WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org
Welcome to ArkivMusic, the retail store for WDAV!

Black Composers Series: The Complete Album Collection


Release Date: 01/18/2019 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 586215  
Composer:  Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-GeorgesWilliam Grant StillSamuel Coleridge-TaylorUlysses S. Kay,   ... 
Performer:  Miriam FriedJaime LaredoFaye RobinsonWilliam Brown,   ... 
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraJuilliard String QuartetDetroit Symphony Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 10 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale!
CD:  $29.99
In Stock



Notes and Editorial Reviews

In the 1970s, CBS Masterworks made a groundbreaking series of recordings featuring the music of black composers. The nine LPs released all featured the pioneering conductor Paul Freeman. Sony Classical is proud to reissue the complete Black Composer Series in a single original album collection with each CD remastered from the original analogue tapes. The composers featured span several centuries and come from many different backgrounds. A bonus tenth album features Hale Smith’s Symphonic Spirituals, arrangements of 12 spirituals for voice and orchestra originally released by Paul Freeman in 1979. The many superb performers in this collection include the London Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore and Detroit Symphony Orchestras Read more and the Juilliard String Quartet. But is it the composers, many still little known today, who are the true stars of this milestone collection.

-----

REVIEW:

In 1974 Columbia Masterworks, in association with the Afro-American Music Opportunities Association, launched a Black Composer Series. Nine LPs eventually appeared, all devoted to mostly world-premiere recordings of works by composers of color spanning nearly two centuries. Apparently no effort was spared to ensure world-class results regarding research, preparation, and performance, and the series met with almost universal critical acclaim. Sony/BMG now brings these recordings together for the first time on CD, transferred from the original multi-track masters and packaged in original jacket format. The collection also includes a no less valuable bonus disc of symphonic spiritual arrangements, highlighted by the late Barbara Jordan’s stirring presence as a narrator. Today Columbia’s mid-1970s sonics sound a bit dry and claustrophobic, yet, if anything, the heightened analytic clarity further underlines the indisputable care and commitment that conductor Paul Freeman brought to these scores.

The earliest-born composers hold fascination in that one would be hard pressed to ascertain their identity without a score card, so to speak. For example, the Guadeloupe-born Parisian Joseph Boulogne Saint-Georges (1745-1799) may have been a younger contemporary of Haydn, yet his attractively tuneful style harks back to an earlier “classicism in embryo” 18th-century style. The Violin Concerto in F-sharp minor by José White Lafitte (1836-1918) was well received at its 1867 Paris premiere, yet the manuscript lay dormant at the Bibliotèque Nationale until musicologist Paul Glass uncovered and edited the score in time for a 1974 New York performance. Lafitte obviously composed the concerto to showcase his own violin virtuosity, which must have been formidable, given the solo part’s flashy yet expressive writing. Aaron Rosand’s warm singing tone and effortless technique make a compelling case for today’s young violin wizards to try their hands at this minor masterpiece.

Composed in 1816, the Requiem Mass by Brazilian composer José Mauricio Nunes Garcia (1767-1830) proves far stronger, more varied, inventive, and dramatic than his relatively inconsistent 1811 Missa Pastoni that appeared some years back on the obscure K. 617 label. Mozart’s influence pervades, most prominently in the Dies irae and the fugal Kyrie (Garcia actually led the Mozart Requiem’s Brazilian premiere in 1819), while the Offertory features two lovely extensive bass solos, sung superbly by Matti Tuloisela.

All of the collection’s 20th century composers (and one late 19th century composer) are represented at their best, although some works appeal more than others. William Grant Still’s loosely-knit Afro-American Symphony and Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s Danse Nègre are charming but dated. Of George Walker’s two major works here, I prefer the Trombone Concerto’s rhythmic unpredictability and pronounced emotional contrasts over the abrasively unmemorable Piano Concerto. By contrast, Olly Wilson’s Akwan for piano, electric piano, and amplified strings (sound clip) conveys more joyful energy and an organically freewheeling style. Perhaps it would have been better to subtitle Ulysses Kay’s “symphonic essay” Markings a ballet ,and that’s a compliment.

A disc given over to works by Panamanian composer Roque Cordero (1917-2008) may be the collection’s prize. Its centerpiece is a substantial and powerful three-movement Violin Concerto, written in 1962 for the New York Philharmonic’s violinist Sanford Allen, who plays the living daylights out of it here. Shades of Alban Berg’s songful serialism may hover over the first movement’s continuous solo/orchestra dialogues, notably in the first movement where shimmering strings support Allen’s cruelly exposed high-register musings. On the other hand, the vigorous finale’s unrelenting double stops have an asymmetric urgency that never lapses into cliché (sound clip). Granted, the coda resembles Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring as a tarantella, but it still makes a succinctly pulverizing effect. Terrence McKnight’s introductory essay discusses the Black Composers Series within its historical context, and offers short yet informative composer biographies that zero in on key career milestones. It’s good to have all of this music available again.

