Most composers are derivative, but Joseph Schwantner has developed a unique harmonic and rhythmic language of his own, and his "New Morning for the World" is the reason this recording is worth almost any price you might pay for it. For large orchestra and narrator, "New Morning for the World" intertwines powerful music with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. Schwantner uses every orchestral resource imaginable, orchestrating fascinating textures within a harmonically complex but utterly persuasive framework. Narrator Raymond Bazemore seems out of touch in the first one or two readings, but effectly soars and booms thereafter. King's words are met with virtuoso percussion, eerie string harmonics, powerful brass, soulful chorales, and exciting rhythms throughout. In short, "New Morning for the World" is a true twentieth century masterpiece, an absolute "must hear," and shines in this--the best recording to date.
While Slatkin's recording with the National Symphony may look like a tempting alternative, the narration is tragically bland and Slatkin engages in his trademark annoyance: Any time the tempo is below "Allegro," he screeches to a halt, loses all momentum, and allows phrases to collapse, with string players running out of bow and wind players running out of air, while Slatkin himself bumbles onward, oblivious.
Also on this dis is "The Passion of Martin Luther King" by Nicolas Flagello, and again well-recorded and worth hearing, but not in the same class with "New Morning for the World" and even backsliding into Latin mass text. Bazemore is a fine vocal soloist and the Portland Symphonic Choir performs well.
All things considered--excellent new music, fine performance, inspiring concept--recordings like this are rare in the Classical catalogs and not to be missed. Without question, "New Morning for the World" is an essential experience. Enjoy.