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Daugherty: Metropolis Symphony & Deus Ex Machina

Mary Kathryn van Osdale, Nashville Symphony Orchestra & Giancarlo Guerrero

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Customer Reviews

High-octane Michael Daugherty

I continue to be blown away by Iowa-born composer Michael Daugherty. His music tells a uniquely American story and that appeals to me very much. Most recently it was a recording of his Fire and Blood, a muscular violin concerto inspired by Diego Rivera that grabbed my attention. This time it’s the antic and frantic Metropolis Symphony, an orchestral extravaganza inspired by the 1938 debut of Superman in comic books. I love the very notion of a giant orchestral work inspired by American pop culture and can almost see the sneers of Euro-snobs and the pasty-faced, self-appointed American guardians of modern music.

Metropolis Symphony is in five movements, each one inspired by a Superman character or theme. Lex, the opening movement, is a deliriously diabolic romp for solo violin and percussion-laced orchestra that captures the manic evil of arch-baddie Lex Luthor. Here’s the smack-mouth drive that made Fire and Blood so thrilling. The solo part is played with guts by the Nashville Symphony’s Mary Kathryn Van Osdale. More subdued but equally evocative is Krypton, an eerie tone poem that opens with sirens, gongs and disturbing string glissandi. There’s more terrifying solo fiddling, snippets of what sounds like “Silent Night” and an apocalyptic finale that gives the Rite of Spring a run for its money. MXYZPTLK, the nasty imp from the fifth dimension, is a mercurial scherzo-like third movement that showcases the orchestra’s flute section. The fourth movement entitled Oh Lois! evokes the comic’s heroine alongside Clark Kent. Here’s another wildfire rave-up with a tempo marked “faster than a speeding bullet” that plays out as a delicious example of orchestral slapstick. The closing Red Cape Tango is a moving elegy that evolves into a tango-inspired dance of death with Daugherty quoting the Dies irae.

Daugherty’s Deus ex Machina for piano and orchestra, which rounds out the recording, is the composer’s take on the world of trains with each movement focusing on a train or railway. The first movement Fast Forward conjures up images of the avant-garde and displays the rhythmic firestorm that is found in many of Daugherty’s works. The second movement Train of Tears refers to the funeral train that carried Abraham Lincoln’s body through seven states. Here’s Daugherty in an elegiac mood that will remind some of Copland but there is nothing derivative here, Daugherty’s superb orchestration and emotional depth rise to the top throughout. The finale, Night Stream, is Daugherty’s tribute to the coal-burning locomotives of the Norfolk and Western lines and here’s more of the hard-driving, blues-inflected virtuosity that make his music so thrilling.

The knuckle-busting piano part is played with breath-taking skill by Terence Wilson and the Nashville Symphony, conducted by its new music director Giancarlo Guerrero,
proves once again that it is one of America’s finest orchestras. Superbly engineered and nicely packaged this is another gem from one of our finest composers.

Hehe haha

This collection of works from the (not so gifted) composer has some of his better works. The Piano concerto is weak at best and there are some flubs in the orchestra, especially in the brass, that sort of ruin the effects. His Superman symphony will probabally be the thing he'll be most remembered for. It captures the essence of the superman mythos and and as a whole is more structurally sound. The recording quality is good and the playing is passable but it's not where as good as the Zinman reading. I still go back to that recording with the companion wind ensemble piece Bizarro. -Bz

High-octane Michael Daugherty

I continue to be blown away by Iowa-born composer Michael Daugherty. His music tells a uniquely American story and that appeals to me very much. Most recently it was a recording of his Fire and Blood, a muscular violin concerto inspired by Diego Rivera that grabbed my attention. This time it’s the antic and frantic Metropolis Symphony, an orchestral extravaganza inspired by the 1938 debut of Superman in comic books. I love the very notion of a giant orchestral work inspired by American pop culture and can almost see the sneers of Euro-snobs and the pasty-faced, self-appointed American guardians of modern music.

Metropolis Symphony is in five movements, each one inspired by a Superman character or theme. Lex, the opening movement, is a deliriously diabolic romp for solo violin and percussion-laced orchestra that captures the manic evil of arch-baddie Lex Luthor. Here’s the smack-mouth drive that made Fire and Blood so thrilling. The solo part is played with guts by the Nashville Symphony’s Mary Kathryn Van Osdale. More subdued but equally evocative is Krypton, an eerie tone poem that opens with sirens, gongs and disturbing string glissandi. There’s more terrifying solo fiddling, snippets of what sounds like “Silent Night” and an apocalyptic finale that gives the Rite of Spring a run for its money. MXYZPTLK, the nasty imp from the fifth dimension, is a mercurial scherzo-like third movement that showcases the orchestra’s flute section. The fourth movement entitled Oh Lois! evokes the comic’s heroine alongside Clark Kent. Here’s another wildfire rave-up with a tempo marked “faster than a speeding bullet” that plays out as a delicious example of orchestral slapstick. The closing Red Cape Tango is a moving elegy that evolves into a tango-inspired dance of death with Daugherty quoting the Dies irae.

Daugherty’s Deus ex Machina for piano and orchestra, which rounds out the recording, is the composer’s take on the world of trains with each movement focusing on a train or railway. The first movement Fast Forward conjures up images of the avant-garde and displays the rhythmic firestorm that is found in many of Daugherty’s works. The second movement Train of Tears refers to the funeral train that carried Abraham Lincoln’s body through seven states. Here’s Daugherty in an elegiac mood that will remind some of Copland but there is nothing derivative here, Daugherty’s superb orchestration and emotional depth rise to the top throughout. The finale, Night Stream, is Daugherty’s tribute to the coal-burning locomotives of the Norfolk and Western lines and here’s more of the hard-driving, blues-inflected virtuosity that make his music so thrilling.

The knuckle-busting piano part is played with breath-taking skill by Terence Wilson and the Nashville Symphony, conducted by its new music director Giancarlo Guerrero,
proves once again that it is one of America’s finest orchestras. Superbly engineered and nicely packaged this is another gem from one of our finest composers.

Top Albums and Songs by Mary Kathryn van Osdale

Daugherty: Metropolis Symphony & Deus Ex Machina, Mary Kathryn van Osdale
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Customer Ratings

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