A City of Silver & A City of Fire

Premiere Performances of Concert Fantasies By Louis W. Ballard

Louis W. Ballard composer
Roberta Rust piano

Release Date: May 13, 2022
Catalog #: NV6429
Format: Digital
20th Century
Solo Instrumental

A CITY OF SILVER & A CITY OF FIRE from pianist Roberta Rust marked a monumental moment for classical music as Carnegie Hall’s first presentation of music by an American Indian composer performed by an American Indian artist. Written in celebration of two cities close to the composer’s heart, these works by Louis W. Ballard come with a generous helping of intricate musical narratives and sentimental tones that speak clearly and thoughtfully through Rust’s performance. Originally recorded in 1984, these pieces honor the late composer and spirit of those to whom they’re dedicated in this live recording.


Hear the full album on YouTube


Choose your platform

"I therefore encourage listeners to spend quality time hearing and reading its illuminating contents multiple times over."

Classical Music Daily

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 A City of Silver - concert fantasy for pianoforte Louis W. Ballard Roberta Rust, piano 7:11
02 A City of Fire - concert fantasy for pianoforte Louis W. Ballard Roberta Rust, piano 7:41

A City of Silver & A City of Fire
Recorded October 12, 1984 at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York NY

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Chris Robinson

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Mastering Melanie Montgomery

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran
Content Manager Sara Warner

Artist Information

Roberta Rust


Roberta Rust has concertized to critical acclaim around the globe, with performances at such venues as Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, New York's Merkin Concert Hall, Rio de Janeiro's Sala Cecília Meireles, Washington's Corcoran Gallery, Havana’s Basilica, and Seoul's KNUA Hall. Hailed for her recordings on PARMA (Navona), Centaur, and Protone labels, Rust has appeared with the Lark, Ying, Serafin, Amernet, and Fine Arts String Quartets and at Miami's Mainly Mozart Festival, the Philippines Opusfest, the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival, Festival Miami, Long Island's Beethoven Festival, and France's La Gesse.

Louis W. Ballard

Louis W. Ballard


Louis W. Ballard, born at Devil’s Promenade OK on July 8, 1931, was acknowledged during his lifetime as the leading Native American composer of classical music, creating major symphonic works, choral works, chamber music, and ballet music. His music received premieres at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution, Hollywood Bowl, Town Hall, and Carnegie Hall. He used Indian subjects authentically without sacrificing his own originality as a composer. His Incident at Wounded Knee was commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and received numerous performances in the United States and Europe.

Koshare, an Indian ballet describing a Hopi myth, toured the United States under the patronage of Mrs. Lyndon Johnson. Other works include a choral cantata, The Gods Will Hear, and Xacte’Oyan, an orchestral work. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians states “Ballard’s compositional style fuses 20th century techniques with diverse Amerindian influences. An intimate knowledge of Amerindian culture enables him to create innovative works in many genres that sensitively and respectfully recreate tribal worlds.”

His ancestry includes a principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and a medicine chief of the Quapaw Nation, as well as Scottish, French, and English forebears. His Quapaw name, Honganózhe, means “Stands with Eagles.” Ballard’s honors include National Indian Achievement Awards, grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts, ASCAP Awards, the first MacDowell Award for American Chamber Music, and a Lifetime Musical Achievement Award by First Americans in the Arts. He studied at the University of Oklahoma and received multiple music degrees from the University of Tulsa. He was awarded honorary doctorates from the College of Santa Fe (NM) and William Jewell College. His composition teachers included Milhaud, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Surinach, and Labunski. As a prominent educator, he was music program director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and developed a bicultural music education program that earned him a Distinguished Service Award from the Central Office of Education and a citation in the Congressional Record.

He made his home for many years in Santa Fe NM and died there on February 9, 2007. Ballard wrote, “It is not enough to acknowledge that American Indian music is different from other music, what is needed in America is an awakening and reorienting of our total spiritual and cultural perspective to embrace, understand, and learn from the aboriginal American what motivates his musical and artistic impulses.”


