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Lawrence A. Johnson on the American Music Project and Its First Commission: 'Piano Quintet' by Composer Amy Wurtz

by Louise Burton   Aug 8, 2014 09:30 AM EDT

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Writer and music critic Lawrence A. Johnson recently launched the American Music Project (AMP), a nonprofit foundation that supports performances of existing works of American classical music, while also commissioning new works from American composers. AMP's first commission is Piano Quintet by Chicago-based composer Amy Wurtz. Her work will receive its world premiere in Chicago on October 5.

I recently spoke with Johnson about the inspiration behind his new initiative. "As a critic for almost 20 years, it's been a constant source of frustration [to me] that we're not hearing more American repertoire, because I feel there is so much strong music out there," Johnson said.

He names 20th century composers such as David Diamond, Walter Piston and Irving Fine, and more recently, Carlisle Floyd and Marvin David Levy, as examples of composers whose works are seldom heard in American concert halls and opera houses.

"I think the David Diamond symphonies are masterpieces," Johnson said. "Especially the wartime symphonies, the Third and the Fourth. They come about as close to being the 'Great American Symphony' as anything we have. They are strong enough to stand with Copland's Third."

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