Wednesday, 3 July 2013

American Composers Tribute Part 1 of 2

Those loyal readers who regularly follow my blog will know that I have been dedicating my last few posts to works by American composers, in the lead up to Independence Day. This post pays tribute to other great works by American composers that I haven't yet featured and a recap of some that I have already. Due to the length of the list, I have split this post into two parts (part 2 here). The second part will be released tomorrow....something to look forward to then, right? Clicking on the CD cover will take you to the associated page. I have included a Spotify playlist of all the below CDs at the end of this post, so listen along.

John Adams (b.1947)
Complete String Quartets: The Attacca Quartet, currently the graduate quartet in residence at the Juilliard School, give excellent accounts of this relatively unknown repertoire. I found much to discover and enjoy on this new release.

Nixon in China: This has been a long time favourite of mine. This recording won a Grammy Award in 1988 and was described by John Adams as
"part epic, part satire, part parody of political posturing, and part serious examination of historical, philosophical, and even gender issues."

George Antheil (1900-1959)
Symphony no.4 and no.6: There has been recent renewed interest in the work of George Antheil, and rightly so. The hints of Shostakovich, Prokofiev and even Ives are unmissable. This is wonderful music filled with post war emotions aptly portrayed in the music.

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Adagio for Strings was covered in a prior post.

Violin Concerto: This is one of the great violin concertos of the 20th century. The presto final movement is immensely exciting. Joshua Bell plays exceptionally, as always. I posted recently about him playing Bernstein's Serenade.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Serenade after Plato's "Symposium" was covered in a prior post.

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Fanfare for the Common Man and highlights from three great Copland Ballets: One of the best recordings of these works, brilliantly conducted by Leonard Bernstein. There are some real cracker moments, especially the Buckaroo Holiday and Hoe-Down from Rodeo. Billy The Kid is also great. I love the gun shots evoked by the timpani.

John Corigliano (b.1938)
Red Violin Concerto: This wonderful work is a reuses material from the movie of the same name. The concerto is well balanced and structured, contrasting beautifully melodic moments with frightening, furious ones. This is exciting music that will have you jumping all over the place. The performance here is by one of my favourite violinists, Joshua Bell and one of my favourite female conductors (yes they exist), Marin Alsop.

George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue: This remarkable recording has conductor James Levine on the piano in the original 1924 arrangement for the Paul Whiteman orchestra. I you haven't heard this version, then you are in for a real treat.

Spotify Playlist

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