Fire and Blood Motor City Tri
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This recording celebrates three exciting works commissioned and premiered by the Detroit Symphony Orch. during Michael Daugherty's four years as composer in residence . Inspired by Diego Rivera's monumental fresco and Frida's Kahlo's painting created in Detroit, Michigan.
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The same dynamic takes place in this new disc of three works by Daugherty that were commissioned during his period as Composer-in-Residence with the Detroit Symphony. Fire and Blood (2003) is a full-blown violin concerto that begins with a depiction of Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry murals, as well as scenes from his life, and that of his remarkable wife Frida Kahlo. A highlight is the third movement "Assembly Line", where Daugherty says (in his revealing liner notes) the violin soloist "is like the worker, surrounded by a mechanical orchestra." This is a work that deserves to be taken up by other orchestras; perhaps the excellent soloist on this CD, Ida Kavafian, will take it on the road, or it will be picked up by one or more of the next generation of violinists.
The MotorCity Triptych (2000) is another fun piece by Daugherty which also has a more serious side. This is especially true of the third movement "Rosa Parks Boulevard", with its evocation of African-American preaching through the use of percussion and two trombones. Daugherty calls Raise the Roof (2003) "a grand acoustic construction". I'm sure every timpanist in the world is itching to play this piece. But only a few will have as impressive an orchestra to play in front of as timpanist Brian Jones has in the Detroit Symphony under Neeme Jarvi.
So buy the CD for the fun and fireworks, but stick around and listen three or four times, for some real and profound ideas.
Fire and Blood is a full-blooded, knock your socks off violin concerto that makes pressing technical demands of the soloist but never descends to the level of an empty-headed violin showpiece. The work draws its inspiration from the Detroit Industry murals by the great Mexican artist Diego Rivera and the color and energy that Rivera brought to his art is reflected in the music. Violinist Ida Kavafian plays this music with muscle aplenty and the Detroit Symphony under conductor Neeme Järvi is nothing short of spectacular.
The other works on the recording, Motor City Triptych and Raise the Roof, are also superb. Motor City Triptych is a brilliantly jaunty evocative piece which pays tribute to the Motown sound, Michigan Avenue in Detroit and Rosa Parks. This seems like something of an odd mix but Daugherty's vivid orchestration and rhythmic skill make each movement a memorable tone poem. Brass lovers take note, there's plenty of interesting work for trumpet and trombone throughout. Raise the Roof is a concerto for timpani and orchestra and was inspired by such grand architectural wonders as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Empire State Building. The work offers the timpanist an opportunity to play some melody and even stretch out with a showpiece cadenza. Once again Daugherty pushes hard and the effect is thrilling. This is an essential recording for anybody who cares about the current state of American music - it's very encouraging indeed.
" Volcano " frolics with violin successions of blazing interludes, captivating attention through the inferno furnaces of the imagination.
In " River Rouge " Frida Kahlo's struggle to overcome rivers of pain expresses a tantalizing larger movement of forceful emotions with her desire for the fullness of life. The violinist lends form and grace with colored calmative tones. The music forces its way into the listeners soul.
" Assembly Line " dramatizes the exhausting pace of a worker mechanically driven like the panels in Riveras' mural. Metal instruments echo a factory environment, while the violin strings converge to evoke a riveting motion toward the end.
In " Motown Mondays " we feel the soul in rhythm with manifestations of mellow climes of feeling and musical intruments orchestrating harmonies of emotion.
" Pedal to the Metal " is an electric, pulsating succession of trumpet and strings traveling through gradations of light, like the neon signs along an assembly line.
" Rosa Parks Blvd " encumbers movements of defiant strength and soul, reflecting her refusal to move to the back of the bus, subversively heartfelt and rhythmically played by the trombone, spiked by the beating of the bass drum.
" Raise the Roof " In this piece, the composer used many unusual instruments to resonate with historical monuments. Vividly played, the tuba, flutes and finally variations of the timpani acoustically rise to the majestic architecture with gothic undertones celebrating the renowned giants of construction.
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With these three pieces, iconoclastic composer Michael Daugherty once again expands the musical and cultural palette with excellent results.
