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Daugherty: Metropolis Symphony
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Michael Daugherty: Metropolis Symphony & Deus ex Machina
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Superman's first appearance in the
comics, Metropolis Symphony has been
performed by orchestras all over the
world. Hailed by the London Times as a
'Symphonie Fantastique for our times,'
Metropolis Symphony is a musical
response to the myth of Superman,
expressing the energies, ambiguities,
paradoxes, and wit of American
popular culture. Deus ex Machina is a
piano concerto inspired by trains of the
future and past: Fast Forward
re-creates the machine-like rhythms of
modern trains admired by the Italian
futurists; Train of Tears recalls
Abraham Lincoln's funeral train; Night
Steam evokes O. Winston Link's
historic photographs of steam
locomotives rumbling and whistling
their way into extinction.
Top Customer Reviews
As for the pieces themselves, the Metropolis Symphony, though not program music, certainly evokes images of the mythology to which it pays tribute: sounds of a busy city, soaring melodic lines, bright horns, and robust orchestration. It is beautifully and ably written.
The piano concerto, Deus Ex Machina, is another brilliantly rendered composition--in response, in the composer's words, to the world of trains. The highlight here is part II: The Train of Tears, "music for a slow-moving funeral train"--specifically, the train that carried Abraham Lincoln's body from Washington, DC, to its final resting place in Illinois. The movement is dark, brooding, lonely, and fatalistic. Terrence Wilson (piano) plays very well throughout the whole emotional and stylistic range of the concerto.
Leonard Bernstein told him to combine American popular with concert music. He worked on his Yale dissertation about the connection between Mahler and Ives, and Emerson and Goethe. Well-rounded is what I'm aiming at, musically and otherwise. Clearly you'd want to be seated next to him at a dinner party. But how goes the music?
Wonderfully! This will be on my 2009 Best List. The slipcase cover of Metropolis Symphony loudly declares its intent and content: a red-caped Superman-like character in rapid flight over a metropolitan skyline. The composition is in five movements, they are non-programmatic, and each may be performed (or, at home, played) individually.
"Lexx" opens with a police whistle; right away there's trouble afoot. There's only the broadest minimalist reference of a broadly repeating phrase, and just for a minute or so.
"Krypton" opens with a police siren, then darkly ominous strings, very realistically captured fire bells, triangles and other percussive materials. Think: Appalachian Spring gone askew thanks to spiraling string glissandi and Mary Kathryn Van Osdale's violin, ending with a siren going off in homage to Varèse's Ionisation.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Just for fun, I pulled out my copy of John Williams 1978 score to the rather dated Christopher Reeve Superman movie. I think Daugherty's work does a better job at, as the composer wrote, "expressing the energies, ambiguities, paradoxes, and wit" of the pop icon that is Superman. There is no super sticky melody, like Williams' classic Superman phrase. But the Superman soundtrack suffers from an inability to create, explore, and play with themes and ideas because its main purpose is to help tell the story of the movie. So one feels the heavy hand of forced emotional manipulation and artificiality; all in all I was unsatisfied at the end of that disc. Don't get me wrong, as far as soundtracks go, Superman is in the top tier, and it's not a fair fight pitting a symphony against a soundtrack.
Deus ex Machina has it's own vibe, quite different from Metropolis. Its inspiration was trains. In the very early part of last century, trains were the most vital and important agents of change and modernization. They symbolized the future.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This CD features the Metropolis Symphony and Deus ex Machina composed by contemporary American composer Michael Daugherty. Read morePublished 11 months ago by crkkos
Innovative classical album. Maybe not for everyone but definately for me, a solid five stars.Published 17 months ago by Katherine Endicott
Really evocative music--makes you create a movie in your mind as you listen.Published 17 months ago by J. Burke
Naxos specializes in the less often recorded repertory. Naxos produces some of the BEST recordings available. Would recommend to anyone!Published on February 28, 2013 by Leslie W. Smith
What makes this symphony so unique is that it wasn't written for any Superman movie or tv show, it sprang from one man's love for the Man of Steel. Read morePublished on December 17, 2012 by Amazon Customer
Driving along listening to NPR and this gorgeous music came forth. What is that? Have only heard it once sitting quietly and will do again post haste. Read morePublished on June 3, 2011 by Oren Hays
I bought this after listening to a review on NPR about it's Grammy nomination.
Oh well - so much for the Grammys.
I am very pleased with the quality of the recording and especially the performance level the Nashville Symphony delivers. Read morePublished on February 2, 2011 by Psych MD