January 1, 2009

Lukas Foss based his 53-minute cantata The Prairie on Carl Sandburg’s poem of the same name from his collection of Americana called The Cornhuskers. Written in the summers of 1941 and 1942, music from The Prairie first was heard in an orchestral suite played by the Boston Symphony directed by Serge Koussevitzky Oct. 15, 1943, and May 15, 1944, Robert Shaw led the cantata’s premiere in New York’s Town Hall. Artur Rodzinski soon presented it with the New York Philharmonic and it won the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award as the most important choral work written that year. Foss freely edited Sandburg’s texts (with the author’s approval), and there are seven sections: “I Was Born On The Prairie,” “Dust of Men,” “They Are Mine,” “When the Red and White Men Met,” “In The Dark Of A Thousand Years,” “Cool Prayers,” “O Prairie Girl,” “Songs Hidden In Eggs,” and “To-morrow.” Foss’s score has a very definite “American” sound, particularly with traces of Copland. This superb new release seems to be the first recording and it is outstanding. All four soloists are excellent, and their enunciation cannot be faulted. Andrew Clark and the orchestra are equally fine, and sonically this issue is an outstanding sample of surround sound. The listener is right in the room with the performers in a most natural way. Complete texts are provided. Highly recommended!

R.E.B. (January 2009)