The Royal Scottish National Orchestra will release an album of William Grant Still world premieres

On Friday, May 27, 2022, the Royal National Orchestra of Scotland will release their new album, William Grant Still on Naxos. This album, the newest addition to Naxos’ American Classics series, features world premiere recordings of 13 works by the 20th-century composer William Grant Still and features solo violinist Zina Schiff with maestro Avlana Eisenberg conducting.

This unique conductor/daughter and violinist/mother collaboration is particularly fitting because Still’s cherished family and his music are deeply personal. Known as the “dean of African-American composers”, Still hoped “that my music might serve a larger purpose than just music. If it can help in any way to improve interracial understanding in America and in other countries, then I will make him feel that the work is justified.” May 11, 2022 will mark Still’s 127th birthday.

The album opener is Can’t You Line ‘Em (1940), based on a folk ballad collected and compiled by the Lomax Brothers. It captures the rhythm and spirit of construction gangs ‘tie-shuffling’ or lining up train tracks.

Still’s 3 Visions – No. 2. Summerland (1936) was originally composed as the second movement of 3 Visions for solo piano, and Summerland is Still’s delicate representation of the serenity and purity of Heaven.

Quit Dat Fool’nish (1935) is another work originally composed for solo piano, which evokes a jazzy frolic with Still’s mischievous dog, Shep.

In the composer’s words, Pastorela (1946) is “a sound picture of a Californian landscape, peaceful but thrilling, eliciting feelings of languor in some of its aspects and animation in others, presenting an overall effect of unity in its variety”. Still wrote this work in honor of his adopted state at the request of his friend the violinist Louis Kaufman.

Still’s first symphonic work, American Suite (c. 1918), was composed while he was attending Wilberforce University in Ohio. The three contrasting movements of this Suite display the composer’s characteristic wide emotional range, beginning with a lyrical love song, followed by a lively dance movement, and finally, a lament, thoughtful and nostalgic, but tinged with hope.

The 99th Fighter Squadron Band (1945) resonates with the pride, courage and patriotic determination of the Tuskegee Airmen, 992 pilots who served in World War II. On April 3, 1939, Public Law Appropriations Bill 18 passed, containing an amendment designating funds to train African-American airmen. Leopold Stokowski and the Los Angeles Philharmonic created Fanfare for the 99th Fighter Squadron at the Hollywood Bowl on July 22, 1945, in commemoration of the end of the war and the valiant service of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Serenade (1957) was originally intended as a cello concerto proposed by Still’s friend Gregor Piatigorsky. Instead, it became a commission from the Great Falls, Montana, High School Orchestra, with its lush cello writing hinting at its conception.

The Violin Suite (1943), dedicated to Louis and Annette Kaufman, is a musical imprint of three works of art: African Dancer, a bronze statue by Richmond Barthé exhibited at the Whitney Museum in New York; Mother and Child, a colored lithograph by Sargent Johnson held at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco; and Kid, a bronze bust of Augusta Savage at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC Inspired by the works of his contemporaries, Still translated them into music.

The album’s conclusion is Threnody: In Memory of Jean Sibelius (1965), commissioned by maestro Fabien Sevitzky for a concert in memory of Jean Sibelius, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. It was premiered during a performance by the University of Miami Symphony Orchestra. Still’s tribute is a haunting farewell, channeling the spirit of Sibelius.

About Zina Schiff

California-born violinist Zina Schiff, a Heifetz protege, has performed, recorded and given masterclasses on five continents. In the United States, she has performed solo with orchestras such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Rochester, Brooklyn, San Antonio, Nashville, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. His first recording was the solo violin score of MGM’s The Fixer, composed by the Oscar winner Maurice Jarre. His first CDs, Bach/Vivaldi and Lark Ascending, were soloists with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Four MSR recordings include Sibelius/Barber/Ben-Haim conducted by Avlana Eisenberg. Four 4-Tay recordings include Here’s One, featuring William Grant Still. Previous NAXOS albums are award-winning albums: Cecil Burleigh: Music for Violin and Piano and Ernest Bloch Concerto and Suites with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Zina’s honors include the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Award, the San Francisco Symphony Foundation Award, and a scholarship from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music. At the Curtis Institute, she won the Philadelphia Orchestra junior and senior auditions. A Glamor Magazine A Top Ten College winner at UC Berkeley, she was selected as an Outstanding Young Artist by Musical America. In 2021, Zina gave a talk on William Grant Also at the American String Teachers Association National Convention.

About Avlana Eisenberg

Avlana Eisenberg, Music Director of the Boston Chamber Symphony, has conducted orchestras in the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom. His discography includes CD recordings with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra MAV, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and upcoming with the Salzburg Chamber Soloists. She has conducted ensembles at renowned summer festivals including the Edinburgh Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Oriental Music Festival and Sandpoint Festival, as well as venues such as the Mozarteum, the Hungarian Radio Hall and the Granada Theatre. A recipient of a Fulbright scholarship to work at the Paris Opera, Avlana graduated from Yale University, where she received the V. Browne Irish Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts and was named a Top Ten College Winner. by Glamor Magazine. She earned graduate degrees in orchestral conducting from the University of Michigan and the Peabody Institute.

In 2021, Avlana and the Boston Chamber Symphony released the first video of their “Sounds of America” ​​series – a multimedia performance of “Can’t You Line ‘Em” by William Grant Still.

About the Royal National Orchestra of Scotland

Founded in 1891, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) is one of Europe’s leading symphony orchestras. Many renowned conductors have contributed to its success, including Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Alexander Gibson and Neeme Jarvi. Thomas Søndergård has been the Orchestra’s Music Director since 2018. The RSNO perform across Scotland and perform regularly at the Edinburgh International Festival and the BBC Proms in addition to international tours. With a widely acclaimed discography, the RSNO has previously appeared on BIS in a cycle of symphonies by Rachmaninoff as well as music programs by James MacMillan, Ge Gan-ru and Sally Beamish.

1. Can’t You Line Them Up (1940) [4:01]
2. 3 Visions – No. 2. Summerland (1936) [4:40]
3. Quit That Madman (1935) [1:40]
4.Pastorela (1946) [11.56]

American Suite (circa 1918) [7:45]
5. I. Indian love song [2:30]
6.II. dance [1:40]
7. III. Lament [3:35]

8. Marching Band for the 99th Fighter Squadron (1945) [0:51]
9. Serenade (1957) [5:58]

Suite for Violin (1943) [16:58]
10. I. African Dancer [5:42]
11. II. mother and child [8:41]
12. III. Kid [2:35]

13. Threnody: In Memory of Jean Sibelius (1965) [6:13]

Total duration: 60:03

Recorded: August 16-17, 2018 at the RSNO Centre, Glasgow, UK
Producer: Michael Ponder
Engineer: Phil Hardman
Publishers: Richard ScottAdaq Khan, Bill Siegmund (Digital Island Studios)
Book Notes: Zina Schiff, Avlana Eisenberg
Editor: William Grant Still Music
Cover photo courtesy of William Grant Still Music