Born in 1913 into a long line of Italian musicians, Norman Dello Joio followed quickly in his family’s footsteps. His father was an opera coach and organist; by age 12, young Norman was substituting for his father on organ jobs. He went to Juilliard on scholarship, where he shifted his focus from the organ to composition, studying with Paul Hindemith. He wrote for a wide range of ensembles and won accolades from all corners of the music world, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 and an Emmy in 1965 for his score to the television documentary A Golden Prison: The Louvre. His contributions to the wind band repertoire are significant, and include Scenes from The Louvre, the Variants on a Mediaeval Tune, a set of Satiric Dances, and several other beloved works. Dello Joio died in 2008 at age 95 having never retired from composition.
Scenes from the Louvre comes from a 1964 television documentary produced by NBC News called A Golden Prison: The Louvre, for which Dello Joio provided the soundtrack. The documentary tells the history of the Louvre and its world-class collection of art, which is in many ways inseparable from the history of France. Dello Joio chose to use the music of Renaissance-era composers in his soundtrack in order to match the historical depth of the film. He collected the highlights of this Emmy-winning score into a five-movement suite for band in 1965, on a commission from Baldwin-Wallace College. The first movement, “Portals”, is the title music from the documentary, and it consists entirely of Dello Joio’s original material, complete with strident rhythms and bold 20th-century harmony. The second movement, “Children’s Gallery”, never actually appears in the film. It is a light-hearted theme and variations of Tielman Susato‘s Ronde et Saltarelle. The stately third movement is based on themes by Louis XIV’s court composer, Jean Baptiste Lully, and is aptly titled “The Kings of France”. Movement four, “The Nativity Paintings”, uses the mediaeval theme “In dulci jubilo“, which Dello Joio also used in his Variants on a Mediaeval Tune. The “Finale” uses the Cestiliche Sonate of Vincenzo Albrici as its source material, to which Dello Joio adds his own harmonic flavor, particularly in the final passages of the piece.
Here’s the Concord Band of Massachusetts playing Scenes from the Louvre in full:
Now take a look at part of the TV documentary. It is truly a fascinating history and a very well-done film that you all should watch. While the whole thing was once on YouTube, now only part 4 remains. The entire film is also available as a DVD on Netflix.
Now for some source material! The first movement is Dello Joio’s own. Here’s the basis of the second, Susato’s Ronde et Salterelle, played on the organ:
I couldn’t find the exact Lully theme from “The Kings of France”. So you’ll have to settle for this extremely French movie clip, featuring the one and only Gerard Depardieu conducting what looks to be a reasonably authentic period orchestra. It certainly captures the royal spirit of Lully’s court compositions:
“In dulci jubilo” is all over the place. Here’s one version which takes me back to my Anglican choirboy youth:
Again, I couldn’t find the exact Albrici piece that Dello Joio used in the “Finale”. But this one captures his spirit quite well:
Dello Joio’s website. It’s unfortunately very out of date and looks very much like the early-internet relic that it is. But it is still an informative look into Dello Joio’s life and work.
More on Scenes from the Louvre from Alex Armstead, to whom this page owes a great debt: I never would have identified the source composers of each movement without his information. Here’s his lesson plan and awesome presentation.