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Randall Thompson


Born: April 21, 1899; New York, NY   Died: July 9, 1984; Boston, MA  
American composer Randall Thompson, best known for his choral Alleluia, was born Ira Randall Thompson in New York City. Thompson's father was an English teacher, and he was reared in an environment that emphasized excellence in matters of academics. One refuge from this routine was the family's summer vacation home in Vienna, MA, where Thompson took interest in an old parlor reed organ. At this instrument Thompson wrote his earliest musical works Read more around 1915. In 1916, Thompson entered Harvard University where he applied for membership in the Glee Club, but was rejected. Thompson would spend much of his future career composing choral music, which he once stated was "an attempt to strike back" at the forces that turned him away. At Harvard, Thompson studied with Edward Burlingame Hill, among others.

In 1922 Thompson won a scholarship to the American Academy at Rome, where his studied with Gian Francesco Malipiero, who helped deepen Thompson's interest in the polyphonic choral music of the Renaissance. Back in America by the end of the 1920s, Thompson utilized a Guggenheim Foundation grant to examine the state of college level music education in America. The results were published in book form as College Music, a text that helped reset the collegiate agenda in music education nationwide. In 1936 Thompson's cantata The Peaceable Kingdom, inspired by the work of American primitive painter Edward Hicks, was premiered in Cambridge and helped establish Thompson's popularity as a composer.

No work of Thompson's, however, earned in equal measure the incredible celebrity accorded to his Alleluia (1940). It was written in four days at the request of maestro Sergey Koussevitzky for a work to celebrate the opening of the new Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. It was an immediate success and has been performed countless times by choruses large and small, professional and amateur. Among Thompson's other well-known choral works are his The Testament of Freedom (1943) based on texts of Thomas Jefferson and Frostiana (1959) on the texts of poet Robert Frost.

Thompson was also a significant American symphonist, producing three symphonies that are of high quality. Thompson's Symphony No. 2 (1931) had a strong advocate in a student from the Curtis Institute, Leonard Bernstein, who made his first appearance as conductor when he led the Berkshire Music Center Orchestra through this work on July 12, 1939; Bernstein later recorded it with the New York Philharmonic in 1968. Thompson also produced a small amount of chamber and piano music and one short opera, Solomon and Balkis (1942). Thompson's career as an educator was substantive, as in addition to acting as head of Curtis he held professorships at Wellesley, University of California in Berkeley, University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Princeton, and finally Harvard itself, from whence he retired from teaching in 1965. He continued to compose until long afterward, and was still writing music up to within a few months of his death at the age of 85.

