Adolphus Hailstork: Symphony No. 1; An American Port of Call
Kevin Deas, baritone. Virginia Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/JoAnn Falletta
Total Time: 59:08
Joann Falletta’s work with the Buffalo Philharmonic has yielded some of that orchestra’s best performances since the days of Michael Tilson Thomas. Her choice of repertoire certainly helps lift the awareness of important lesser-known works, celebrates new music, and even touches upon the familiar as well. In addition to serving as the Music Director in Buffalo, and recently becoming the Principal Conductor for the Ulster Orchestra, she is the Music Director for the Virginia Symphony. It is the latter ensemble that appears in this live recording from the end of their 2010-2011 concert season last May.
Composer and professor Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) currently teaches at Old Dominion University and this recording brings together five of his orchestral works. The first work presented is the Haydn-esque short Symphony No. 1 from 1988. Written specifically for the traditional “Classical Period” orchestra, the work serves as a sort of “post”-Neo-Classicism bringing to mind Prokofiev’s first symphony. Hailstork’s harmonies tend to veer at times to jazzier chords but he does a fine job of recalling those early 20th Century Neo-classicists in this work—the intent of the piece’s commission. Straightforward themes may seem less part of the structure but they are there along with often wonderful motivic development and great rhythmic play. The second movement features a beautifully lyrical melodic idea that moves through the strings providing a rich tapestry in hushed tones at first that makes for a great contrast to the first movement. Delicate solo work allows the orchestra to really shine here. Hailstork chooses to use a scherzo rather than a traditional minuet and trio as his structure for the third movement which shifts to showing off wind colors and is perhaps the highlight of the work. The final rondo revisits primary thematic material cast in a more Americana style and making for a great close to this work. The piece is certainly worthy of more hearings and makes for a great introduction to the accessibility of Hailstork’s music.
The central portion of this disc is given over to three briefer pieces. First are arrangements of Three Spirituals (2005) original for pipe organ: “Everytime I Feel the Spirit,” “Kum Ba Yah,” and “Oh Freedom.” These are truly gorgeous arrangements with moments of jazz or blues styles that recall music of the 1930s/1940s by the likes of Morton Gould—whose music is certainly a kindred spirit to Hailstork’s style. The last spiritual even has a train-like rhythmic idea and great string slides in a pops-like atmosphere. It would be hard to find a better audience-pleasing set of arrangements than what appears here.
The center work lends its name to the release, An American Port of Call. It is a concert overture that provides a musical depiction inspired by life in Norfolk, Virginia. Set in sonata-allegro form, the exciting bustle of the opening section gives way to a more lyrical idea of equal interest. The Fanfare on ‘Amazing Graze’ provides the bookend to this section and has an almost cinematic quality. Each of these works provides an opportunity to hear how immediately engaging and accessible Hailstork’s music can be and his jazzier moments recall the sort of orchestration one might find in a Gershwin orchestration or arrangement. These are all equally fine works that command more attention.
The final piece, Launch Out on Endless Seas (2005) was originally intended as the first of three movements called Whitman’s Journey and sets texts from the authors Leaves of Grass. This particular work is cast for baritone solo with chorus and orchestra and focuses on the hopes and dreams of launching out into life’s journey. The music here tends to a more neo-Romantic style that has become a great way for contemporary composers to communicate for modern audiences. The music can feel like a cross between Barber and Randall Thompson and this piece certainly makes for a worthy addition to choral and orchestral literature. One can only hope that if the other movements materialize this massive work will get another complete recording—though this stand alone movement may be more than enough. The choral writing can be quite delicate at times and occurs often without much accompaniment, the orchestra managing to provide dramatic commentary as needed. The result is simply magnificent.
The Virginia Symphony proves to be an admirable ensemble that tackles these works with great energy and commitment. They are able to bring out subtleties in this music and tackle some of the rhythmic difficulties with great facility. They are able to navigate the different styles of contemporary orchestral writing and provide the right jazzy inflections when called for in crisp articulation. One is not likely to find better performances of these works for some time on disc, but fans of great American symphonic music can certainly hope this is not the last we hear from this ensemble or its “resident” composer, Adolphus Hailstork.
| ||Posted 7/12/2012 1:32 PM - 423 Views - 0 eProps - 0 comments|
Give eProps or Post a Comment