Michael Daugherty: Mount Rushmore, Radio City & The Gospel According to Sister Aimee
Paul Jacobs, Pacific Symphony Orchestra & Carl St. Clair
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This new Naxos release features three of Michael Daugherty's most recent compositions for orchestra -- as well the orchestra that commissioned them. And it's a winning combination. All three works crackle with energy and excitement. The Carl St. Clair and the Pacific Symphony know these compositions well. These are committed and self-assured performances.
Mount Rushmore is an ambitious undertaking, presenting musical portraits of the four presidents carved into the mountain. Daugherty's modern, populist style makes the composition mass appeal/ Any of these movements would be perfect for a patriotic orchestral program.
Radio City: Symphonic Fantasy on Artuoro Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra is a three-movement suite that captures the vintage lushness of a Toscanini recording. Without resorting to pastiche, Daugherty conjures up sound and emotion of the golden age of symphony radio broadcasts.
The Gospel According to Sister Aimee for Organ, Brass and Percussion uses source material of the period -- traditional American hymns and gospel songs -- to paint a portrait of one of the first radio evangelists. Daugherty transforms his material effectively. As the work progresses, the simplicity of the music loses its way, and becomes wildly distorted.
Three distinctively American works, by an American composer with a distinctive voice, performed by an American ensemble. Not to purchase this would be, well, almost unpatriotic.
Solid performance of fun music.
This album is my first real exposure to Michael Daugherty’s music beyond the Metropolis Symphony and his percussion concerto, UFO. It was interesting to dig into this album (and its awesome, extensive liner notes) and see what I could pull from it. With that said, I think my problem with Michael Daugherty’s music is that it leaves nothing to imagination. His skill as a composer, and particularly orchestrator, is beyond doubt. In Rushmore, the “Thomas Jefferson” movement is lush and filled with colorful, orchestrational subtlety; however, I think the point comes across in the final movement of Rushmore, a sluggish 14-minute setting of the Gettysburgh Address, with each phrase of text painstakingly set to music. Unfortunately, there are probably more subtle and effective ways of communicating the gravity of Lincoln’s speech. As with much of Daugherty’s music, he makes a significant point of ensuring that the audience understands the message of the work. And in case you missed it, he makes it clear again.. and again..
To be fair, this music is fun, and just rocks (n’ rolls). As a percussionist, I love Daugherty’s percussion scores, which are some of the most effective I’ve ever heard. The Pacific Symphony and Paul Jacobs (organist) play tremendously well, and their performance alone is probably worth the buying the album. Paul Jacobs gives a masterful performance in The Gospel According to Sister Aimee, a three-movement biographical work on Sister Aimee McPherson, of which the second movement is an extended organ cadenza with ferocious pedal work.
For Daugherty fans, this album is for you. For those looking to get their feet wet with his music, I highly recommend the Nashville Symphony’s Grammy-winning recording of Metropolis Symphony, a work which is probably Daugherty’s most effective.
Years Active: '90s