Walter Piston

Biography

Born: January 20, 1894; Rockland, ME   Died: November 12, 1976; Belmont, MA  
Walter Piston was a leading light among those mid-twentieth century American composers who opted to explore traditional musical forms and language. Although he was perhaps better known as a teacher and the author of a widely used book on harmony than as a composer, Piston's music displays superb craftsmanship within his selected neo-Classic-Romantic idiom.

Piston was born in Rockland, ME, of Italian lineage; the family name had been
Read more Pistone but his grandparents had Anglicized it by dropping the "e." His parents moved to Boston in 1904. In his teens, Piston's musical education commenced with piano and violin lessons. At that time, however, painting was his main interest, but he conceded the superiority of his future wife, Kathryn Nason, in that field and concentrated on music. With the entry of the United States into the First World War, Piston hurriedly crammed the rudiments of saxophone technique and enlisted in the Navy as a band musician. In between rehearsals and performances, he familiarized himself with most of the other instruments in the band, learning to produce at least a few tunes on each one. This was an invaluable experience for one whose name would become linked to orchestral composition.

After the war, Piston entered Harvard and began to study music in earnest, graduating summa cum laude in 1924. From there he went to Paris on a Paine Fellowship to study with Paul Dukas and Nadia Boulanger. This was a heady time, for many of who would become America's most noted composers were under the wing of the latter: Copland, Harris, Thompson, and Barber, to name a few. Piston returned to the U.S. in 1926 and joined the faculty of Harvard, retiring in 1960.

In 1928 the Boston Symphony under Koussevitzky performed Piston's Symphonic Piece. Although it met with moderate success and acclaim, the composer chose not to publish it and followed it with his Suite for Orchestra which met with more acclaim, finding a champion in Stokowski, who performed the work with the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1938 his ballet The Incredible Flutist was performed, and the suite from this was for a long time his most celebrated work. Meanwhile, Piston had commenced upon his series of eight symphonies with his First in 1937. With these the composer revealed his prowess in the field of large-scale absolute music, garnering a steady stream of prestigious awards and honors, among them the New York Music Critics Circle for the Second Symphony (1945), and the Pulitzer Prize for the Third (1948) and the Seventh (1959). In the last year of his life, Piston achieved what may have been his largest audience when a performance of the Second Symphony was televised on PBS's Evening at Symphony.

As a composer, Walter Piston remained an enlightened conservative. Taking the neo-Classic mode of expression and infusing it into larger Romantic forms with flawless craftsmanship, he was one of the great bearers of the symphonic tradition in the twentieth century. Read less
American Classics - Piston: Symphonies No 2 & 6 / Schwarz
Release Date: 07/15/2003   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559161   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Piston: Violin Concertos /Buswell, Et Al
Release Date: 10/27/1998   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559003   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Piston: The Incredible Flutist, Etc
Release Date: 04/15/2003   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559160   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Piston: Symphony No 4, Etc / Schwarz
Release Date: 05/20/2003   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559162   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Piston: Chamber Music
Release Date: 08/15/2000   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559071   Number of Discs: 1
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There are 60 Walter Piston recordings available.

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Works

Walter Piston


MOST POPULAR WORKS
I. Con moto moderato e flessible
II. Adagio con fantasia
III. Allegro vivo
I. Allegro
II. Tranquillo
III. Vivo
Introduction - Siesta in the Market Place
Entrance of the Vendors
Entrance of the Customers
Tango of the Merchant's Daughters
Arrival of the Circus
Circus March
The Flutist
Minuet
Spanish Waltz
Siciliana
Polka Finale
I. Prelude
II. Allegro
I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegro vivace
I. Allegro leggiero
II. Adagio espressivo
III. Allegro vivo
Piston: Symphony No.2 - 1. Moderato
Piston: Symphony No.2 - 2. Adagio
Piston: Symphony No.2 - 3. Allegro
Fluendo espressivo
Scherzo: Leggerissimo vivace
Adagio sereno
Allegro energico
Seaside (Adagio)
Summer Evening (Delicato)
Mountains (Maestoso; Risoluto)
WORKS
I. Con moto moderato e flessible
II. Adagio con fantasia
III. Allegro vivo
I Allegro energico
II Andantino molto tranquillo
III Allegro con spririto
I Moderato
II Adagio
III Allegro
I. Allegro
II. Tranquillo
III. Vivo
Introduction - Siesta in the Market Place
Entrance of the Vendors
Entrance of the Customers
Tango of the Merchant's Daughters
Arrival of the Circus
Circus March
The Flutist
Minuet
Spanish Waltz
Siciliana
Polka Finale
I. Prelude
II. Allegro
Psalm: "O sing unto the Lord a new song"
Prayer of David: "Bow down thine ear, O Lord"
Leggero e scorrevole
Adagio sostenuto
Allegro vivo
I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegro vivace
I. Allegro
II. Lento
III. Allegro
I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegro
Allegro comodo
Adagio
Allegro vivo
Adagio espressivo
Leggerissimo e vivace assai
Energico
I. Allegro leggiero
II. Adagio espressivo
III. Allegro vivo
Allegro
Andante
Allegro
Piston: Symphony No.2 - 1. Moderato
Piston: Symphony No.2 - 2. Adagio
Piston: Symphony No.2 - 3. Allegro
I. Andantino
II. Allegro
III. Adagio
IV. Allegro
Piacevole
Ballando
Contemplativo
Energico
Fluendo espressivo
Scherzo: Leggerissimo vivace
Adagio sereno
Allegro energico
Seaside (Adagio)
Summer Evening (Delicato)
Mountains (Maestoso; Risoluto)


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