Michael Daugherty continues his musical exploration of iconic bits of Americana on this highly entertaining disc containing premiere recordings of three major works. Mount Rushmore is a cantata for chorus and orchestra in (aptly enough) four movements, each of which sets a text mostly by the president depicted in each of the mountainside’s four massive busts. Happily Daugherty creates variety by choosing a wide range reference. Thomas Jefferson, for example, contributes an Italian love song, while Lincoln is represented by the Gettysburg Address. The text setting is largely syllabic, and it would be idle to pretend that Daugherty shows much imagination in his handling of the vocal parts, but the scoring is brilliant and the work is muchRead more more than mere patriotic puffery (as the introspective ending shows).
Radio City, a three-movement “Symphonic Fantasy on Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony”, isn’t the first musical portrait of the great Italian maestro. That honor probably belongs to Don Gillis’ eponymous tone poem, which has yet to be recorded. Indeed, Gillis is the composer who Daugherty most often resembles in his “pop meets classical” aesthetic, although Gillis wins out in terms of sheer humor. Still, Radio City is a bravura vehicle for the orchestra. The opening movement casts a glance at Vivaldi and Verdi without ever descending into cheap pastiche, and it’s a tribute to Daugherty’s strength of personality that he always sounds more like himself than anyone else.
The Gospel According to Sister Aimee is another triptych, this time paying tribute to early-20th-century evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. A controversial figure, McPherson amassed a huge following while arousing widespread suspicion for supposedly staging her own disappearance so as to run off with one of her alleged lovers, before dying some years later from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. Brilliantly scored for organ, brass, and percussion, with the organ part vividly played by Paul Jacobs, the piece obviously comes from the same pen as the other works on the program. However, by the time I got to this last work I couldn’t help but notice one of the shortcomings of Daugherty’s language: the near total absence of counterpoint.
Tovey famously remarked of Berlioz that he “achieved everything that was possible for a composer who hated counterpoint,” and enjoyable as this music certainly is, you may well come to feel similarly about Daugherty. Certainly in a work featuring the chorus, or the organ, or both, there’s a great opportunity to indulge in some extended polyphony, even if it isn’t strict (as in a formal fugue). However exciting the performances are, and there’s no question that Carl St. Clair and the Pacific Symphony and Chorale do a splendid job, the music would benefit from a touch more textural variety to lend substance to its tuneful, splashy timbral surface. Of course this is a purely personal opinion, one that should not detract from the appeal of this otherwise beautifully engineered release.
Solid performance of fun musicMay 31, 2013By Daniel Kozlowski See All My Reviews"This album is my first real exposure to Michael Daughertys music beyond the Metropolis Symphony and his percussion concerto, UFO. It was interesting to dig into this album (and its awesome, extensive liner notes) and see what I could pull from it. With that said, I think my problem with Michael Daughertys music is that it leaves nothing to imagination. His skill as a composer, and particularly orchestrator, is beyond doubt. In Rushmore, the Thomas Jefferson movement is lush and filled with colorful, orchestrational subtlety; however, I think the point comes across in the final movement of Rushmore, a sluggish 14-minute setting of the Gettysburgh Address, with each phrase of text painstakingly set to music. Unfortunately, there are probably more subtle and effective ways of communicating the gravity of Lincolns speech. As with much of Daughertys music, he makes a significant point of ensuring that the audience understands the message of the work. And in case you missed it, he makes it clear again.. and again.. To be fair, this music is fun, and just rocks (n rolls). As a percussionist, I love Daughertys percussion scores, which are some of the most effective Ive ever heard. The Pacific Symphony and Paul Jacobs (organist) play tremendously well, and their performance alone is probably worth the buying the album. Paul Jacobs gives a masterful performance in The Gospel According to Sister Aimee, a three-movement biographical work on Sister Aimee McPherson, of which the second movement is an extended organ cadenza with ferocious pedal work. For Daugherty fans, this album is for you. For those looking to get their feet wet with his music, I highly recommend the Nashville Symphonys Grammy-winning recording of Metropolis Symphony, a work which is probably Daughertys most effective."Report Abuse
Monumental MusicMay 30, 2013By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA)See All My Reviews"This new Naxos release features three of Michael Daugherty's most recent compositions for orchestra -- as well the orchestra that commissioned them. And it's a winning combination. All three works crackle with energy and excitement. The Carl St. Clair and the Pacific Symphony know these compositions well. These are committed and self-assured performances. <br />
Mount Rushmore is an ambitious undertaking, presenting musical portraits of the four presidents carved into the mountain. Daugherty's modern, populist style makes the composition mass appeal/ Any of these movements would be perfect for a patriotic orchestral program.<br />
Radio City: Symphonic Fantasy on Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra is a three-movement suite that captures the vintage lushness of a Toscanini recording. Without resorting to pastiche, Daugherty conjures up sound and emotion of the golden age of symphony radio broadcasts. <br />
The Gospel According to Sister Aimee for Organ, Brass and Percussion uses source material of the period -- traditional American hymns and gospel songs -- to paint a portrait of one of the first radio evangelists. Daugherty transforms his material effectively. As the work progresses, the simplicity of the music loses its way, and becomes wildly distorted. <br />
Three distinctively American works, by an American composer with a distinctive voice, performed by an American ensemble. Not to purchase this would be, well, almost unpatriotic."Report Abuse