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DSO's 'August 4, 1964' Concert Drama Gets Grammy Nom

by Jerome Weeks 6 Dec 2012 5:21 PM

Steve Stucky’s oratorio about a pivotal day in the administration of Lyndon Johnson was commissioned and premiered by the Dallas Symphony — and now it’s up for a Grammy.


Composer Steven Stucky’s musical work about a pivotal day in the administration of President Lyndon Johnson has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the ‘best contemporary classical composition’ category. August 4, 1964 was commissioned by the Dallas Symphony and was given its world premiere, with Jaap van Zweden conducting in May last year at the Meyerson. The 70-minute work — with a libretto by Gene Scheer, who also wrote the libretto for the opera Moby-Dick — concerns the day Johnson informed Americans of the purported attack by the North Vietnamese on an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin — the same day that the bodies of three  murdered civil rights workers were found in Mississippi.

For Art & Seek, critic Olin Chism wrote:

Stucky’s musical style is considerate of the audience, with appealing melodies and harmonies, but enough astringency to impart a sense of gravitas. His use of the orchestra is highly effective, and I felt that the music for the four soloists, especially the men, projected a distinct sense of individuality. Orth even managed a kind of Texas twang at times — not easy to do when you’re singing.

Van Zweden directed a performance that was both highly dramatic and subtle, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus were in fine shape.

James Ostereich in The New York Times wrote:

You can hear ghosts of Bernstein in the jazzier or bluesier moments, and you can hear Benjamin Britten in the flesh. The cascading brass figures in the Schwerner number, “I Wish to Be a Part of That Fight,” are right out of Britten’s “War Requiem” of 1962, as are many other gestures throughout. But Mr. Stucky has assimilated it all in a distinctive voice that speaks as compellingly and vividly to our time as it might have to Johnson’s.

Mr. van Zweden, hailed in his debut as music director a week before, scored another triumph here. And the orchestra’s assured and gritty performance was rivaled by that of the large Dallas Symphony Chorus, both corporately and individually, in shifting solo snippets charting the course of the fateful day.

The Times also ran an extensive feature about the work  Naxos eventually released the CD recording on its DSO Live label. The 55th Grammy Awards ceremony will be held Feb. 10 — August 6 is up against Stephen Hartke (Meanwhile – Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays); Tania León (Inura for Voices, Strings & Percussion); Ugis Praulins (The Nightingale); and Einojuhani Rautavaara (Cello Concerto No. 2, “Towards the Horizon”).

The full release:


Composer Steven Stucky’s August 4, 1964 Concert Drama
Nominated for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition”

Dallas, TX (December 6, 2012) – The Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) announces today that Steven Stucky’s concert drama August 4, 1964 has been nominated for a GRAMMY Award®.

Stucky’s composition, with a libretto by Gene Scheer, was commissioned by the Dallas Symphony and recorded live by conductor Jaap van Zweden, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and vocal soloists Indira Mahajan, soprano; Kristine Jepson, mezzo-soprano; Vale Rideout, tenor; and Rod Gilfry, baritone, in May, 2011 at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. The world premiere recording of August 4, 1964, on the label DSO Live, is distributed worldwide by Naxos and is available for purchase and download at, and iTunes.

Nominations for the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards® ( were announced December 5, 2012 by The Recording Academy®. The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be held Feb. 10, 2013, at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast live on CBS from 7 – 10:30 p.m. Central Time.

“I am so very proud of the Dallas Symphony, the Dallas Symphony Chorus, and our four very fine soloists for sharing in this deserving recognition of Steven Stucky,” said Jaap van Zweden, Music Director of the Dallas Symphony. “We all worked very hard to make a special recording. I’d like to congratulate Stephen Stucky for writing such a profound and moving work on such an important and difficult subject. I hope this nomination will help bring a broader audience to Stucky’s emotionally resonating music and to the incredible work of our orchestra.”

“Working with Gene Scheer, Jaap van Zweden, and these marvelous soloists, choral singers, and orchestral musicians was a high point in my musical life,” said composer Steven Stucky. “What an unexpected and delightful bonus it is now to have our work nominated by our colleagues in the Recording Academy! As we approach the 50th anniversary of August 4, 1964, the troubling events of that day haunt us still. All of us involved in this project hope that our work, and the GRAMMY nomination, helps to focus attention on this crucial piece of our American history.”

