Joseph Schwantner has been chosen as the composer for the second round of the Ford Made in America program, the nation’s largest cocommissioning consortium of orchestras, which provides regional orchestras the opportunity to perform seminal works by contemporary American composers.
Chasing Light … is based on and inspired by a poem written by Joseph Schwantner. Explaining his sources, Schwantner comments: ‘Chasing Light ... draws its spirit, energy and inspiration from the celebration of vibrant colours and light that penetrate the morning mist as it wafts through the trees in the high New England hills. Like a delicate dance, those images intersected with a brief original poem that helped fire my musical imagination’.
I Sunrise Ignites Daybreak's Veil (Con forza, feroce con bravura)
II Calliope's Rainbowed Song (lontano)
III A Kaleidoscope Blooms (lacrimosa)
IV Morning's Embrace Confronts the Dawn (lontano...leggiero)
David Denton (David's Review Corner, October 2011)
Joseph Schwantner names George Crumb, Olivier Messiaen and Claude Debussy among those who have most influenced his music. That is a pretty wide spectrum and could well frighten off those of a conservative musical nature, but I urge you to hear the disc before you make any presumptions. Born in the United States in 1943, he is among those who cite their Pulitzer Prize as a testimony to their place in today’s artistic world. All three works here recorded would also confirm his ability to create scores that make a deep impact, at times using a rhythmic sledgehammer to drive home his point. The Percussion Concerto completed in 1994 is in three movements and contains a massive improvised cadenza that takes up most of the finale. The central Misterioso takes us into a dark and solemn elegy. It is here performed, with considerable brilliance and dexterity, by Christopher Lamb who gave the first performance with the New York Philharmonic as part of the orchestra’s 150th anniversary. Morning’s Embrace was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2006. It calls for a standard size orchestra with much use of the three percussion players. It is intended to picture sunrise in rural New Hampshire, though without that fact my unaware ears would have built a picture of a dark, menacing and disturbing scene. The disc’s most recent score comes with Chasing Light…written in 2008 for performance by the American League of Orchestras of which the Nashville Symphony is a member. It continues in exactly the same mould as Morning’s Embrace, this shorter four-movement piece ending with Morning’s Embrace Confronts the Dawn. The Nashville Symphony’s performances, under their recently appointed music director, Giancarlo Guerrero, are very imposing, the recorded sound high on impact yet clearly detailed.– David Denton
Byzantion - MusicWeb International, February 2012
Lamb, the Nashville Symphony and Guerrero give pretty much immaculate performances in all three works. The Nashvillers now have many recordings under their belt for Naxos, including perhaps a dozen in this generally superb ‘American Classics’ series—long may they continue.
Recordings made in America are quite often of the highest quality, and these are no exception. The Percussion Concerto was recorded in front of an audience, but the sound is as noise-free as a studio recording. The booklet, whilst slim, is detailed and informative, particularly Schwantner’s own notes on his works, which are all anyone could wish for.
© 2012 MusicWeb International– Byzantion Read Complete Review