Orchestral Music: New York Profiles (Norman Dello Joio)

(Born January 24, 1913 in New York)

Norman Dello Joio has had a prodigious career as a composer, pianist, organist and choral conductor and professor.  He received his first musical training from his father, a successful organist.  He attended the Institute of Musical Art in New York from 1933 until 1938 and then studied composition at the Juilliard School of Music with Bernard Wagenaar (1939-1941) and at Yale University with Paul Hindemith (1941-1943).  After his education was complete, he went on to teach composition at Sarah Lawrence College from 1945-1950 and then at Mannes College.  In the 1960’s and early 1970’s he became chairman of the Contemporary Music Project of the Ford Foundation.  In 1972 Dello Joio was appointed Dean of Fine Arts at Boston University.  Since then he has won numerous awards for his works, including two Guggenheim Fellowships and a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Dello Joio has written an extensive amount of music in many forms: several symphonies, and operas, concertos and a large number of choral compositions as well as music for piano, chamber music for various combinations of string and woodwind instruments, and incidental music for theater, ballet and television.  A lyrical inventiveness resulting from both diatonic and modal melodic lines characterizes his energetic and vital music.  Gregorian chant as well as elements of Italian opera and rhythmic patterns from jazz all find their place in his work.  The texture of his music is usually polyphonic and often includes dissonance, but nevertheless, his music is always readily accessible to the listener.

New York Profiles takes its thematic material from the music of the Church and Gregorian chant.  The opening movement, Prelude, “The Cloisters,” evokes the medieval monastery, which was transplanted to upper Manhattan and overlooks the Hudson River at Fort Tryon Park, where the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art makes its home.   This movement makes use of the “Orvis factor” melody used in the “Kyrie” and the “Ite missa est” in the Mass setting.  The second movement, Caprice, “The Park,” uses bits of the chant combined with recollections of children’s play songs, in a sprightly section.  The third movement, Chorale Fantasy, “The Tomb,” refers to Grant’s Tomb near the Hudson River on the upper West Side just above the Columbia University area.   The Chorale-Fantasy is a hymnic meditation: Della Joio incorporates the specific identity of the tomb in a moving quotation from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to close the movement.  The last movement, Festal Dance, “Little Italy,” closes the piece with Gregorian melody used skillfully as the foundation for the accompaniment figuration as well as for the basic thematic material.  This movement portrays the San Gennaro festival held annually in September on Mulberry Street in the Little Italy section of Manhattan to celebrate Naples’ patron saint.

New York Profiles was commissioned by and dedicated to Augustus H. Searle, then Honorary Vice-President of the Musical Arts Society of La Jolla, California.  Written in 1949, it had its premiere with the Musical Arts Society Orchestra of La Jolla, conducted by Nicolai Sokoloff on August 21, 1949.

It is scored for two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, two French horns, two trumpets, timpani, snare drums, cymbals, tambourine, xylophone and strings.

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