Robert Starer

Hudson Valley Suite


Francis Thorne

Symphony No. 7 "Along the Hudson"


Albany Symphony Orchestra

David Alan Miller, conductor

Robert Starer

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1924, Robert Starer left his homeland and his studies there under pianist Victor Ebenstein soon after the Nazi Anschluss of 1938. He spent five years at the Jerusalem Conservatory of Music and three in England's Royal Air Force before emigrating to America. At Juilliard he concentrated on composition, and for a time he also studied under Aaron Copland at the Berkshire Music Center. A citizen since 1957, he taught for many years at Juilliard and at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he served as Distinguished Professor of Music.

His canon includes symphonies, concertos and operas, four ballets for Martha Graham and a host of vocal, choral and chamber pieces. Drawing eclectically on European, Middle Eastern and jazz traditions, his music has been interpreted by major soloists and by such legendary conductors as Mitropoulos, Bernstein, Leinsdorf and, most notably, Steinberg, with whom the composer enjoyed an especially warm artistic collaboration.

Francis Thorne

Preeminent in the American musical landscape not only as an artist but also as an administrator, Francis Thorne was born in Bay Shore, New York, in 1922. A self-taught jazz pianist, he had hoped for a professional career in music but was deterred by active naval duty in World War II, a young family to support and a dismissive appraisal at Yale by the redoubtable Paul Hindemith.

So for several years he worked on Wall Street, like his stockbroker father, and kept music essentially a hobby until a serendipitous recommendation from Duke Ellington led to a number of prestigious jazz engagements. With this rekindling of his musical ambitions, he ultimately traveled to Florence, Italy, studying under the American composer David Diamond, and remained there with his family until 1964, the year his Elegy for Orchestra was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy.

Back in New York, Mr. Thorne in time created a fellowship program for young composers, became executive director of the American Composers Alliance and helped organize the American Composers Orchestra, a symphonic ensemble, now in its 20th year, that showcases American music; he is currently its president. At the same time he has continued composing, and his many works ranging in scope from symphonies to solo pieces reveal a love of tonality-based chromaticism, uniting the European musical heritage with the jazz tradition native to these shores.

Robert Starer ·Evanescence

Evanescence was composed in 1980, a few years after I had moved into the Hudson Valley. It is dedicated to the American Brass Quintet who premiered it in Aspen, Colorado, and have played it many places since. The significance of the title lies in the fact that the work follows no pre-conceived form, but allows each segment of music to vanish and be replaced by the succeeding segment, almost like the flow of a river through different landscapes. Evanescence opens with a conversational fanfare. After some diversions a jazzy section ensues during which the musicians use cup mutes. A lyric melody creeps in and is followed by a slow, march-like section. While there is more bright, fast music, the lyric mood prevails and the music evanesces.

Robert Starer

Francis Thorne ·Symphony No. 7, "Along the Hudson"

Francis Thorne writes about his work: "In the spring of 1993 I had lunch with David Alan Miller to discuss the commission I had recently received from the Albany Symphony. Having written my Fifth Symphony and my Third Piano Concerto for Albany, this commission meant a great deal to me, as I believe I have done my best works for the Albany Symphony Orchestra. David suggested my relating the work in some way to either the city of Albany or the Hudson River. I decided to do both; these four subtitled movements were the result.

I. "Fanfare for Albany," for Maestro David Alan Miller

II. "The Bend in the River," after Frederick E. Church, for Peter R. Kermani

III. "The Source," for Lyn Chase

IV. "Along the Hudson," after Walt Whitman, for J.D. McClatchy

The text of the fourth movement consists of various descriptions of the river by Whitman, assembled into a logical sequence by J.D. McClatchy, renowned American poet and critic.

Stylistically, the symphony is tonal and does not present unusual difficulties for the listener. Twenty-five minutes long, it is dedicated to Paul Underwood, whose generosity made the commission possible.

Francis Thorne

Text for Movement IV "Along the Hudson"

(from the writings of Walt Whitman)

1. These tender summer days along the Hudson! The distant turns like great shoulders in blue veils, the white sails of sloops and schooners, the luxuriance of stone fences, of hemlocks and maples, the runs of brawling water over descents of rock, the road-side crops of tall-stemmed wild daisy, white as milk, yellow as gold.

2. The birds are plenty, from twig to twig, flirting, singing, some mating, preparing to build. Nature keeps up her vital, copious, eternal procession. Flying over the river, the crows, gulls and hawks. The oriole will soon be heard, and the twanging meoeow of the cat-bird; king-bird, cuckoo, warbler; the mellow, human tones of the robin, the meadow-lark's spring song, so sweet, so alert, as if he said, "don't you see? can't you understand."

3. Sundown lights. Great shafts of horizontal fire thrown among the trees and along the grass. Long spokes of molten silver sent through the trees, each leaf and branch of endless foliage a lit-up miracle. One broad splash lies on the water, a rippling twinkle, offset by the deepening black-green, murky-transparent shadows behind and along the banks. Sundown lights.

