By Robert Markow | From the January-February 2024 issue of Strings Magazine


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Symphony No. 5½ performed by the New Symphony Orchestra

Symphony No. 5½ was written by the American composer Don Gillis (1912–78) and played by Toscanini and the NBC Symphony on a radio broadcast in 1947. It comes—quite logically—between Gillis’ Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 and is subtitled “A Symphony for Fun.” Its four movements also carry comical titles: Perpetual Emotion, Spiritual?, Scherzofrenia, and Conclusion!. In addition to his work as a composer, Gillis was a producer for the NBC Symphony Orchestra radio broadcasts under Toscanini and taught at the University of South Carolina. According to the New York Times, “he described himself as fundamentally a melodist, influenced orchestrally by Strauss, Sibelius, and Debussy. His music sometimes had a jazzy style evolving from Gershwin and Grofé.” 

Don-Gillis-Symphony-5.5-London records
Don Gillis, Symphony 5-1/2, London Records