Neeme Jarvi and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have already given us William Grant Still's First Symphony on a previous instalment in their ongoing American Series (4/93). Now the same team enterprisingly present its equally approachable successor from 1937, in a performance every bit as sympathetic and affectionate as on that earlier CD. Although it would be foolhardy to hail the symphony as a major find, it is an affectingly lyrical, totally unpretentious offering. Not surprisingly, given Still's reputation as an expert arranger, the scoring is assured and effective; indeed, the richly textured string writing in particular seems tailor-made for the legendary skills of the work's premiere performers, namely Leopold Stokowski and theRead more Philadelphia Orchestra.
The latter also first performed William Levi Dawson's Negro Folk Symphony. That was in 1934, but the composer later revised the piece after a visit to Africa in 1952, in which form Stokowski subsequently recorded it with the American SO. Again, it is thoroughly diverting stuff, stylishly orchestrated and would surely make a refreshing change from, say, Dvol-ak's New World in the concert-hall. Whatever, Jarvi's splendid account will certainly win this tuneful score many new admirers.
Of course, it was John Mauceri who most recently drew our attention to the provocative charms of Duke Ellington's steamy 1950 portraitin-sound, Harlem. Of the two, Mauceri's version is perhaps the more street-wise and 'dangerous to know', yet the relaxed virtuosity displayed by Jarvi's Detroit players makes for an experience just as swaggeringly enjoyable. Given such consistently idiomatic, polished advocacy and agreeably velvety Chandos sound, this release must be deemed a great success.