The farther that we move from them, the more peculiar and distorted the judgments of America's mid-twentieth century musical mandarins appear. In the single five-year period after World War II, a bevy of American composers reached maturity who wrote in a powerful but accessible idiom that gave elegant expression to the ethos of a great industrial nation at its pinnacle of energy. In addition to Roy Harris and William Schuman, who had debuted slightly earlier, one could count Paul Creston, Walter Piston, David Diamond, Nicolas Flagello, Elie Siegmeister, Norman dello Joio, and Peter Mennin. (To curtail the list arbitrarily.) The seductions of serialism - an Austro-German import - would see the work of these men pushed into undeserved obscurity, as a compositional "lingua franca" based on a misunderstanding of Schoenberg became obligatory in the schools of music. If you weren't "avant-garde," it followed that history had passed you by and made you irrelevant. Schuman and Mennin went into conservatory administration; they all struggled to keep their voices heard, but during their lifetimes it was a vain effort. Let's deal with Mennin, a prodigy whose Third Symphony was performed by the New York Philharmonic before it was accepted as the basis of his doctorate at Eastman Rochester. I admire Schuman but I have always thought Mennin a better symphonist. Schuman's symphonies often strike me as static - this is especially true of the later ones. Mennin's symphonies on the other hand always "travel." One has an immediate sense of direction and drama. The Fifth Symphony (1950) illustrates the point: Its First Movement (1/4=126) charges forward with powerful fanfares in a Hindemithian toccata; the slow Canto takes the form of a passacaglia mostly in strings and woodwinds; the concluding Allegro Tempestuoso is another exercise in rapid counterpoint and fugue. At less than thirty minutes, the Fifth's sinewy gestures make it seem big rather than brief. The Albany Symphony under David Alan Miller puts on a terrific performance, easily outdoing Howard Hanson's vintage account on Mercury. The Sixth Symphony (1953), written for Robert Whitney and the Louisville Orchestra, uses the same three-movement formula. (If it ain't broke, don't fix it.) The First Movement has a slow, rather Hansonesque introduction (Maestoso) that gives way to a muscular Allegro. The slow central movement (Grave) has a modal flavor. Like the other composers of Italian ancestry (Creston, Flagello, Giannini), Mennin preferred the modal to the tempered scales. The Finale (Allegro Vivace) reworks material from the First Movement in a busy moto perpetuo style. Mennin's writing for the brasses is really spectacular. The disc includes two other works by Mennin: The "Concertato" after Melville's "Moby Dick" (1952) and the Fantasia for String Orchestra (1946). The "Concertato" is a one-movement symphony about ten minutes in duration, something like one of Samuel Barber's "Essays" for orchestra, but harder-edged. The Fantasia, in two movements, invokes Renaissance polyphony, which Mennin assiduously mined. The alternative recording of the "Concertato" is under Gerard Schwarz on Delos, coupled with the Third and Seventh Symphonies. But Miller's is the only current listing for the important Sixth Symphony. With Creston on Naxos, Piston on Delos, and a host of other American symphonists of the same vintage once again available, the edict of previous musical wisdom seems to have been happily reversed. I give this disc my highest recommendation.