Rawlins Piano Trio releases new CD highlighting American composers

Rawlins Piano Trio releases new CD highlighting American composers The Rawlins Piano Trio of The University of South Dakota has had its second compact disc (CD) recorded and released by Albany Records, Inc., of New York.

The 1999 release of 4 American Composers: A World Premier Recording by the Rawlins Piano Trio is now available in the classical music sections of national record stores. Locally, the CD is available in America's Shrine to Music Museum.

According to trio member Susan Keith Gray, the disc highlights composers from the 19th and early 20th centuries when Americans were still trying to find a distinct cultural voice apart from, as well as inclusive of, their European heritages. Featured composers are conductor Henry Hadley, writer and critic Daniel Gregory Mason, ethnomusicologist Charles Wakefield Cadman and Swiss-American Ernest Bloch.

The works by Hadley and Mason have previously never been recorded. The musical relationships between the four men are colorfully illustrated in the fascinating liner notes by American music specialist Richard Rognstad, the cellist in the trio.

Gray noted that it is the music of Copland and Gershwin that is considered to sound distinctly American, based on more folk material.

"We feel that it is important to know what else was going on at the same time. It is important not to ignore other composers who were contributing to our musical heritage," she said.

"The CD brings to life music by composers that have been forgotten, with Bloch, the exception," said Rognstad. "Hadley, Mason and Cadman were all major figures in the American music scene in the first third of this century. However, as later performers and critics did not judge their music 'modern' enough, we do not hear about the music or the composers. Not hearing the music by these and the many other forgotten composers can lead young American musicians to believe that our musical heritage is much less substantial than it is. The CD gives people a chance to judge the music for themselves and perhaps to reclaim the heritage of which we can be proud."

The trio, which enjoys a reputation as a pre-eminent interpreter of American music, has recorded two CDs of music by American composers on the Albany Records label. A third disc will be recorded in June of 1999. Owing to its expertise, the trio has been invited three times to perform at the national conventions of the Sonneck Society of American Music.

Other performance credits include the trio's highly successful series of the complete Beethoven trio cycle during the 1996-97 season. Named in honor of its principal benefactors Marjorie Rawlins and the late Robert Rawlins, the trio includes pianist Susan Keith Gray, violinist John Thompson and cellist Richard Rognstad. The artists fulfill teaching positions in the USD department of music.

Graduates of USD in the 1940s, the Rawlins have been significant supporters of the University and the arts in South Dakota, especially America's Shrine to Music Museum. Other generous supporters include the College of Fine Arts, the music department, Shrine to Music Museum and the office of the president. The trio received a grant from the USD Office of Research as partial funding for this recording.

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