccia (1:55)

[12] 4. Chorale (1:24)

[13] 5. Giga (1:42)

Introduction and Fantasies on a Chorale Tune

[14] Introduction and Chorale: Maestoso (1:53)

[15] Fantasy I: Andante (1:53)

[16] Fantasy II: Allegro con fuoco (1:59)

[17] Fantasy III: Andantino (3:03)

[18] Fantasy IV: Allegro assai, scherzevole (2:27)

Short Intervallic Etudes

[19] Fourths and Fifths (3:05)

[20] Thirds (1:22)

[21] Seconds (1:19)

[22] Sixths (2:22)

[23] Sevenths (1:38)

[24] Octaves and Unisons (1:46)

Concert Variants for Piano

[25] Theme: Andante amabile (1:38)

[26] Variant I: Andantino (2:17)

[27] Variant II: Andante moderato (2:13)

[28] Variant III: Allegro, molto animato (2:49)

[29] Variant IV: Lento funebre (2:58)

[30] Variant V: Allegro, molto animato (2:58)

Total Time = 65:06

Produced and engineered by Judith Sherman

Engineering and editing assistance: Jeanne Velonis