It's one thing when you listen to a movie soundtrack and just
enjoy it, as music. But it can be quite a different experience
when you know the movie and its story.
The music on this disc can also be appreciated on two levels. Just listen to
it - and you'll probably like it, for it is colorful, brave, modern, beautiful,
interesting. Then read the excellent, comprehensive notes by the composer, Michael
Daugherty, and the listening experience will be much richer. There is helluva
lot he wanted to put into the music. And what is remarkable, he really succeeded
in doing it!
The music is not only recorded by its world premiere performers - these actually are
world premiere performances. So, it's pretty authoritative. This also adds the
excitement of music newborn close to the real joy of creation. The playing is
so good that the applause at the end of each piece comes as a shock: what, this
live? And the recording quality is very commendable, spacious, catching every
detail of the exotic orchestration.
Detroit is the motto of the disc, and the first work on it, Fire and Blood
for Violin and Orchestra
, is inspired by the Detroit Industry
by Diego Rivera. The first part could be a depiction of Rivera's fiery temperament.
It could also reflect the fascination big, all-consuming fires - volcanos, industrial
furnaces or revolutions - held for the artist. But conflagration also has a negative,
destructive side, and this aspect is also present in the music. The middle part
is dedicated to Rivera's wife, Frida Kahlo. From out of a "red river of
blood" rises a hauntingly beautiful melody - more Yiddish than Mexican to
my ears. There is suffering, compassion, love and grief. It is one of the most
touching pieces I have ever heard, at times completely breathtaking. Finally,
in the short third part we arrive at the murals themselves. The violin is now
the worker on a conveyor belt, while the orchestra is the machinery it operates.
Among the industrial clinks and clangs, the violinist brings the work to its
The entire composition leaves the aftertaste of a well-made movie. The violin
part is ambitious, and the soloist, Ida Kavafian, does wonders with her brilliant,
powerful playing, full of life. The orchestra matches her dazzling virtuosity
with its own. Here Daugherty outshines himself in inventing sonic gestures and
thrilling effects. Indeed, I daresay that this is one of the most dramatic, rich
and just beautiful - in that old-fashioned sense - pieces of music written in
There is less unity in the earlier MotorCity Triptych
. It consists of
three large-scale pictures, which can also be regarded as independent pieces. Motown
evokes the sounds of the famous Detroit nightclub in the Sixties. Pedal-to-the-Metal
a drive through Detroit's Michigan Avenue, with its past and present colorfully
mixed. Rosa Parks Boulevard
is an imaginative essay on civil rights. The
use of three trombones to depict voices of Afro-American preachers is unforgettable.
The entire triptych creates a feeling of a large mosaic. Probably, it is too
fragmentary. Still, this is a very effective orchestral triptych, with rich,
inventive orchestration, superbly performed and recorded.
Imagine Rhapsody in Blue
, where the piano part is taken by ... timpani!
That's what happens in Raise the Roof
, the last work on the disc. Yes,
timpani, of all instruments, take the solo role. And they play melodies, and
they have a virtuosic cadenza. The work is conceived as variations on two themes,
which creates interesting constructs in the middle section. The first theme appears
to be inherently Latin. This, together with bright orchestration, creates a festive,
Gershwin-meets-Revueltas atmosphere. It’s tons of fun in the end.
The Detroit Symphony under Järvi plays with soul and style, and vividly
brings to life all the eccentric twists of Daugherty's imagination. Michael Daugherty
is certainly a composer to know. He is still and ever on the rise, and I can't
even guess where his muse will take him in the future. But I can be sure that
it will be interesting and
beautiful: the properties that every composer
strives to achieve, but not everyone can!
see also review by Carla