The Genesis Suite

Have you heard about the Genesis Suite? In 1944, Hollywood composer/arranger Nathaniel Shilkret commissioned leading composers of the day (Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Milhaud, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Tansman and Toch) to write a piece based on the book of Genesis. The seven-movement work (Shilkret himself wrote one of the movements) premiered in 1945 in Los Angeles. In the early 1960s there was a fire at Shilkret’s home. Stravinsky and Schoenberg had kept copies of their movements but the fire had destroyed what were thought to be the only existing scores for the other five movements. In the early 1990s James Westby, a musicologist going through Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s family archives, discovered a copy of the score for his movement. In a similar fashion he was able to find a copy of Milhaud’s movement in his family’s archives. The other three movements, however, were still missing. While searching for these, Westby learned that in the 1940s the Copyright Office required “short” scores (condensed versions) to be submitted for copyright. The remaining movements were discovered in the Copyright Office and the Milken Archives commissioned orchestrator Pat Russ to reconstruct the full scores from these condensed ones. This reconstruction was recorded in Berlin in December 2000 with Gerard Schwarz conducting. The Seattle Public Library owns this recording and it’s available for check out! The Seattle Symphony will be performing this work at the end of May. The Seattle Public Library will be hosting a free lecture/conversation about the Genesis Suite with Gerard Schwarz and Dr. Neil Levin of the Milken Archives on May 28 at noon in the Central Library auditorium. Come check it out! Should be fascinating!

                                 ~ Bob

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