American Orchestras on Naxos
July 9, 2009
Naxos proudly features a number of leading American orchestras on acclaimed recordings. Here are some recently released titles, with links to the biography & discography pages for these orchestras:
||ZEMLINSKY Lyric Symphony
BERG Three Pieces from the Lyric Suite
Houston Symphony Orchestra
Alexander von Zemlinsky’s best known work, the seductive Lyric Symphony, inspired Alban Berg, who quoted its third movement in his own Lyric Suite, three movements of which Berg himself arranged for string orchestra. Described by Theodor Adorno as “a latent opera”, Berg’s masterpiece was publicly dedicated to Zemlinsky but carried a secret programme: his illicit love for Hanna Fuchs-Robettin. Zemlinsky’s richly scored symphony, a late-Romantic song cycle by any other name, recalls both Mahler’s Song of the Earth (8.550933) and Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder (8.557518–19).
||SIERRA Missa Latin Pro Pace
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
Commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington DC, Roberto Sierra’s Missa Latina “is remarkably organic in its expression: if it is music that sets out to be liked—perhaps loved—it is also a unified and, one suspects, deeply felt utterance of the heart…the Missa Latina will bring pleasure to a great many listeners. (Indeed, the ‘Sanctus’ could almost be turned into a pop song.)…I can’t imagine anybody who starts listening to the Missa Latina wanting to turn it off before it is over” (The Washington Post).
||SHENG The Phoenix, Red Silk Dance, Tibetan Swing, H’un (Lacerations)
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
The Phoenix, co-commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and Danish National Symphony Orchestra, was inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen tale, the mythical bird symbolizing for Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng “the muse of all peoples.” Aggressive fervor seeks meditative peace in H’un: In memoriam 1966–1976, hailed by The New York Times as “a searing portrait of the Cultural Revolution in China…deeply affecting.” Sheng’s exquisite Spring Dreams, Three Fantasias and Tibetan Dance are available on Naxos 8.570601. China Dreams and Nanking Nanking can be heard on Naxos 8.555866.
||SCHUBERT ‘Death and the Maiden’ &
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Schubert’s music has been arranged by many other composers, though few have succeeded in amplifying the astonishing drama and pathos of a masterpiece such as the Death and the Maiden Quartet as has Andy Stein, who writes: ‘I have tried to create a late classical/early Romantic symphony out of this great chamber work, so that it perhaps would sound as if Schubert himself had conceived it in this form’. The reconstruction of the Scherzo of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony is based on fragments from the composer’s notebooks. The last movement uses segments from Schubert’s incidental music for Rosamunde, written shortly after he had set aside the Symphony, and which scholars believe may have been intended for its finale.
||GREY Enemy Slayer – A Navajo Oratorio
Phoenix Symphony Orchestra
The Phoenix Symphony enjoys a long history of premièring new works that bridge gaps between Western art music and Native cultures. Hailed as ‘a master’, Mark Grey ‘is a composer as well as a sound engineer, and what he is up to has far-reaching implications for the direction that classical music will take this century’ (Los Angeles Times). This recording of Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio is of the world première performance of the first oratorio based on an indigenous North American creation story. ‘Mark Grey’s score is perfectly crafted, impeccably paced, beautifully scored’ (The Arizona Republic).
||Abraham Lincoln Portraits
Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), sixteenth President of the United States, has inspired many works of literature, art and music. To celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, the Nashville Symphony, Leonard Slatkin and Naxos have selected eight important works by leading American composers, some setting Lincoln’s own immortal words, some words of poets inspired by him, others based on Lincoln’s life and ideals. Turok’s Variations on an American Song: Aspects of Lincoln and Liberty is based on a folk tune Lincoln used as a campaign song, Rosin the Bow.
||DVOŘÁK Symphony No 9, Symphonic Variations
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
This recording by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Marin Alsop is the first of three discs of Dvořák symphonies taken from live performances at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The most popular of all Dvořák’s works, Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’ makes an immediate appeal by virtue of a seemingly inexhaustible flow of melody and sparkling orchestration. Based on a melody he had composed earlier for men’s chorus, I am a fiddler, the Symphonic Variations are one of the composer’s most beautifully crafted and beguiling works.
||COPLAND Piano Concerto, The Tender Land Suite,
Old American Songs
Elgin Symphony Orchestra
Aaron Copland’s little-known opera The Tender Land takes place on a farm in the American South during the Depression. The composer later wrote, “I was trying to give young American singers material that they do not often get in the opera house... The result was closer to musical comedy than grand opera.” The suite that Copland extracted from The Tender Land is in three movements, with the second and third linked without pause. The 1926 Piano Concerto, like Gershwin’s Concerto of the previous year, is a 1920s “New York” piece—brassy, exuberant, ever confident in its bluesy swagger. Copland composed two sets of Old American Songs, originally for voice and piano but heard here transcribed for chorus and orchestra.
Many other fine orchestras from North America and around the world have also been recorded by Naxos. Visit the Orchestras section of our Artists Index to browse.