World Premiere Recording of

William Grant Still’s

Music for Violin and Orchestra

Featuring Violinist Zina Schiff and Conductor Avlana Eisenberg Leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Naxos American Classics Release Includes Nine of Still’s

Long-Overlooked Gems

On Friday, May 27, 2022, the world premiere recording, William Grant Still: Music for Violin and Orchestra, featuring acclaimed violinist Zina Schiff and conductor Avlana Eisenberg leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, will be released by Naxos American Classics (Naxos 8.559867). The album includes world premiere orchestral versions of SummerlandViolin SuitePastorelaAmerican SuiteThrenody, Serenade, Fanfare for the 99th Fighter Squadron, Can’t You Line ‘Em and Quit Dat Fool’nish.

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Still (1895-1978), known as the “Dean of Afro-American Composers,” composed nearly 200 works including symphonies, ballets, operas, choral works, art songs and chamber music, and he broke a number of barriers. He was the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. Still hoped “that my music may serve a purpose larger than mere music. If it will help in some way to bring about better interracial understanding in America and in other countries, then I will feel that the work is justified.” Still’s granddaughter and noted PBS and NPR broadcaster, Celeste Headlee, calls the album “a treasure,” reflecting, “As a Black composer, my grandfather worked so hard to get his works recorded, but by the time he passed away very few of his works had been recorded by any orchestra. How fulfilling and wonderful it is to have an entire album of his pieces never recorded before, all beautifully and feelingly played." Click [here] to listen to Celeste Headlee discuss the recording and her grandfather.


Both Schiff and Eisenberg, who are mother and daughter, have long been advocates of Still’s music. Schiff, a Heifetz protégé, recalls meeting William Grant Still as a student. She has since championed many of his works in performance and recorded six of his pieces on her 1997 4-Tay recording, Here’s One, including Summerland and Quit Dat Fool’nish, both of which are recorded here in their orchestral versions with the RSNO. In 2021, she lectured on William Grant Still at the American String Teachers Association National Convention. That same year Eisenberg and the Boston Chamber Symphony released the debut video of their “Sounds of America” series – a multimedia performance ofCan’t You Line ‘Em" by William Grant Still. Click [here] to view Can't You Line 'Em video.

The thirteen tracks on this recording open with Can’t You Line ’Em (1940), based on a folk ballad collected and compiled by the Lomax Brothers. The music captures the rhythm and spirit of the construction gangs “tie-shuffling,” or lining up railroad tracks.

Still’s 3 Visions – No. 2. Summerland (1936), originally composed as the second movement of 3 Visions for solo piano, is Still’s delicate depiction of the serenity and purity of Heaven.

Quit Dat Fool’nish (1935), is another work originally composed for solo piano, which conjures up a jazzy romp with Still’s mischievous dog, Shep.

In the composer’s words, Pastorela (1946), is “a tone picture of a California landscape, peaceful but exciting, arousing feelings of languor in some of its aspects and of animation in others, presenting an overall effect of unity in its variety.” Still wrote this work honoring his adopted state at the request of his friend, violinist Louis Kaufman.

Still’s first symphonic work, American Suite (c. 1918), was composed while he was attending Wilberforce University in Ohio. This Suite’s three contrasting movements display the composer’s characteristically broad emotional range, beginning with a lyrical love song, followed by a spritely dance movement, and finally, a lament, reflective and nostalgic, yet tinged with hope.

Fanfare for the 99th Fighter Squadron (1945), resonates with the pride, courage, and patriotic resolve of the Tuskegee Airmen, 992 pilots who served in World War II. On April 3, 1939, Appropriations Bill Public Law 18 passed, containing an amendment designating money to train African American airmen. Leopold Stokowski and the Los Angeles Philharmonic premiered Fanfare for the 99th Fighter Squadron at the Hollywood Bowl on July 22, 1945, in commemoration of the end of the war and the valiant service of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Serenade (1957), was originally proposed as a cello concerto by Still’s friend Gregor Piatigorsky, but was ultimately written for a commission by a Great Falls, Montana orchestra. Reflecting its origins, the work features lush cello writing and illustrates Still's interest in American folk idioms.

The Violin Suite (1943), is a musical impression of three works of art: African Dancer, a bronze statue by Richmond Barthé displayed at the Whitney Museum in New York; Mother and Child, a colored lithograph by Sargent Johnson housed at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art; and Gamin, a bronze bust by Augusta Savage at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Inspired by the artwork of his contemporaries, Still translated them into music.

Concluding the album is Threnody: In Memory of Jean Sibelius (1965), commissioned by Maestro Fabien Sevitzky for a concert in memory of Jean Sibelius, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Still’s tribute is a haunting farewell, channeling the spirit of Sibelius.

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Award-winning Heifetz-protégéviolinist Zina Schiff, has performed, recorded and given masterclasses on five continents. In the United States, she has appeared as soloist with the orchestras of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Rochester, Brooklyn, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, among others. Her growing discography of sixteen albums include many world premiere recordings of rare American and Jewish music, as well as standards such as the Brahms Sonatas and Concerti of Bach, Vivaldi, Barber and Sibelius. Her eclectic career has included recording the solo violin score, composed by Maurice Jarre, for the MGM movie, The Fixer, as well as recording back-ups in Nashville for artists such as Chet Atkins and Johnny Cash. She has appeared on the PBS series Nova and on major radio broadcasts throughout the world. Her previous NAXOS releases include award-winning albums Cecil Burleigh: Music for Violin and Piano and Ernest Bloch: Concerto and Suites with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Winner of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Award and the San Francisco Symphony Foundation Award, Schiff is also a grant recipient from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music. While at the Curtis Institute, she won both the Junior and Senior Auditions of the Philadelphia Orchestra. A Glamour Magazine Top Ten College Winner while at UC Berkeley, Musical America selected her as an Outstanding Young Artist.


Music Director of the Boston Chamber Symphony, Avlana Eisenberg has conducted orchestras throughout the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom. Her discography includes recordings with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra MAV, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and a forthcoming release with the Salzburg Chamber Soloists. Eisenberg has led ensembles at noted summer festivals including the Edinburgh Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Eastern Music Festival and Festival at Sandpoint, and at such venues as the Mozarteum, Hungarian Radio Hall and Granada Theater. Recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to work at the Paris National Opera, she graduated from Yale University, where she received the V. Browne Irish Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts and was selected as a Top Ten College Winner by Glamour Magazine. Eisenberg earned graduate degrees in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Michigan and the Peabody Institute.

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Founded in 1891, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) is one of Europe’s leading symphony orchestras. Many renowned conductors have contributed to its success, including Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Alexander Gibson and Neeme Järvi. Thomas Søndergård has been the orchestra’s music director since 2018. The RSNO performs across Scotland and appears regularly at the Edinburgh International Festival and the BBC Proms in addition to international tours. With a widely acclaimed discography, the RSNO has previously appeared on BIS in a cycle of Rachmaninov’s symphonies as well as in programs of music by James MacMillan, Ge Gan-ru and Sally Beamish.

Click [here] for recording booklet with

track listing, timing, program notes, bios and more

For media only, not for public distribution,

Click [here] for link to audio files.

 For interview requests, airplay and review copies, please contact

Genevieve Spielberg

at 908-608-1325 or

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