4. Some times in the fiercest driving storm of wind and rain, a great white eagle will appear over the river, soaring with steady wings always confronting the gale, cleaving into it his flight a swirl, an upward movement the black clouds driving the angry wash below the hiss of rain, the wind's piping he tracking or jibing now abandoning himself to the gale, moving with it and now, he comes up against it, the lord of the storm lord, amid the storm and high over the river, lord of power and joy.

5. I like to watch the river at night. The shad fishermen go forth in their boats and play out their nets, marking the line with little floats bearing candles, conveying, as they glide over the water, a doubled brightness. I like to watch the tows at night, with their twinkling lamps, and hear the husky panting of the steamers; or catch the shadowy forms of the sloops, white, silent, indefinite out there. The Hudson of a clear moonlit night.

Robert Starer ·Hudson Valley Suite

The Hudson Valley Suite was commissioned by the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and dedicated to that orchestra and its then music director, Imre Pallo, who premiered it in October 1983. It programmatically depicts the progress, from source to sea, of Mr. Starer's beloved Hudson River, in whose upstate New York proximity he has lived for almost 25 years.

After building his main river-theme from tiny fragments ("Sources"), the composer ponders a Catskill sunbreak as captured in a Frederick E. Church painting ("The View from Olana," the painter's Hudson Valley home). Moving southward, he then imagines strains of twilight dance music emanating from various wealthy estates along the river ("Dances on a Terrace") and passes by West Point, which reminds him of the "excitements, difficulties and ironies" of his own military past ("A Glimpse of West Point"). Ending with a jazzy Manhattan-ish rondo ("Past Gotham and on to the Sea"), he reintroduces motifs from the previous sections, to suggest that the Hudson, "just before it flows into the sea, reexperiences its entire past life."

Ray Bono

Francis Thorne · Simultaneities

Simultaneities was written in 1971 on commission from Max Pollikoff for his "Music In Our Time" series at the YMHA in New York. It is scored for brass quintet, electric guitar and percussion. It received its first performance at the "Y" with the composer conducting and later at the 1972 Aspen Music Festival. It is in three movements, the first of which begins with an extended unison leading into a fast romp. In the second movement, the first trumpet part was written to exploit the virtuoso playing of Gerard Schwarz and includes half-valve glissandi, growls, wah-wah and other exotic effects. The third movement begins fast featuring a collage of well-known classical themes and then ends slowly and quietly, with a filagree accompaniment on the celesta. The duration is about 13 minutes.

Francis Thorne

Albany Symphony Orchestra

The Albany Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1931. It has a distinguished history of innovative programming and championing of important American composers through commissions, performances and recordings. The Orchestra has received eight ASCAP Awards for Adventuresome Programming of Contemporary Music and has recorded for the Decca, New World, Composers Recordings, Inc. and Albany Records labels.

David Alan Miller

David Alan Miller was appointed Music Director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra in 1992. Prior to his appointment in Albany, Mr. Miller was Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Associate Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, the orchestra's summer training program for young musicians. He has guest conducted the Boston Pops, The Louisville Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra and the Colorado symphony as well as the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Halle Staatphilharmonie and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, among others.

A native of Los Angeles, David Alan Miller holds a Master's degree in orchestral conducting from the Juilliard School.

Evanescence recorded by Michael Mermagen.

Symphony No. 7 and Hudson Valley Suite produced, recorded and edited by Gregory Squires, Squires Productions. These works were recorded in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, New York on May 5, 1996.

Cover Art: Bill Sullivan, Twilight at Olana, oil on canvas, 36 inches x 60 inches, 1990. Collection of Albany (New York) Institute of History and Art. Gift of David Kermani.

Robert Starer

Evanescence (9:26)

The American Brass Quintet

Raymond Mase, Chris Gekker, trumpets · David Wakefield, horn · Michael Powell, trombone · John Rojak, bass trombone

Francis Thorne

Symphony No. 7 "Along the Hudson" (1996)

I. Fanfare for Albany, for Maestro David Alan Miller (3:35)

II. The Bend in the River, after Frederick E. Church, for Peter Kermani (4:01)

III. The Source, for Lyn Chase (2:22)

IV. Along the Hudson, after Walt Whitman for J.D. McClatchy (14:06)

Albany Symphony Orchestra, David Alan Miller, conductor · Crane Concert Choir, Dr. James S. Imhoff, conductor

Robert Starer

Hudson Valley Suite (1983)

I. Sources (4:34)

II. The View from Olana (4:20)

III. Dances on a Terrace (4:04)

IV. A Glimpse of West Point (2:45)

V. Past Gotham and on to the Sea (5:11)

Albany Symphony Orchestra, David Alan Miller, conductor

Francis Thorne

Simultaneities (13:00)

The American Brass Quintet ·Richard Fitz, percussion ·Stephen Bell, guitar

Total Time = 67:31