‘On Freedom’s Ground’ Premiered on Dedication Centennial
NEW YORK (AP) _ One hundred years to the day after the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, American composer William Schuman’s cantata ″On Freedom’s Ground″ had its premiere in Avery Fisher Hall.
The ″Liberty Year″ celebration began a year ago at Kennedy Center, with the first performance of Richard Adler’s ″The Lady Remembers″ and had its four most intensive days of celebration during the July Fourth weekend. The Tuesday concert at Lincoln Center was announced as the ″all-star finale.″
The second half of the program had sets by singers Charles Aznavour from France and Placido Domingo and Julio Iglesias from Spain. When the three did an encore together, the audience laughed then applauded when Domingo added his much fuller, operatic voice to the two pop balladeers.
Lee Iacocca, chairman of the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation, also spoke. He said this has been ″America’s year to celebrate America. ... We celebrated ourselves and this elusive thing called liberty.″ Iacocca said that more than $295 million has been donated so far to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta, baritone Sherrill Milnes, the Crane Centennial Chorus and the New York Choral Artists performed the expressive, imposing, never bombastic ″On Freedom’s Ground.″
Schuman, who is 76, was awarded the first Pulitzer Prize in music for his cantata ″A Free Song.″ For the five-part new work, he asked poet Richard Wilbur to write the words. Wilbur won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for ″Things of This World.″
Schuman was quoted in the program as saying, ″We decided not to write a piece for an occasion but, rather, to use the occasion for a work of which America itself would be the subject - the things that are right and some that are wrong - a land always with the possibility of change.″
″On Freedom’s Ground″ was commissioned by the Philharmonic in association with the Crane School of Music of the State University of New York, Potsdam, N.Y., and orchestras in Albany, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, Oregon, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
The Crane School, founded by Julia Etta Crane to certify music teachers for public schools, also is celebrating its centennial.