The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

A Documented Biography of Randall Thompson, 1899-1984

Elizabeth K. Schmidt, Carl B. Schmidt

Edited by John Graziano


Pendragon Press



The Road Not Taken: A Documented Biography of Randall Thompson chronicles the extraordinary career of a composer, conductor, arts administrator, teacher, and reformer of music curricula. Based on extensive archival research, interviews, and a thorough knowledge of his compositions, it is the first full-length study of "The Dean of American Choral Composers" as he was affectionately known. Thompson's life intersected with numerous composers and conductors including George Antheil, Leonard Bernstein, Ernest Bloch, Aaron Copland, Walter Damrosch, Archibald "Doc" Davison, Serge Koussevitzky, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Walter Piston, Fritz Reiner, Harold Schmidt, Roger Sessions, Bruno Walter, and G. Wallace Woodworth, among many others. Illustrated with more than fifty photographs, the book emphasizes his study at Harvard (1916-20), his year with Bloch (1921-22), his Damrosch Fellowship years at the American Academy in Rome (1922-25), his work heading the College Music Study (1932-35), and his academic life at Wellesley College, University of California at Berkeley, Curtis Institute, University of Virginia, Princeton, and Harvard (1928-65). Virtually all of his more than 120 compositions are considered with emphasis given to his most important works such as Symphony no. 2, Alleluia, The Testament of Freedom, The Last Words of David, Requiem, Frostiana, and The Passion according to Saint Luke. It argues that he followed a more conservative compositional path compared to other composers of his generation whose music often stressed atonality, rhythmic complexity, and serialism, which was for Thompson the road not taken.


20 colour illustrations
980 pages
9x6 in
American Music and Musicians
Hardback, 9781576473085, June 2018
Pendragon Press
BISAC MUS050000, MUS051000, MUS008000
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Table of Contents

Preface: Gateway to a Career
List of Tables
List of Illustrations
Library Sigla and Abbreviations
Guide to Harvard University and Oberlin College Collections Referenced by Box Number
Family History and Formative Years
Undergraduate Study at Harvard College (1916-20)
Lessons with Ernest Bloch and Graduate Study at Harvard University (1920-22)
Damrosch Fellowship Years at the American Academy in Rome (1922-25)
Courtship and Marriage (1925-27)
New York City, Wellesley College, A Guggenheim Fellowship (1927-31)
Guest Conducting, Reception of Symphony no. 2, and College Music: An Investigation (1931-35)
Life after College Music: An Investigation (1935-37)
The University of California at Berkeley (1937-39)
Curtis Institute of Music: The Hiring Process (Spring and Summer 1939)
Curtis Institute (Fall 1939 - Spring 1941)
The University of Virginia (Fall 1941 - Spring 1945)
Princeton University (Fall 1945 - Spring 1948)
Return of a Favored Son: Harvard University (Fall 1948 - Spring 1957)
Harvard University (Summer 1957 - July 1, 1965)
The Early Retirement (1965-75)
The Final Years (1975-84)
Recapitulation and Coda
Bibliography of Works Cited by Abbreviations

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