Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Steve Schwartz
Classical Net, June 2012

“Bells for Stokowski” meditates on the public career of conductor Leopold Stokowski, the creator of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s “Philadelphia sound.” A very evocative piece (Philadelphia Stories) and, it turns out, a Daugherty “hit” on its own.

Evelyn Glennie gives a jaw-dropping performance in UFO…she also can play very lyrically. Some of the effects Daugherty specifies can sound merely bizarre in other players. She makes them beautiful, without sacrificing their alien distance. Marin Alsop…keeps a convincing narrative going in “Bells for Stokowski,” which can sprawl and natter in other hands. The Colorado Symphony plays with conviction…a fine disc. © 2012 Classical Net

Hubert Culot
MusicWeb International, January 2005

"Philadelphia Stories, that the composer describes as his third symphony, was commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, and first performed by them under the direction of David Zinman. In three movements, this "travelogue of the sounds and rhythms of Philadelphia" begins at sundown (Sundown on South Street) with a colourful evocation of one of the most popular streets of Philadelphia and one well-known to the composer who was used to play jazz there in the 1980s. The music is appropriately brilliant and full of energy, in a fairly eclectic, often jazzy way (shades of urban Leonard Bernstein here). The second movement (Tell-Tale Harp) is some sort of nocturne (the composer prefers to call it an arabesque for two harps and orchestra) that obliquely refers to Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. This homage to Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Orchestra ends with a tribute to Stokowski (Bells for Stokowski) that alludes to Stokowski’s pioneering concert making as well as to his often larger-than-life Bach arrangements. For the most part, this movement is a big set of variations on a Bach-like tune by Daugherty followed by the composer’s own transcription of Bach’s own C major prelude. It all ends in full "Stokowski sound".

Daugherty’s percussion concerto UFO was written for Evelyn Glennie (who else indeed?). As may be expected, the music sets out to explore a formidable range of sounds as well as to put Glennie’s virtuosity to the test. It is in five movements bringing a good deal of often intriguing percussion instruments, identified and unidentified as well. The first movement functions as a short prelude opening mysteriously with some rustling sounds and bringing-in a siren for good measure. The xylophone as well as some pieces of scrap metal feature prominently in the second, fast movement, a virtuoso scherzo in all but the name. Flying, that follows, is the longest movement of the whole work suggesting flying saucers (primarily vibraphone within a fluid orchestral fabric). The fourth movement (titled ???) leaves much to one’s imagination (note the use of that rare instrument, the contrabassoon). The final movement is – appropriately enough – what I would describe as a brilliant HST (High Speed Toccata) ending the work in high jinks. Though it must be fun to play (i.e. in the hands of a first-class virtuoso) and to watch in a live performance, the piece as a whole may be somewhat less successful than one might have expected. To a certain extent, Jerry Goldsmith’s main title for The Planet of the Apes is much more telling and more successful in suggesting outer space mysteries.

I have read some adverse comments on Daugherty’s music often described as brash, vulgar, vernacular, gaudy and populist. I really do not know since this is my first encounter (or my encounter of the first type!) with his music; and I found Philadelphia Stories an attractive, albeit joyfully eclectic but utterly serious piece of music, whereas UFO is – as far as I am concerned – somewhat less satisfying, although a formidable showcase for top-rank percussionists. Needless to say that Evelyn Glennie navigates almost effortlessly throughout the whole piece. No earth-shaking masterpieces here, but Daugherty obviously knows how to handle large orchestral forces. Marin Alsop and her Colorado orchestra respond with vivid and committed playing."

Wilma Salisbury
Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 2005

Daugherty's exciting symphonic music sizzles with the spirit of contemporary America. Combining elements of rock and jazz with brilliant orchestrations and contrapuntal techniques, the pop-oriented composer creates entertaining sound portraits of people, places and things. In "Philadelphia Stories," he takes a walk down South Street, the former stamping ground of Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Mario Lanza, Patti LaBelle and other musical icons. In the same work, he acknowledges the role of lute and lyre in Edgar Allen Poe's horror stories, and he honors conductor Leopold Stokowski with exuberant references to the Liberty Bell and transcriptions of Bach's keyboard music. In "UFO," Daugherty transforms Glennie into a musical alien from outer space. While she gives a sensational performance on a huge array of percussion instruments that shimmer, smash, clatter and ring, the orchestra weaves in and out of the contrapuntal texture. Commissioned and premiered by, respectively, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the National Symphony, the large-scale works are vibrantly performed by conductor Alsop and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the ensemble that Daugherty formerly served as composer-in-residence.

