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DAUGHERTY: Dreammachine; Trail of Tears; Reflections on the Mississippi
Amy Porter, fl; Carol Jantsch, tu; Evelyn Glennie, perc; Albany Symphony/ David Alan Miller
Naxos 559807—78 minutes

Three recent concertos by Michael Daugherty.

Trail of Tears (2010), for flute and orchestra, refers to the exile of Native Americans as a result of Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act as they try to escape through the Trail of Tears. The opening is filled with sorrow. Bells toll through the moaning. There are episodes of violence as the march trudges along. There are occasional visions of peace, but they are temporary. The finale is a joyful dance with Indian tom-toms emerging. The piece is evocative enough and makes a good showcase for soloist Porter.

Dreammachine (2014) is a four-movement percussion concerto written for the West German Radio festival called Music and Machines. Ms Glennie gets the nod in this performance. The opening movement commemorates the visions of Da Vinci as a mechanical Daugherty dance. There are plenty of cadenzas. The central slow section moves to faster music before the recap, and the movement ends with uncharacteristic gloom. Next is a variation set on Rube Goldberg, with amusing gadgets and a Daugherty tango. Yes, there are Goldberg Variations, ha ha. The ‘Electric Eel’ slow movement is an homage to Fritz Kahn’s drawing of an incandescent eel, with a more aggressive middle section. The finale, ‘Vulcan’s Forge’, refers to Dr Spock of Star Trek and is a showcase for the great Ms Glennie, with a snazzy Daugherty dance amidst more cadenzas. Iy concludes with the requisite bravos.

The program concludes with Reflections on the Mississippi (2014), a tuba concerto in four movements. I is on the moody side, II is livelier and suitably virtuosic. ‘Prayer’ (III) is a little jazzy, while the work ends with a jocular dance. Recorded in concert with bravos.

The composer’s earlier wild side was a product of his youth. As the commissions and, especially, academic appointments (University of Michigan) took up most of his career, his music, although always skillful and entertaining, became mostly less interesting but consistently audience-pleasing. These are all good opportunities for fine performers, which he has always had plenty of. None of this is unduly challenging, but it gives pleasure to performers and students. The two concertos listed on the cover of the album are reversed on the disc. Notes by the composer.
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-- GIMBEL, American Record Guide, Volume 1807
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