DORA PEJAČEVIĆ (1885 - 1923) – That Croatia, of all countries, should be the homeland of one of the few women symphonic composers – and one of the very best, at that – is truly astounding, seeing as how Croatia is not one of those countries teeming with composers to begin with. Dora Pejačević [pronounced Pay-a-say-VICH] is historically fascinating for many reasons:
TOSHIRO MAYUZUMI (1929 - 1997) – Mayuzumi wrote two unnumbered symphonies. His first, Nirvana Symphony (1958) for male chorus and orchestra was recorded in the early 1960s of which I, somehow, acquired a copy [I was into things Japanese in those days]. I can’t remember much about the music except that it was very percussive, like his contemporary, and the more famous, Toru Takemitsu.
LOU HARRISON (1917 - 2003) – Before commencing this survey I held Lou Harrison in disdain. Why? Because I once read a flip response from him in an article regarding the infamous trial of Henry Cowell in which he, as I recall, was one of the witnesses for the prosecution. Combine this with recordings in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s coupling his percussion pieces with those of John Cage, resulted in my total dismissal of him as being unworthy of my attention. I was even personally introduced to him, by my friend the artist John Paul Thomas, during intermission at the San Francisco Opera in the late ‘60s. I recall I was rather brusque and cold. Oh, how I now regret my behavior!
ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD (1897 - 1957) – It was a real tossup whether to list Korngold here [under Germany/Austria] or in the United States. Korngold was born in Vienna, was quite a child prodigy, and built a major career in Austria and Germany up to the rise of the Nazi party. He brought his family to America and settled in Los Angeles [actually Pacific Palisades] where he built an equally impressive reputation as a top-flight film composer.
PETER SCULTHORPE (1929 - 2014) – I’d been going round and round in my mind about Peter Sculthorpe whether or not to include him [in the 20th century symphonies book]. And then came word this past summer of his death. Sculthorpe didn’t compose any symphonies so named, but he did compose several orchestral pieces that feel like symphonies.