MICHAEL DAUGHERTY: Philadelphia Stories for Orchestra; UFO, for Solo Percussion and Orchestra – Evelyn Glennie, percussion/Colorado Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop – Naxos

by | Dec 10, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MICHAEL DAUGHERTY: Philadelphia Stories for Orchestra; UFO, for Solo Percussion and Orchestra – Evelyn Glennie, percussion/Colorado Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop – Naxos American Classics series 8.559165, 64:38 *** 1/2:

Daugherty, hailing from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has become one of the most-performed young American composers today. He has a fertile musical imagination excited by many of the pop culture icons of the past, and has already used such figures as Elvis and Jackie O in his compositions. We reviewed a band version of the third movement of Daugherty’s Philadelphia Stories about a year and one-half ago – titled Bells for Stokowski.  The idea revolves around the colorful conductor visiting the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and hearing bells pealing throughout the city. There are also some variations on a Bach theme, inspired by the souping-up of that composer which Stoky frequently carried out. The lighthearted air of the Philadelphia Stories’ first movement is a picture of life on a famous street of the city known for its nightclubs and music.  The middle movement – Tell-Tale Harp – is scored for a pair of harps located left and right in the orchestra (for stereo display) and playing a rhythmic pulse meant to evoke The Tell-Tale Heart, which was written by Edgar Allan Poe in that city. Daugherty’s musical style in this work is easily understood and appreciated without being too academic or atonal.

The five-movement percussion concerto with Evelyn Glennie was inspired not by a particular celebrity but by Unidentified Flying Objects and spacy sounds in general. Though a number of the instruments played by Glennie are pitched instruments such as the xylophone, there is much emphasis on the unpitched noisemakers for my taste – with frequent returns of various annoying whistling sounds.  Perhaps aided by the visual experience of watching Glennie in action (which I have) racing around the percussion section, UFO would take on a more exciting character. But for me it sounded it sounded DOA. Excellent percussion sound however. Recorded by Naxos in Denver’s concert hall in 2002, this CD has been nominated for a classical Grammy.

 – John Sunier

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