"Fire and Blood" is a triptych framing the auto industrial years of Detroit through the perspectives of activist artists Rivera and Kahlo. "I: Volcano" refers to Rivera's sociopolitical passion and the molten furnaces of the Ford factories he exalted in his 30's murals. Daugherty excels at landscape music, whether evoking a period, a movement, or an individual spirit. Driving and dynamic momentum themes alternate here with more personal and introspective moments, a roiling current of the machines and the painter's ideas about them. In "II: River Rouge", this approach really comes to fruition. Dissonant themes evoke Frida's physical and emotional pain in this era, while poignant melodies suggest the rich life of her memories and works. The use of marimbas, delicate folk melodies on strings, and elegant Mexican trumpets in the middle passages is especially beautiful and haunting. "III: Assembly Line" is man and machine in concert at a breathless, breadthless pace. The worker -conveyed by violinest Ida Kavafian with virtuostic gusto- is the crest of a wave of pizzicato drive and industrial percussion.
The second work, "Motorcity Triptych", explores more of the Detroit historical landscape. The legendary Motown Records often used Detroit Symphony players in its string arrangements; in "Motown Mondays" Daugherty repays this in generous kind with a complex, upbeat, and rousing Classical tribute. Rather than simply mimic their Pop string arrangements, he instead uses strings to evoke the vocal timbres, anthemic dynamics, and romantic spirit of the Motown singers and players. It's like an epic suite of the feeling of Marvin singing more than the song he sang, and more akin to producer Norman Whitfield's textured extravaganzas of later years. (You can hear hints of The Temptations' "Runaway Child, Running Wild" if you're careful. One wonders how brilliantly Daugherty would interpret Marvin Gaye's majestic "What's going On?" album someday.) "II: Pedal-to-the-Medal" is a travelogue of the new car hitting the town. The use of declarative trumpet and hard-driving strings is particularly powerful in a piece as bracing as it is complex. In "III: Rosa Parks," our progressive hero gets her due in a stunning tribute. Rosa, who lived for many years in Detroit, had told Daugherty that her favorite music was the spiritual, "Oh Freedom". He works its essence around trombone leads that emulate the emotional crescendos of impassioned preachers. Its counter-mix of cacophonic irritation and elegant hope perfectly sums the conflict of blind repression versus spiritual freedom. Splendid.
Finally, "Raise the Roof" does just that. Daugherty conjures up the raising of grand buildings with an intricate architecture of tympani and strings. Industrial percussion girds the colossus, while a dizzying array of string motifs catapult its ascent. When the live audience hits their feet with cheers at the end, you're right there with them.
Michael Daugherty has the rare distinction of being one of the most commissioned, performed, and recorded American composers on the American concert scene today, achieving strong success alongside contemporaries such as Jennifer Higdon and Michael Torke. Included on Daugherty's new, second disc, are three well-crafted works that were commissioned, premiered, and recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra between 2000-2003, under the baton of Neeme Järvi, with one featuring violin soloist Ida Kavafian.
At the forefront of the CD is Fire and Blood (2003) for violin and orchestra, a three-part concerto that is sure to become a modern classical violin sensation. Inspired by Diego Rivera's extraordinary Detroit Industry murals, Fire and Blood draws on inspiration from Rivera's Mexican heritage (Volcano), the life and work of his famous artist wife, Frida Kahlo (River Rouge), and the melding of art-and-industry drawn from Diego's murals (Assembly Line). To describe it briefly, the piece is very artfully composed with virtuosic fireworks and colorful orchestrations, featuring twisted and pulsating rhythms, passionate and emotional quotes from folk material, all vividly painted for the ears from start to finish. The solo part is obviously, fiendishly difficult for the soloist, and Ms. Kavafian performs the work with all the potential flame and plasma a violinist could possibly pull from its score.
The second piece is MotorCity Triptych (2000), a suite of three tone poems inspired by the history and heritage of Detroit, including Motown Mondays, Pedal-to-the-Metal, and Rosa Parks Boulevard. All three are deliciously fun pieces, well interpreted and performed throughout by Maestro Järvi and the DSO, although the final Parks-inspired work drags a bit too long. Even with its strong showcase for trombones, the last of this trio might have benefitted from slight additional editing.
The final work is Raise The Roof (2003), a fascinating tour-de-force for timpani and orchestra. The piece was written for the grand opening of Detroit's Max M. Fisher Music Center, at the close of Daugherty's three-year residency with the DSO. Like the grand architectural wonders that inspired the piece, it offers extensive, unusual sounds from the timpani throughout its sophisticated theme-and-variations structure, that the listener cannot help but marvel at its rollicking and surefire crowd-pleasing construction.