Happy Independence Day to my American readers. This is the second part of my 2 part tribute to American composers. See part 1 here. This post includes excellent recordings of works by Philip Glass, Jennifer Higdon, Hovhaness, Ives, Scott Joplin, Reich and John Williams. Clicking on the CD cover will take you to the associated Amazon.com page. I have included a Spotify playlist of all the below CDs at the end of this post, so listen along.
Philip Glass (b.1937)
Violin concerto no.2 "The American Four Seasons": This is the premier recording played by Robert McDuffie, who commissioned the work. This work reveals a more mature Glass style with greater complexity and melody. Each of the four movements is preceded by a solo violin Prologue or Song, which is exquisite. Sadly, at the time of writing, this recording is not as yet available on Spotify.
Jennifer Higdon (b.1962):
Violin Concerto: This is the premier recording of this concerto, expertly played by Hilary Hahn. For a piece written so recently, it manages to be very palatable. The final movement is a real cracker, taken at daring speeds.
Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000):
Symphony no.2 "Mysterious Mountain" was covered in a prior post.
Charles Ives (1874-1954):
Symphonies 1-4: These works chronicle the development of the composer. From his youthful Symphony no.1 to his most mature/developed work Symphony no.4. These are excellent performances.
Rags: Scott Joplin is mainly known for his ragtime compositions. This recording includes 17 of the most popular rags, played brilliantly by Joshua Rifkin. One could argue that these pieces are a case of "Same, same but different". I find the differences and charms of each rag to be unique and wonderful in their own way. These may not be strictly "Classical", but who cares, great music is great music.
Steve Reich (b.1936):
Different Trains: This is an excellent recent recording of Different Trains for string quartet and tape. The piece won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 1989. The premier recording was performed by the Kronos Quartet. This recording by the Smith Quartet is just as good if not better.
John Williams (b.1932):