Randall Thompson is often confused with his Harvard colleague and friend Virgil Thomson, who spelled his name without the "p." Read less
Browse 1-25 of 68 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    American Polyphony / Layton, Polyphony
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67929 Release Date: 07/10/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Randall Thompson,  Samuel Barber,  Leonard Bernstein,  Aaron Copland
    Conductor:  Stephen Layton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Polyphony
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  • 2.
    Towards Infinity / Birralee Blokes, Favell, Holley
    Label: Abc Classics   Catalog: 4764133 Release Date: 06/10/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Paul Jarman,  Vijay Singh,  Dan Walker,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Justine Favell,  Christine Madden,  Stuart Tyson,  David Montgomery  ... 
    Conductor:  Paul Holley
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  • 3.
    Label: Querstand   Catalog: 1312 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hugo Distler,  Johannes Crüger,  Knut Nystedt,  Ola Gjeilo  ... 
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  • 4.
    Into A Cloud  / Jared Hauser
    Label: Blue Griffin   Catalog: 313 Release Date: 02/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  David Maslanka,  Randall Thompson,  Bruce Adolphe,  Kati Agocs  ... 
    Performer:  Jared Hauser,  Amy Dorfman,  Ann Marie Hudson,  Todd Waldecker  ... 
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  • 5.
    Favorite Hymns & Anthems
    Label: Westminster Choir College   Catalog: 1309 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Villiers Stanford,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Anonymous  ... 
    Performer:  Joan Lippincott,  Ronald Arnatt,  Brad Diamond,  Edie [Soprano Vocal] Yaeger
    Conductor:  Joseph Flummerfelt
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  • 6.
    God Makes A Path / The First Baptist Church In America
    Label: Fbcia   Catalog: 375 Release Date: 06/15/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  None,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Randall Thompson,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Stephen Martorella,  Pastor Dan Ivins,  Arturo Delmoni,  Stephen Unruh  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Martorella
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Choir of The First Baptist Church of America
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  • 7.
    American Anthem / Ying Quartet
    Label: Sono Luminus   Catalog: 92166 Release Date: 03/26/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Howard Hanson,  Randall Thompson
    Performer:  Randall Scarlata,  Adam Neiman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ying String Quartet
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  • 8.
    On The Shoulders Of Giants / Cantus
    Label: Cantus Recordings   Catalog: 5638019872 Release Date: 10/23/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Tallis,  Hans Leo Hassler,  Claudio Monteverdi,  Paul Hewson  ... 
    Performer:  Aaron Humble,  Adam Reinwald,  David Walton,  Paul Rudoi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cantus
    CD: $23.99
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  • 9.
    This Is My Song
    Label: Da Chiesa   Catalog: 5637975151 Release Date: 10/05/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Emma Lou Diemer,  Hal Hopson,  Blake R. Henson,  Samuel Barber  ... 
    Performer:  Atlanta Sacred Chorale,  Deborah Thoreson,  Dee Hamner
    Conductor:  Eric Nelson
    CD: $26.99
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  • 10.
    The Legacy Of Randall Thompson / United States Army Field Band Soldiers' Chorus
    Label: Altissimo   Catalog: 60722 Release Date: 02/28/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Randall Thompson
    Conductor:  Michael D. Pyatt
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vocal Arts Ensemble of the Soldiers' Chorus
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  • 11.
    From The Land Of Sky Blue Waters / Brunelle, Vocalessence Ensemble
    Label: Clarion Records   Catalog: 942 Release Date: 01/31/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jaakko Mäntyjärvi,  Stephen Paulus,  Dominick Argento,  Paul W. Gerike  ... 
    Conductor:  Philip Brunelle
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  VocalEssence Ensemble
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  • 12.
    Gratitude, Gravy & Garrison
    Label: Clarion   Catalog: 940 Release Date: 10/25/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Smith,  Paul W. Gerike,  Garrison Keillor,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Richard Dworsky,  Charles Kemper,  Krista J. Palmquist,  Garrison Keillor  ... 
    Conductor:  Philip Brunelle,  Sigrid Johnson
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  • 13.
    Caroling /  Captain Chad A. Steffey, Singing Sergeants
    Label: Altissimo   Catalog: 70582 Release Date: 09/27/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  William Ballet,  Mykola Dmytrovich Leontov,  William James Kirkpatrick  ... 
    Conductor:  Captain Chad A. Steffey
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  United States Air Force Singing Sergeants
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  • 14.
    Remembering JFK - 50th Anniversay Concert
    Label: Ondine   Catalog: 1190-2 Release Date: 05/31/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Leonard Bernstein,  Peter Lieberson,  George Gershwin,  John Stafford Smith  ... 
    Performer:  Richard Dreyfuss,  Tzimon Barto,  Earl Wild
    Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach,  Howard Mitchell
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  National Symphony, Washington, D. C.
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  • 15.
    Pershing's Own
    Label: Altissimo   Catalog: ALT03123 Release Date: 01/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John T. Williams,  Philip Sparke,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Traditional  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  United States Army Band "Pershing's Own"
    CD: $14.99
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  • 16.
    Dreamland / Polyphony, Holst Singers, Trinity College Choir Cambridge
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 41 Release Date: 10/13/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ruth Byrchmore,  Pawel Lukaszevski,  Nicholas Maw,  Robert Chilcott  ... 
    Conductor:  Jeremy Summerly,  Stephen Layton,  Mark Shepherd,  James O'Donnell  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford,  Cambridge Trinity College Choir,  Westminster Abbey Choir  ... 
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  • 17.
    Label: Da Chiesa   Catalog: 5637558106 Release Date: 09/22/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  René Clausen,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Eric Whitacre  ... 
    Performer:  Charley Snell,  Deborah Thoreson,  John Cowden,  Lisa Hayes  ... 
    CD: $26.99
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  • 18.
    Gloria! - Songs Of Exaltation
    Label: Sono Luminus   Catalog: 90906 Release Date: 07/28/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Johannes Ockeghem,  Alan Hovhaness,  Tomás Luis de Victoria  ... 
    Performer:  Andy Hunter,  Rob MacKillop,  Paul Rendall,  William Taylor
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Alamire,  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Corund Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $12.99
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  • 19.
    When I Was A Young Man / Albinder, Washington Men's Camerata
    Label: Gothic Records   Catalog: 49267 Release Date: 06/09/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jean Sibelius,  Stephen Foster,  Anonymous,  Eric Bogle  ... 
    Conductor:  Frank Albinder
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Men's Camerata
    CD: $17.99
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  • 20.
    Let Freedom Sing! - An Independence Celebration
    Label: Altissimo   Catalog: ALT71952 Release Date: 06/01/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Stafford Smith,  Various,  Lee Greenwood,  John T. Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Steve Cramer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  United States Air Force Band,  United States Air Force Singing Sergeants,  United States Army Field Band  ... 
    CD: $17.99
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  • 21.
    Label: Jubilate   Catalog: 5637351216 Release Date: 01/06/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Anonymous,  R. Nathaniel Dett,  Naomi Shihab Nye,  Pavel Chesnokov  ... 
    Performer:  Milt McBride,  nancy Fitzgerald,  Jim Dixon,  Ann Paradise  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 22.
    American In Rome - Beaser, Barber, Thompson, Etc / Six For Five Wind Quintet
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9271 Release Date: 10/14/2008   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Elliott Carter,  Roger Sessions,  Scott Lindroth,  Vittorio Giannini  ... 
    Performer:  Tony Arnold,  Susan Narucki,  Christopher Trakas,  Donald Berman  ... 
    Conductor:  Scott Yoo,  Jeffrey Milarsky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Colorado College Festival Orchestra,  Chamber Ensemble
    CD: $79.99
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  • 23.
    Thompson: The Peaceable Kingdom, Mass Of The Holy Spirit, Etc / James Burton, Et Al
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67679 Release Date: 10/14/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Randall Thompson
    Conductor:  James Burton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schola Cantorum Oxford
    On sale! $21.98
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  • 24.
    Call To Duty / United States Army Field Band & Soldiers' Chorus
    Label: Altissimo   Catalog: ALT60932 Release Date: 07/29/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Randall Thompson,  Beckel, James A., Jr.,  Alan Menken,  Joel Dulyea  ... 
    Performer:  Erica Russo,  Judith Norton,  Jeff Woods,  Sara Jones  ... 
    Conductor:  Finley R. Hamilton
    CD: $17.99
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  • 25.
    Label: Octarium   Catalog: 5637419652 Release Date: 01/01/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Josquin Des Préz,  Maurice Duruflé,  William Byrd,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    CD: $16.99
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