A City of Silver & A City of Fire: Premiere Performances of Concert Fantasies by Louis W. Ballard

The genesis of these premiere performances of Louis W. Ballard’s concert fantasies for piano occurred when I first became aware of his music in the early 1980s. At that time I was living in Great Neck, Long Island and read a review of an Alice Tully Hall performance given by the American Composers Orchestra — with Dennis Russell Davies conducting — of Ballard’s Xacte’Oyan (Companion of Talking God). Subsequently, I heard the work on a radio broadcast and was deeply moved by it and called ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) to try and find out if Ballard had composed any solo piano music. They gave me his contact information and I called him at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He sent me a score to his concert fantasy for pianoforte, A City of Silver, which was inspired by his 1980 trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and bears the dedication “Para todos los desaparecidos del mundo” (for all the disappeared ones of the world), with specific reference to the people who vanished at the hands of the Argentine military in the 1970s. I decided to present its New York premiere in my October 1984 recital at Carnegie Recital Hall. The summer before that performance, Ballard told me about another concert fantasy he was working on, entitled A City of Fire, which was dedicated to Los Alamos, New Mexico. He asked me if I would give the world premiere of the work at my October 1984 recital, so I paired it with A City of Silver in the concert. This recording is from that recital. Ballard felt these pieces were celebrations of two cities that had a major influence on humanity. He also noted that the October 12, 1984 recital “marks the first performance in Carnegie (Recital) Hall of the music of a Native American composer by a Native American concert pianist.”

— Roberta Rust

Dedication: Para todos los desaparecidos del mundo

Here is a composer’s précis that Ballard included on the back page of the score, dated January 6, 1981:

“This composition was inspired by the composer’s visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August of 1980 and the warm memories of that great city of lovely, hospitable, and exuberant people where the precious metal — silver — was so evident as an integral part in the history and life of that robust and thriving metropolis. However, the beauty and grandeur were somewhat marred when the composer learned more about those who have “disappeared,” who are termed “los desaparecidos” in this and other countries of South America. Hence, the dedication to all who have disappeared in the world and whose shadows and spirits alone inhabit an imaginary “City of Silver,” for whom this work was written and dedicated. Viva los desaparecidos!”

Ballard noted that he was invited to Argentina “for the world premiere of his choral cantata, Thus Spake Abraham, by the Choro Conservatorio Gilardo Gilardi. As a musical invocation of the tragic events of this period, this work — A City of Silver — emerges as a universal statement of human loss. The title refers not only to the mineral riches of Argentina and La Plata Rio (The Silver River) but to the quick-changing fortunes affecting the lives of the people.”

— Roberta Rust

Dedication: To the City of Los Alamos, New Mexico, U.S.A.

Upon the world premiere of A City of Fire (October 12, 1984), Ballard received the following note from Sidney Singer, Chairman of the Los Alamos County Council:

“From the people of Los Alamos whose efforts and spirit inspired your music, and from a community which deeply appreciates creativity and artistry in all of its forms, congratulations on the occasion of the world premiere of your composition, “A City of Fire.”

The sacred fires of human inspiration which earlier gave birth to the age of nuclear energy are quite capable — when broadly directed — of sponsoring another age — one of enlightenment — based on a deep understanding of nature and a thoughtful application of its fruits. Perhaps frustration and loss of innocence, notions thematic to your music, are inevitable parts of the learning process and our social and artistic evolution. We hope that a new age of enlightenment can integrate these powerful forces and emotions to fuel new sacred fires for the benefit of all humankind.”

Ballard described A City of Fire as “the second in a series of piano fantasies and is dedicated to the city of Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the horror of atomic fire was unleashed. Following a programmatic design, this fantasy begins in a tonally stable manner symbolic of our pre-atomic innocence. As the tone poem unfolds, turbulent timbres are introduced through the accretion of dissonance, the employment of disjunctive chordal leaps, rapid octaves, and insistent syncopation which creates an explosive sonority. The final climactic pages are filled with violent and spiritual upheaval, a veritable apocalypse of sound.This marks the first performance in Carnegie (Recital) Hall of the music of a Native American composer by a Native American concert pianist.”

This recording release is dedicated to my maternal grandparents: Ida Mae Swift Bird and Patrick LeBeau.

— Roberta Rust