'Judith' and the Louisville Orchestra: The Rest of the Story

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Musicians and scholars who lived through the late 1940s and early 1950s witnessed an astounding activity which took place in Louisville, Kentucky during that time. An ambitious effort by civic and musical leaders yielded an extraordinary legacy of new music, pioneering a concept that placed the composer first in the orchestral bureaucratic hierarchy. From the fall of 1948 through 1958, the commissioning project of the Louisville Orchestra fostered the creation of 132 musical compositions. The Louisville Orchestra preserved performances of approximately one hundred of these compositions on long-playing records at a time when little contemporary art music was available through this new medium. This massive plan to commission both American and foreign composers was formulated and implemented in Louisville but provoked national and international cultural as well as political repercussions. The Rockefeller Foundation, in an unprecedented grant to an artistic endeavor, gave half a million dollars to support the activity. The United States State Department found it a useful tool in the Cold War. During the 1950s, listeners around the world heard broadcasts of Louisville Orchestra world premiere performances aired on the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

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