The result of this recording is simply magnificent. Tim Fain and Michael Borinskin are soloists of great class, and Angel Gil-Ordóñez does an extraordinary job at the helm of his PostClassical Ensemble of Washington.
The performances are irreproachable, which make this recording the best introduction ever registered to the work of Harrison.
Three intriguingly special works, extremely well served by the performers. The recording is altogether first class and one superb homage to Lou Harrison for his 100th birthday.
Lou Harrison had a pioneer’s imagination, not least regarding what might be walloped in the name of music – his Violin Concerto calls for flowerpots, plumber’s pipes and clock coils in the percussion. What’s more striking in this performance by Tim Fain, the PostClassical Ensemble and conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez is the brilliance of his writing for violin, a collision between itchy dance rhythms and soaring lyricism.
Tim Fain plays the work skillfully, and Angel Gil-Ordóñez leads it with his usual flair and sure understanding of music that does not necessarily lend itself to ready comprehension… Gil-Ordóñez brings both knowledge and a sure hand in sound shaping to the performance.
Harrison wrote the first two movements of Concerto for Violin and Percussion in 1940, and revised them when he created the final movement in 1959. Astoundingly modern, it combines a wild battery of percussion with extremely challenging writing for the violin. Amidst its unbounded inventiveness and jollities, Grand Duo also reflects the gravity with which Harrison viewed the world. A proponent of boundary-less societies, he condemned war and violence, and promoted Esperanto as a universal language.
To my innocent ears, the performances from hugely regarded musicians are certainly idiomatic, the violinist, Tim Fain, as a persuasive advocate of the Concerto and Grand Duo. Recordings are derived from 2016 sessions. Harrison wrote the first two movements of Concerto for Violin and Percussion in 1940, and revised them when he created the final movement in 1959. Astoundingly modern, it combines a wild battery of percussion with extremely challenging writing for the violin.
The magnificent score is by Silvestre Revueltas. For this release the entire score is heard in a superb digital recording with the PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez, recorded in May 2014 at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Angel Gil-Ordóñez and Joseph Horowitz have long been dedicated to rescuing the lost memory of art, works that are not worth losing in amnesia. Gil-Ordóñez is a professor, musician and conductor of the Georgetown University orchestra; Horowitz is a musicologist. Both have now endeavored to remove from oblivion the historic Mexican film Redes, codirected in 1936 by Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel, with cinematography by Paul Strand. The film chronicles the harsh working conditions of a fishing village in Michoacan in post-revolutionary Mexico.
The film, meanwhile, is universally recognized as a masterpiece of Latin American cinema of the early twentieth century. At the head of the PostClassical Ensemble, Angel Gil-Ordoñez is excellent in the quasi-religious aspect of this music, which he renders in all its radical beauty.
Gil-Ordóñez and Horowitz have for years spread in the United States a vision radically stripped of exoticism of the best Spanish music, Falla, Albéniz, Óscar Esplá, or vindicating such singular composers as Bernard Herrmann. In some of those adventures, in which the excellent pianist Pedro Carboné usually participates, I have been fortunate to see myself included. The most recent is another great rediscovery: the premiere and recording of the entire score composed by Silvestre Revueltas for a legendary Mexican film, Redes, directed in 1935 by photographer Paul Strand and exiled Austrian filmmaker Fred Zinnemann.
Interestingly, Revueltas’ complete score has never been recorded before, so the recording by the Post-Classical Ensemble under Angel Gil-Ordóñez – one of the most inventive, clever and high-quality groups of its type – is a world première. The music rarely overlaps film dialogue, instead enhancing the story line and helping propel the narrative in highly effective program-music fashion.
The DVD release under the Naxos label is Redes, a 1935 Mexican neo-documentary about the plight of impoverished fishermen. Though the film is co-directed by Fred Zinnemann and stunningly photographed by Paul Strand, the real lure is the rich, pulsating score by Silvestre Revueltas, here dramatically recorded for the first time in stereo by the PostClassical Ensemble. It’s a pleasure to experience.
Silvestre Revueltas’ score for the 1935 film Redes (Nets) remains one of his greatest works, full of captivating rhythms, vivid instrumental color, and characteristic melodic inspiration. It is splendidly performed here by the PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez, newly synchronized to a lovely restored version of the original film.
Dvořák and America is a new recording that tells Dvořák’s story while he was in America: what he experienced, how he impacted Americans and their composers, and how he processed his experiences into music.
Excellent performances throughout, and text is provided for Hiawatha. This is a fascinating, unusual disk worthy of investigation.
The main piece of this program is the Hiawatha Melodrama, a concert work for narrator and orchestra showing the relation between Dvorak’s New World Symphony and Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha, which Dvorak said had inspired him in the symphony. This work and some other compositions honor the relation between the Czech composer and American music and culture.
This compendium of music and words provides a genuinely interesting and difficult-to-describe musical experience that provides considerable insight into the ways in which America influenced Dvořák and the way the great Czech composer returned the favor.
This is one of those rare “concept albums” where the concept actually works. It offers a truly fresh and interesting perspective on Dvorák’s American period, while still assembling a program that makes for enjoyable listening on its own. Few of us bother to read Longfellow’s poem anymore, but hearing it wedded to Dvorák’s music really does create a powerful and, somehow, nostalgic atmosphere of perhaps a more innocent age. I found it quite moving, and the rest of the performances very enjoyable. You will too.
The performances are unfailingly excellent, with Kevin Deas (the only holdover from the 2012 Buffalo concert) deserves special mention for his mellifluous yet passionate narration of the Hiawatha texts, which are provided in the liner notes. This is not background music, and deserves your full attention, including reading Horowitz’s fluent but comprehensive program notes.