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"Daugherty: Fire & Blood - Motorcity Triptych; Raise the Roof"

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 25, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This recording celebrates three exciting
works commissioned and premiered by
the Detroit Symphony Orchestra during
Michael Daugherty's four years as Composerin-
Residence. Inspired by Diego Rivera's
monumental fresco and Frida Kahlo's paintings
created in Detroit, Michigan, Fire and Blood 'rivets the ear with a bold palette of
colors and the skillful elaboration of vibrant themes' (Detroit News). MotorCity
Triptych, 'striking both in its brilliance and in its technical rigor,' is a road trip
through the sounds of Detroit: the 1960s pulse of Motown, the motor rhythms of
Michigan Avenue, and the legend of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Raise the Roof,
composed for the opening of Detroit's Max M. Fisher Music Center, is a grand
acoustic construction featuring the timpani in a tour de force of urban polyrhythms.


The three works here dig deep into Detroit's cultural soil. Fire and Blood (2003) is a violin concerto inspired by Diego Rivera's incomparable Detroit Industry murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts. MotorCity Triptych (2000) proposes a travelogue with movements that channel Motown concerts at the Roostertail nightclub in 1966, a high-speed drive along Michigan Avenue and an homage to civil rights hero Rosa Parks. Raise the Roof (2003), a de facto timpani concerto, was commissioned for the opening of the Max M. Fisher Music Center.

Best of the lot is Fire and Blood, which made a dazzling impression on its premiere and sounds even better six years later. It is the most profound Daugherty piece I know, the best example of his eclectic and kinetic style reaching beyond surface excitement for deeply moving music that touches the soul.

Played with striking authority by Detroit-bred soloist Ida Kavafian and a vibrantly alive orchestra under Järvi's baton, the 28-minute, three-movement piece translates Rivera's dynamic depiction of the River Rouge assembly line and heroic laborers into music that pulsates with muscle, percussive commotion, sweeping energy, bright colors and mournful shadow.

The outer movements are full of fury as the soloist, rarely out of the spotlight, explodes in fury and sheets-of-sounds passages. The central movement, inspired by Rivera's wife, artist Frida Kahlo, features a nostalgic minor-key melody perched halfway between a mariachi folk melody and Mahler funeral march that throbs with feeling.

The highly syncopated MotorCity Triptych is less consistent than the concerto, but its best moments -- particularly the Rosa Parks finale, with three trombones orating sermons of blues shouts, plaintive cries and fragments of the spiritual Oh Freedom -- pack a strong emotional wallop. Elsewhere there are evocations of Motown ballads, Middle Eastern restaurants and more filtered through Daugherty's neon orchestrations. The ear catches streaks of inspiration, but some melodies veer close to cliché and the collage of ideas doesn't always meld into an organic whole.

On the other hand, the performance is exemplary. Järvi invests the music with his incomparable spontaneity and rhythmic pop and the soloists -- principally the trombone trio of Ken Thompkins, Michael Becker and Randy Hawes and trumpeter Ramon Parcells -- play like aces. Raise the Roof, a 13-minute showcase for the DSO's brilliant virtuoso timpanist Brian Jones, is heavily flavored by jazz, especially in the Stan Kenton-like passages girded by Latin rhythms, a piano vamp and punchy brass. It's not the most serious music, but it was never meant to be. It's a party piece and there's nothing wrong with that. --Detroit Free Press, Mark Stryker, September 2009
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Product Details

  • Performer: Kavafian
  • Orchestra: Detriot Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Jarvi
  • Composer: Daugherty
  • Audio CD (August 25, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • ASIN: B002DHSGW2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,830 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I knew Michael Daugherty's music from his 2007 piece Deus ex Machina for Piano & Orchestra (on a 2009 Naxos CD). I like to keep in touch with musical depictions of trains, and this piece really impressed me. I thought it was worthy to stand beside the Little Train movement of Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras #2, as well as Arthur Honegger's Pacific 231. Daugherty paints vivid pictures and communicates exciting ideas of movement that are layered with additional insights into a surprising range of ideas from futurism to ghosts to nostalgia for a by-gone era.

