New Works: His Own Thing

"Some composers change their colors constantly," says Conductor William Steinberg. "Sessions writes only music by Sessions. To the end, he is true to his personality, his genius."

To the end, American Symphonist Roger Sessions is going to be a difficult composer for the public to like. At Manhattan's Philharmonic Hall last week, his new Eighth Symphony—masterful in its lyric use of twelve-tone principles, fearless in its glacial austerity—laid one of the big eggs of the season. At the close, few in the audience even realized the work was over; men were caught with their arms folded, women with fingers entwined...