Frank Oteri
NewMusicBox, December 2004

Many people in the new music community grumbled when the Philadelphia Orchestra ushered in the millennium with the seemingly worthy idea of an all-20th century season which emphasized contemporary composers like Rachmaninoff and Richard Strauss. At the same time, however, the orchestra commissioned eight living composers to create new works. And, now five years later, several of these works have proven themselves to be new classics: Jennifer Higdon's Concerto for Orchestra; Einojuhani Rautavaara's Symphony No. 8; and Michael Daugherty's Philadelphia Stories, one of the works featured on a new all-Daugherty CD released as part of the ever-enterprising Naxos American Classics series.

Tragically, while these three deserving works are now reaching audiences worldwide, none are featured in recordings by the orchestra for which they were written. No one can afford to release a commercial CD performed by the Philadelphians, which apparently some AFM official thinks is playing hard ball but which in reality has made the orchestra less relevant on the world stage.

Happily, Daugherty's music is no less vibrant in the Colorado Symphony Orchestra's spirited performance led by new music champion Marin Alsop. As usual, Daugherty pulls out all the stops in this three-movement musical travelogue of the sounds and rhythms of the City of Brotherly Love which, buried in the liner notes, he describes as his third symphony. What is unburied here is a smorgasbord of musical references including everything from Patti LaBelle and Mario Lanza (two local heroes) to over-orchestrated Bach a la Stokowski, the celebrated maestro of the Philadelphia Orchestra in its glory years.

An extra treat on the disc is Daugherty's five movement percussion concerto UFO inspired by alleged alien contacts ranging from sightings of flying saucers to the legendary crash at Roswell, New Mexico (which features beating on eight pieces of unidentified metal). Eerie… UFO was written for top percussion virtuoso Evelyn Glennie, another midwife for some of the most exciting orchestral repertoire in recent years, who appears as the soloist on this recording. Luckily not everyone's ability to appear on recordings has been stifled yet.

Joseph Dalton
Times Union, October 2004

"A new Naxos disc of music by Michael Daugherty features “UFO,” his remarkable concerto from 1999. With a catalog of pieces like “Metropolis Symphony” for orchestra, “Dead Elvis” for string quartet and tape, and “Jackie O,” an opera, Daugherty brings themes from popular American culture into the concert halls.

In the “UFO” concerto, Glennie uses a battery of percussion instruments to evoke the haunting, thrilling and overwhelming nature of flying saucers and other alien spacecrafts. It’s a fun ride with an interplay of musical ideas that aren’t as obvious as you’d expect ."

Marc Shugold
Rocky Mountain News, October 2004

"These two works display the American composer's love of big sound, his virtuosic approach to writing for orchestra and soloist and his fun-loving fondness for our quirky cultural preoccupations.

Philadelphia Stories is a splashy, often noisy, salute to that bustling city, while UFO, as its name suggests, is meant as a treatise on visitors from outer space, but is really an excuse for Glennie to show off her mind-boggling percussion skills, featuring an assortment of all things bangable.

Alsop and the CSO sound terrific here (both works were recorded live in Boettcher Hall in 2002). It's all good, clean, extremely colorful fun. And, of course, the disc is a nice feather in the CSO's cap. This is rich and complex music that is played with assurance, and a sure bet to enthrall Glennie's fans around the world.", October 2004

"Something of a coup for Naxos’ American Classics series matching world famous percussionist Evelyn Glennie with Gramophone Artist of the Year Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra with one of America's most intriguing composers. Daugherty has the uncanny ability to be all things to all listeners without seeming to comprise either seriousness or an enjoyable listening experience.

Commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2001, Philadelphia Stories is an orchestral travelogue of the sounds and rhythms of Philadelphia past and present. UFO, written in 1999 for Evelyn Glennie, is inspired by unidentified flying objects and sounds, beginning with Traveling Music where the percussion soloist, in the guise of an alien from outer space, mysteriously enters the concert hall playing a waterphone and mechanical siren."

Gramophone, January 2004

View PDF  

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group