About Stucky’s GRAMMY nominated composition August 4, 1964 on DSO Live, music critic Scott Cantrell wrote in The Dallas Morning News: “Stucky is a master of orchestral writing, his palette alternately portentous and atmospheric. Music director Jaap van Zweden gets stunning playing from the DSO, captured with a glorious panoply of Meyerson Center reverberance.”

In addition to Stucky’s August 4, 1964, other GRAMMY Award nominees for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” are Stephen Hartke (Meanwhile – Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays); Tania León (Inura for Voices, Strings & Percussion); Ugis Praulins (The Nightingale); and Einojuhani Rautavaara (Cello Concerto No. 2, “Towards the Horizon”).

“The GRAMMY Awards process once again has produced a diverse and impressive list of nominations across multiple genres,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “This year’s nominees truly represent an exceptional and vibrant creative community that exemplifies some of the highest levels of artistry and excellence in their respective fields. Combined with the fifth year of our primetime nominations special, we’re off to an exciting start on the road to Music’s Biggest Night, the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards, on February 10.”

This is the first GRAMMY nomination for a composition by Steven Stucky. His pieces have appeared in two previous GRAMMY Award-winning “best performance” categories, by pianist Gloria Cheng (2008) and choral group Chanticleer (1999). The sole GRAMMY nomination for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra was in 1982 for an all-Richard Strauss recording of Death and Transfiguration, Don Juan and “Dance of the Seven Veils” with Music Director Eduardo Mata on the RCA label.

About Stucky’s August 4, 1964

First performed on September 18, 2008 by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Stucky’s August 4, 1964 is a concert drama commissioned by the Dallas Symphony for the 100th anniversary of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s birth. The work centers on the day that two key issues in Johnson’s Presidency converged: the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. On that day President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara decided to bomb North Vietnam, escalating the Vietnam conflict, and the bodies of three slain civil rights workers were discovered in Mississippi.

Scheer’s libretto juxtaposes these events and uses White House telephone tapes, letters from the slain civil rights workers and their mothers, speeches by President Johnson, and other contemporary sources for the majority of his text. Two of the four vocal soloists (soprano and alto) portray the mothers of the slain civil rights workers, and the two other soloists portray McNamara (tenor) and LBJ (baritone).

The DSO Live recording of August 4, 1964 was made possible by the Nancy P. and John G. Penson Dallas Symphony Orchestra Recording Fund.

About Steven Stucky

Steven Stucky is one of America’s most highly regarded and frequently performed living composers. Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for his Second Concerto for Orchestra, he is a trustee of the American Academy in Rome, a director of New Music USA, a board member of the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also active as a conductor, writer, lecturer, and teacher.

As a co-commission by two of America’s foremost orchestras, Stucky’s new, four-movement Symphony (2012) was showcased with Gustavo Dudamel leading its world premiere with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic debuting it in New York. The 2012-13 season also offers world premieres of Stucky’s orchestral song cycle, The Stars and the Roses(2012), as part of his yearlong residency at the Berkeley Symphony; Say Thou Dost Love Me (2012) for a cappella chorus; and Take Him, Earth (2012) scored for accompanied chorus, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

Among other season highlights are high-profile repeat performances of his symphonic poem, Silent Spring (2011), which the Pittsburgh Symphony takes on a tour of seven key European cities; the Elegy from August 4, 1964 (2007-08), which the Dallas Symphony Orchestra reprises at home and on a seven-city tour of Europe. To learn more, please visit

About the GRAMMY Awards® nomination process

This year’s GRAMMY Awards process registered more than 17,000 submissions over a 12-month eligibility period (Oct. 1, 2011 – Sept. 30, 2012). GRAMMY ballots for the final round of voting will be mailed on Dec. 19 to the voting members of The Recording Academy. They are due back to the accounting firm of Deloitte by Jan. 16, 2013, when they will be tabulated and the results kept secret until the 55th GRAMMY telecast.

About the The Recording Academy®

Established in 1957, The Recording Academy is an organization of musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers and recording professionals that is dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers. Internationally known for the GRAMMY Awards — the preeminent peer-recognized award for musical excellence and the most credible brand in music — The Recording Academy is responsible for groundbreaking professional development, cultural enrichment, advocacy, education and human services programs. The Academy continues to focus on its mission of recognizing musical excellence, advocating for the well-being of music makers and ensuring music remains an indelible part of our culture. For more information about The Academy, please visit