The same dynamic takes place in this new disc of three works by Daugherty that were commissioned during his period as Composer-in-Residence with the Detroit Symphony. Fire and Blood (2003) is a full-blown violin concerto that begins with a depiction of Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry murals, as well as scenes from his life, and that of his remarkable wife Frida Kahlo. A highlight is the third movement "Assembly Line", where Daugherty says (in his revealing liner notes) the violin soloist "is like the worker, surrounded by a mechanical orchestra." This is a work that deserves to be taken up by other orchestras; perhaps the excellent soloist on this CD, Ida Kavafian, will take it on the road, or it will be picked up by one or more of the next generation of violinists.

The MotorCity Triptych (2000) is another fun piece by Daugherty which also has a more serious side. This is especially true of the third movement "Rosa Parks Boulevard", with its evocation of African-American preaching through the use of percussion and two trombones. Daugherty calls Raise the Roof (2003) "a grand acoustic construction". I'm sure every timpanist in the world is itching to play this piece.
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Format: Audio CD
Recently, I was reading an article in the Finnish Music Quarterly about composer Kalevi Aho. In the article Aho mentions a criticism that was made of his music by an Austrian journalist who accused Aho's music of being "not dehumanized enough." My complaint about much contemporary music is the opposite, it's too dehumanized. I shun the over-intellectualization of music, loathe works that sound like they were composed with an abacus and notated in battery acid. Thankfully the three works on this fantastic recording of music by Michael Daugherty are filled with passion, wit and drama to spare.

Fire and Blood is a full-blooded, knock your socks off violin concerto that makes pressing technical demands of the soloist but never descends to the level of an empty-headed violin showpiece. The work draws its inspiration from the Detroit Industry murals by the great Mexican artist Diego Rivera and the color and energy that Rivera brought to his art is reflected in the music. Violinist Ida Kavafian plays this music with muscle aplenty and the Detroit Symphony under conductor Neeme Järvi is nothing short of spectacular.

The other works on the recording, Motor City Triptych and Raise the Roof, are also superb. Motor City Triptych is a brilliantly jaunty evocative piece which pays tribute to the Motown sound, Michigan Avenue in Detroit and Rosa Parks. This seems like something of an odd mix but Daugherty's vivid orchestration and rhythmic skill make each movement a memorable tone poem. Brass lovers take note, there's plenty of interesting work for trumpet and trombone throughout. Raise the Roof is a concerto for timpani and orchestra and was inspired by such grand architectural wonders as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Empire State Building.
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Format: Audio CD
Michael Daughertys' " Fire and Blood " evokes a crescendo of praise! Superb, imaginative, and incurably intertaining with considerable skill of orchestration and arrangement and with my highest recommendation.

" Volcano " frolics with violin successions of blazing interludes, captivating attention through the inferno furnaces of the imagination.
In " River Rouge " Frida Kahlo's struggle to overcome rivers of pain expresses a tantalizing larger movement of forceful emotions with her desire for the fullness of life. The violinist lends form and grace with colored calmative tones. The music forces its way into the listeners soul.
" Assembly Line " dramatizes the exhausting pace of a worker mechanically driven like the panels in Riveras' mural. Metal instruments echo a factory environment, while the violin strings converge to evoke a riveting motion toward the end.

MotorCity Triptych
In " Motown Mondays " we feel the soul in rhythm with manifestations of mellow climes of feeling and musical intruments orchestrating harmonies of emotion.
" Pedal to the Metal " is an electric, pulsating succession of trumpet and strings traveling through gradations of light, like the neon signs along an assembly line.
" Rosa Parks Blvd " encumbers movements of defiant strength and soul, reflecting her refusal to move to the back of the bus, subversively heartfelt and rhythmically played by the trombone, spiked by the beating of the bass drum.
" Raise the Roof " In this piece, the composer used many unusual instruments to resonate with historical monuments. Vividly played, the tuba, flutes and finally variations of the timpani acoustically rise to the majestic architecture with gothic undertones celebrating the renowned giants of construction.

K Jordan USA
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