I was familiar with Walter Simmons writing from his magazine reviews, and I had found him an almost invariably trusted guide to good music. When I found that he had written a book focused on six of my favorite American composers, I was excited but dismayed by the price of the book. Nevertheless, I took the plunge, and the cost became immediately greater: Simmons led me to search out even more recordings by these composers.
Although I was already a devoted follower of the music of Paul Creston, Simmons' analysis added immensely to my understanding of the music. Flagello and Giannini had also been a passion, as had Ernest Bloch. I was forced to look overseas for a recordng of one Bloch work with which I had newly become familiar: "Helvetia: The Land of Mountains and Its People," a thoroughly enjoyable symphonic work.
Each section of Simmons' book follows a similar pattern: a BIOGRAPHY of the composer, followed by a discussion of the MUSIC, typically broken into three or more periods, a CONCLUSION, NOTES, SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY, and ESSNETIAL DISCOGRAPHY. For those intimidated by the cost of the book, consider the fact that it will serve as a constant reference and provide many many hours of absorbing reading. But be prepared to spend even more as you discover recordings of works you suspect you must have.
For those concerned about any technical jargon that might hinder comprehension, be assured that Simmons writes with eloquence in a way to help even the minimally musicologically educated reader to follow his analyses.
If you have even a minimal interest in American music, or in music that touches the heart while showing considerable knowledge of structure, you owe it to yourself to obtain this book. Make it number 1 on your wish list, or, as I did, take the plunge now. You won't regret it.