– ClassicsToday (Jed Distler) Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphonies (2), Op. 11: no 1 in G major by Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1779; Paris, France 
2.
Quartets (6) for Strings, Op. 1: No.1 in C Major by Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Juilliard String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: France 
3.
Symphonie concertante for 2 Violins in G major, Op. 13 by Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Performer:  Miriam Fried (Violin), Jaime Laredo (Violin)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1782; France 
4.
Ernestine: Scena by Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Performer:  Faye Robinson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: France 
5.
Symphony no 1 "Afro-American" by William Grant Still
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; United States 
6.
Highway One, USA: What Does He Know of Dreams? by William Grant Still
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: United States 
7.
Highway One, USA: You're Wonderful, Mary by William Grant Still
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: United States 
8.
Hiawatha's Wedding Feast: Onaway! Awake, beloved! by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Modern 
9.
African Suite: Danse negre by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; England 
10.
Markings by Ulysses S. Kay
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
11.
Concerto for Trombone by George Walker
Performer:  Denis Wick (Trombone)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USA 
12.
Concerto for Violin by Roque Cordero
Performer:  Sanford Allen (Violin)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; Panama 
13.
Miniatures (8) for Small Orchestra by Roque Cordero
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; Panama 
14.
Requiem Mass by José Maurício Nunes Garcia
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor), Matti Tuloisela (Bass Baritone), Betty Allen (Mezzo Soprano),
Doralene Davis (Soprano)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra,  Morgan State College Choir
15.
Concerto for Violin by José White
Performer:  Aaron Rosand (Violin)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
16.
Sonata for Cello by David Nathaniel Baker
Performer:  János Starker (Cello), Alain Planès (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973; USA 
17.
Sahdji by William Grant Still
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Morgan State College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; United States 
18.
African Suite: no 1, Joyful Day by Fela Sowande
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; England 
19.
African Suite: no 2, Nostalgia by Fela Sowande
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; England 
20.
African Suite: no 5, Akinla by Fela Sowande
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; England 
21.
Lyric for Strings by George Walker
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946/1990; USA 
22.
Akwan for Piano, Electronic Piano, Amplified Strings & Orchestra by Olly Wilson
Performer:  Richard Bunger (Piano)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
23.
Squares (An Essay for Orchestra) by Anderson, Thomas J., Jr.
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
24.
Visions of Ishwara by Talib Rasul Hakim
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
25.
Concerto for Piano by George Walker
Performer:  Natalie Hinderas (Piano)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975; USA 
26.
Celebration by Adolphus Hailstork
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974; USA 
27.
Ritual and Incantations by Hale Smith
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974; USA 
28.
Lift Every Voice and Sing by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
29.
Jesus Lay Your Head In by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
30.
Honor, Honor by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
31.
He Never Said a Mumbalin' Word by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
32.
A Change Has Got to Come by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
33.
Swing low, sweet chariot by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
34.
Gospel Train by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
Written: USA 
35.
Let us break bread together by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
Written: USA 
36.
Witness by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
Written: USA 
37.
The Revival by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
38.
This little light of mine by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
Written: USA 
39.
Deep river by Traditional
Performer:  William Brown (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London
Written: USA 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Great to have, the error notwithstanding February 4, 2021 By J. Robinson (Alton, IL) See All My Reviews "I have admired Paul Freeman's work over the years, but I regret that the marketing department at Sony mislabeled "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" as Traditional. Every educated person knows that anthem was composed around the turn of the twentieth century, with poet James Weldon Johnson writing the lyrics and his brother, the Tin-Pan Alley songwriter J. Rosamond Johnson composing the music. It has been known as The Negro National Anthem since the early 1900s. Unfortunately, Sony's marketing department employs ignorant, unread "staff."" Report Abuse
 Snap This Up! October 23, 2020 By J. Grove (Jacksonville, FL) See All My Reviews "I became acquainted with this series in my college days, checking out individual LPs from the public library. A decade later, I was able to buy a boxed set of the entire LP series from an academic specialty label that had licensed reissue rights. About a year ago, I was happy to see Sony release the series on CD, as this format makes it easier to explore all of this music. I've been extremely happy with this purchase. The music covers a wide range of genres, forms, and periods, so there's something for almost everyone here - chamber music, symphonies, concertos, tone poems, choral music, and excerpts from opera and oratorio. At this price, you can't lose for trying it. I have one small caveat. While the booklet accompanying the set has some new notes on the contents, they're a little sketchy, and they don't address every work in the set. Meanwhile, the slipcovers replicate the original LP covers, but for the first four discs in the set, that means that all you get is a statement about the aims of the Black Composers Series and a bio of series conductor Paul Freeman - nothing on the music itself. The later issues did have notes on the composers and the music, and that is replicated here, albeit reduced to such miniscule size that you might need a magnifying glass to read it. Fortunately, I still have the boxed LP set with its extensive notes on all of the works in the series. But this is often glorious music, from the poised and elegant eighteenth-century stylings of the Chevalier de Saint-Georges (the subject of a forthcoming movie) through the Brazilian cleric Jose Mauricio Nunes Garcia's imposing Requiem Mass to William Grant Still's exotically colorful choral ballet "Sahdji," and then on to the decisively modern soundscapes of Talib Rasul Hakim's "Visions of Ishwara." The "Symphonic Spirituals" album, which wasn't officially part of the series, is a moving bonus. This is a musical heritage that should be reclaimed for all people of all races." Report Abuse
Review This Title