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Ellington: Suite From The River, Etc; Dawson / Järvi, Et Al


Release Date: 05/22/2001 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 9909   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Edward "Duke" EllingtonWilliam Levi Dawson
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"Music beyond category" was one of Duke Ellington's highest terms of praise, and it's a description that fits much of his own music, in which demarcation lines between "classical" and "popular" music become blurred, if not altogether moot. Tone poems and programmatic music of the early 20th-century were a particular interest; Ellington often cited Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, Holst's Planets, and Debussy's La Mer and Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun among his favorite works. Harlem (A Tone Parallel to Harlem) originally was intended for Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra and Ellington's band. And, of course, there have been many examples of classical musicians taking on Ellington's shorter pieces (some Read more successfully, many others less so.) Simply put, though, Neeme Järvi and his Detroit players understand the unique demands of this music. Excellently paired with William Levi Dawson's Negro Folk Symphony (another work that obfuscates strict categorization), this is a recording to treasure.


While Morton Gould's transcription of the early "Solitude" and the sweet "River" Suite (premiered in 1971) are very enjoyable, it's Harlem that's the main attraction. Eventually premiered by Ellington's band (as Toscanini became too ill to participate), Harlem was orchestrated by Luther Henderson, one of Duke's frequent collaborators. (A review of another performance of Harlem, as well as some of Henderson's other Ellington work, may be found on Classics Today by searching for "Classic Ellington" featuring Simon Rattle and the CBSO.) Although Ellington claimed that it depicted more of Sunday-morning churchgoing than the neighborhood's nightlife, Harlem is an extraordinarily voluptuous work. Beginning with two ultra-exposed trumpet parts (played by Walter White and William Lucas), the Detroit players confidently swagger through the score: catch the blazing horns at 11:21 and again at Harlem's conclusion. It's not all bravado, though; they also luxuriate in Harlem's sleek contours, with some great slides pulled off by the unnamed clarinet soloist.


For William Levi Dawson, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky were major influences. Combining hyperbolic romanticism with themes from spirituals, the Negro Folk Symphony is an overtly hybrid creation next to Ellington's organic compositions. It's like a jigsaw puzzle: the pieces fit together but the rifts between the individual styles are never completely bonded. Regardless of those issues, though, Dawson's superb orchestration and sense of color make listening worthwhile. The sound isn't quite top-notch: it's very smooth, to the point of being one-dimensional. Where differentiation of color makes all the difference--as in the Dawson--the flatness of the strings in particular is a drawback.
--Anastasia Tsioulcas, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1. The River: Suite by Edward "Duke" Ellington
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; USA 
Date of Recording: 1992 
Venue:  Symphony Orchestra Hall, Detroit, MI 
Length: 26 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Notes: Orchestrated: Ron Collier 
2. Harlem by Edward "Duke" Ellington
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/25/1993 
Venue:  Symphony Orchestra Hall, Detroit, MI 
Length: 15 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Notes: Orchestrated: Luther Henderson 
3. Solitude by Edward "Duke" Ellington
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; USA 
Date of Recording: 01/12/1992 
Venue:  Symphony Orchestra Hall, Detroit, MI 
Length: 3 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Notes: Arranged: Morton Gould 
4. Negro Folk Symphony by William Levi Dawson
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; USA 
Date of Recording: 1992 
Venue:  Symphony Orchestra Hall, Detroit, MI 
Length: 28 Minutes 31 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Negro Folk Symphony: I. The Bond of Africa
Negro Folk Symphony: II. Hope in the Night
Negro Folk Symphony: III. O, le' me shine, shine like a Morning Star!
The River Suite (arr. Ron Collier): I. Spring
The River Suite (arr. Ron Collier): II. Meander
The River Suite (arr. Ron Collier): III. Giggling Rapids
The River Suite (arr. Ron Collier): IV. Lake
The River Suite (arr. Ron Collier): V. Vortex
The River Suite (arr. Ron Collier): VI. Riba
The River Suite (arr. Ron Collier): VII. Village Virgins
Solitude (arr. M. Gould): Solitude (arr. for string orchestra)
Harlem, "A Tone Parallel to Harlem" (arr. for orchestra): Harlem, "A Tone Parallel to Harlem"

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