Seattle Symphony

Given the time and place it was written—Hollywood, 1945—it’s no surprise that the committee-composed Genesis Suite should have come out as opulent as it did. The begetter of this unusual project was songwriter Nathaniel Shilkret, whose desire to illustrate biblical stories, composing background music for narration, led him to invite colleagues to contribute. The result was an hour-long, seven-movement suite, opening with an appropriately chaotic Prelude by Schoenberg, leading to Shilkret’s “Creation” and music by Tansman, Milhaud, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Toch, ending with Stravinsky’s “Babel.” Lost in a fire in the ’60s, most of the work had to be reconstructed from a short score in the Library of Congress and from a recording made soon after the concert premiere; the conductor on the 2004 “re-premiere” of the work, on the Naxos label, was Gerard Schwarz. He’ll perform it this Thursday and Saturday night (with a symphony by Martinu and the ravishing Violin Concerto by another film composer, Erich Korngold) to open the Seattle Symphony’s “Coming to America” festival (May 29-June 7), celebrating the music of emigré composers. Six of the seven Genesis composers were born in Europe (all but Shilkret), and six of the seven were Jewish (all but Stravinsky), making the piece uniquely representative of the culture that lured so many musicians west: not only those fleeing Nazism, but the composers of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway, like Shilkret displaced by the Depression, who sought the Hollywood pot of gold. Schwarz will talk about the piece and his involvement Wednesday afternoon at the Seattle Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., 386-4636. Free. Noon. For the full “Coming to America” schedule, see www.seattlesymphony.org. GAVIN BORCHERT

Wed., May 28, noon; Thu., May 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., May 31, 8 p.m., 2008

 
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