The River • Take the ‘A’ Train
talking to Gail Wein about the music
– JoAnn Falletta
In this landmark recording, JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic demonstrate the stunning depth of Duke Ellington’s musical knowledge and diversity, and his astonishing talent as a composer. Like many Americans, JoAnn grew up knowing and loving his songs, but only later realized that he had written serious concert compositions for the symphony. The recording brings together on CD Ellington’s Harlem, Three Black Kings, The River, and Black Brown and Beige and includes as an encore the Ellington band’s iconic theme song, Take the A Train.
The CD illustrates By any measure, Duke Ellington is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and a composer who single–handedly elevated jazz to the status of other musical genres. Yet Ellington never said that he was a jazz composer–"I write American music" he simply stated, and he enjoyed exploring a kaleidoscope of musical avenues, including gospel, ballet, classical, theatre, opera and more. In his Black Brown and Beige, the Duke created a tribute to the tradition of African–American religious faith in the first movement, an elegy to the African–Americans who gave their lives in the Civil War and World Wars I and II, and an evocation of the dawning of a unique culture in Harlem in the 1920s in the final movement.
Three Black Kings presents three vibrant royal portraits–Balthazar (the black king of the Magi), King Saul of the Old Testament, and Martin Luther King. Ellington’s love of philosophy is evident in The River, in which he used the meandering waterway as a metaphor for the vicissitudes of our lives. Harlem, his masterpiece, is a powerful, evocative and irresistible tone portrait of Ellington’s own beloved neighborhood.
Duke Ellington is one of the premier musicians of the 20th century. Books have been written about him, his image is on a U.S. postal stamp, he has been honored with doctorates and the Presidential Medal of Honor, and the anniversary of his 100th birthday occasioned a nationwide Centennial.
His contributions to the jazz genre are many. His bands in the ’20s and ’30s introduced "jungle music" which incorporated African influences. Ellington was more conscious of musical form than his predecessors. He thought in orchestral terms, using the band as his instrument. He wrote specifically for his musicians, drawing on their talents as soloists and ensemble players to create the "Ellington effect," so–called by Billy Strayhorn. He used instruments in unusual roles within the band and rarely soloed on piano, preferring the role of arranger. Because Ellington was forward looking musically he was able to keep his band together until his death when his son Mercer took over. Many of its members were with him for three decades.
JoAnn Falletta serves as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Virginia Symphony in the United States and Principal Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra in Northern Ireland. She has guest conducted over a hundred orchestras in North America, and many of the most prominent orchestras in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa and is the Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center of North Carolina. Recipient of the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductors Award, winner of the Stokowski Competition, and the Toscanini, Ditson and Bruno Walter conducting awards, Falletta has also received eleven ASCAP awards and serves on the U.S. National Council on the Arts. A champion of American music, she has presented nearly five hundred works by American composers including over one hundred world premières. Her Naxos recordings include the double GRAMMY® Award winning disc of works by John Corigliano and GRAMMY® nominated discs of works of Tyberg, Dohnányi, Fuchs, Schubert, and Respighi.
For more information, please visit www.joannfalletta.com
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1935 and makes its home in Kleinhans Music Hall, a national historic landmark with an international reputation as one of the greatest concert halls in the United States. Through the decades the orchestra has grown in stature under a number of distinguished conductors including William Steinberg, Josef Krips, Lukas Foss, Michael Tilson Thomas, Julius Rudel, Semyon Bychkov, and Maximiano Valdés. As Buffalo’s cultural ambassador, the BPO has performed across the United States, Canada and Europe, including concerts at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Boston’s Symphony Hall, San Francisco’s Davies Hall and 22 appearances in Carnegie Hall. The orchestra’s European tour included two sold–out performances in Vienna’s Musikverein, and concerts in Milan, Geneva, Zurich and Frankfurt, among other venues. The BPO performs 120 concerts annually and is heard by millions on radio broadcasts across the United States and beyond on American Public Media’s Performance Today.
For more information, please visit www.bpo.org.