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The Road Not Taken

A Documented Biography of Randall Thompson

Carl B. Schmidt
January 18, 2018



ISBN: 978-1-57647-308-5

pb, 6 $58.00

Purchase on Boydell & Brewer


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, 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.


Carl B. Schmidt:

Received his undergraduate degree with honors from Stanford University and his masters and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. His principal teachers were Putnam Aldrich, John Ward, Nino Pirrotta, and Nadia Boulanger (at Fontainebleau). He has written extensively on seventeenth-century Italian and French opera and ballet (notably Lully), on Georges Auric and Francis Poulenc, and is currently researching the 20th century American composer Randall Thompson and the history of the Handel Choir of Baltimore. His research and reviews have been published in numerous American and foreign journals including Journal of the American Musicological Society, Rivista Italiana di Musicologia, Music Library Association Notes, Musical Quarterly, Harvard Library Bulletin, Journal of Musicology, Dix-septi�me si�cle, �Recherches� sur la Musique fran�aise classique, and Current Musicology, among others.

Schmidt has directed a college glee club on a seven-week/eight-country European tour, narrated Poulenc�s L�Histoire de Babar le petit elephant, in various concerts, and given lecture/recitals including several with mezzo-soprano Leneida Crawford and pianist Susan Ricci. In January 2013 he read a paper entitled �La method de composition de Francs Poulenc � travers ses brouillons� at the international Poulenc Colloquium at the Conservatoire national sup�rieur de musique et de danse in Paris.

A former Chairperson of the Towson University Department of Music, Schmidt teaches survey courses for non-majors and upper-division history classes for music majors including specialty courses on Serge Diaghilev�s Ballets Russes, the Arts in Paris, Igor Stravinsky, Symphonic Literature, and Vocal Literature. He lectures widely in the Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington area, serves on the Board of Directors of The Handel Choir of Baltimore, and has been the recipient of significant grants from various universities, the American Council of Learned Societies, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and of a Harvard University Houghton Library Visiting Fellowship.


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