For the past several years, Naxos has arguably brought to market the largest and strongest collection of recordings of music by American composers through its continuing American Classics catalog. Among the several hundred discs, featuring well-known to almost unknown composers, you will find two CD's featuring music by the internationally renowned American composer Michael Daugherty.
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.