Virgil Thomson

Virgil Thomson, whose centennial was celebrated in 1996, was a many faceted American composer of great originality and a music critic of singular brilliance. Born in Kansas City, Missouri on 25 November 1896, Thomson studied at Harvard. After a prolonged period in Paris where he studied with Nadia Boulanger and met Cocteau, Stravinsky, Satie, and the artists of Les Six, he returned to the United States where he was chief music critic for the New York Herald Tribune from 1937 to 1951.

Virgil Thomson composed in almost every genre of music. Utilizing a musical style marked by sharp wit and overt playfulness, Thomson produced a highly original body of work rooted in American speech rhythms and hymnbook harmony. His music was most influenced by Satie's ideals of clarity, simplicity, irony, and humor. Among his most famous works are the operas Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All (both with texts by Gertrude Stein with whom he formed a legendary artistic collaboration), scores to The Plow That Broke the Plains and The River (films by Pare Lorentz), and Louisiana Story (film by Robert Flaherty). In addition to his compositions, he was the author of eight books, including an autobiography.

Included in his many honors and awards are the Pulitzer Prize, a Brandeis Award, the gold medal for music from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Book Circle Award, the Kennedy Center Honors, and 20 honorary doctorates.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1925 Synthetic Waltzes 4.0 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
For Piano Four Hands

Continuum

1928 Symphony on a Hymn Tune 4.0 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra cond. James Sedares
1930 Sonata for Violin and Piano 4.0 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:

Continuum

1931 Serenade for Flute and Violin 3.50 stars LP
Virgil Thomson Comments:
David Gilbert - Flute
Kees Kooper - Violin
1936 The Plow that Broke the Plains 4.00 stars LP
Virgil Thomson Comments:
Symphony Orchestra cond. Leopold Stokowski
1936 The Plow that Broke the Plains 4.00 stars DVD
Comments:
Newly recorded soundtrack for the 1936 documentory

Post-Classical Ensemble cond. Angel Gil-Ordonez

1937 The River 4.00 stars LP
Virgil Thomson Comments:
Symphony Orchestra cond. Leopold Stokowski
1937 The River 4.00 stars DVD
Comments:
Newly recorded soundtrack for the 1937 documentory

Post-Classical Ensemble cond. Angel Gil-Ordonez

1931-1941 Symphony No. 2 in C major 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra cond. James Sedares
1928-1940 Eight Portraits 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
Phillippe Quint - Violin
William Wolfram - Piano
1944 Three Portraits 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
Arranged by Samuel Dushkin (1947)

Phillippe Quint - Violin
William Wolfram - Piano

1948 Suite from Louisiana Story 4.00 stars LP
Virgil Thomson Comments:
Pulitzer Prize winning soundtrack.
Based on Cajun songs

NRW Symphony Orchestra, Recklinghausen cond. Siegfried Landau

1948 Acadian Songs and Dances 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
From The Louisian Story

Cleveland Pops Orchestra cond. Louis Lane

1951 Four Songs to Poems of Thomas Campion 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
Continuum
1963 Two by Marianne Moore 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
Continuum
1963 Praises and Prayers 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
Continuum
1964 Pilgrims and Pioneers 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
Suite from the soundtrack of Journey to America

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra cond. James Sedares

1972 Symphony No. 3 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra cond. James Sedares
1972-1975 Famely Portrait for Brass Quintet 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:
The London Gabrieli Brass Ensemble cond. Christopher Larkin
1983 Five Ladies 4.00 stars CD
Virgil Thomson Comments:

Phillippe Quint - Violin
William Wolfram - Piano