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Schwantner: Chasing Light...

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 28, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Joseph Schwantner's Chasing Light is part of Ford Made in America, a partnership program of the
League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer. Ford Made in America is made possible by
Ford Motor Company Fund. Major support is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, with
additional funding from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts and
The Amphion Foundation. Recorded at Ben's Studio (formerly RCA Studio A) in Nashville on June 6th, 2010.

Review

54th Annual Grammy Award Winner, Best Classical Instrumental Solo --National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Nashville Symphony
  • Conductor: Giancarlo Guerrero
  • Composer: Joseph Schwantner
  • Audio CD (June 28, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • ASIN: B004YP3TU0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,839 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Two of these things belong together (but the third one's fine, too). That's a capsule summary of my reaction to this new recording. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Joseph Schwantner has been fascinated by light, and two of the works on this CD were directly inspired by it.

"Morning's Embrace," according to the composer, "draws its spirit and energy from... intensely vibrant early morning sunrises." Schwantner's wide-open melodies and spare orchestration seem almost Coplandesque at time, which is not a bad thing at all. It's a warm, inviting work, fulfilling the promise of the title.

"Chasing Light" is another dawn-inspired work. In this case, Schwantner creates a tone poem describing the play of morning sunlight through a stand of trees. But the hammering tympani that start the piece let you know this won't be a quiet contemplation of nature. This sun's coming up like thunder. Schwantner's music simultaneously shimmers and pushes forward, as inexorably as the rising sun. The dramatic nature of this composition makes it seem almost like a soundtrack for an epic film.

While the "Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra" has nothing to do with light, it has everything to do with Schwantner's affinity for percussion. Commissioned by Christopher Lamb (who performs in this recording), this a brawny, full-blooded work that celebrates the musicality in all things struck. The first part sets the tone with various drums sounding out the melody that the orchestra picks up. The lyrical middle section is primarily for vibraphone and various tuned percussive instruments that create a haunting, and contemplative elegiac mood. The finale is as rhythmic and percussive as the first part -- only more so.
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This album offers three premiere recordings. The Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra is more a study and survey of timbre than of statement. Only its second movement [Mysterioso: in Memoriam] is compelling for me, with its gravity and depth, and with its tempo and percussion, it suggests at times a Javanese gamelan. Schwantner seemingly throws in the kitchen sink in his arsenal of percussion: tom toms, timbaletas, bongos, marimba, xylophone, crotales, vibrophone, Alpine herd bells, triangles, cymbals, water gong, bass drum, tenor drum, and shekere beaded gourd. While the first movement is much ado with no clear direction, other than perhaps a showcase of bravura and energy, the final movement, through its diverse instrumental development, has urgency and propulsion leading to excitement, but it does not endure. The momentum and sound fade toward the end, when the orchestra regroups and closes with a crescendo and accelertion of drumming. I can well understand the popularity of this piece, a crowd pleaser, but ultimately it is ear candy. This cannot be said for the second work, Morning's Embrace. The composition is a musical work of poetry. Mist among New England trees slowly give way to dawn light and a terrain of shadows and glows. Percussion figures in this piece as well, and chordal piano and drum and chimes accent the scene. As the music unfolds, the day commences with energy and potential but the mood, oddly, is inititally somber, then pensive, with just hints of positivity with flute avianlike phrases. Only near the end does the work transform into a general majesty and, in the last measures, a cheerful, sunny brightness of chimes, flutes, and flowing violins. Chasing Light . . . [ ellipsis is part of the title] is a four-movement follow-up composition also concerning morning.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Joseph Schwantner has been one of America's very finest composers and among our best known for quite some time now. My first exposure to his music was hearing his 1979 Pulitzer prize winning "Aftertones of Infinity". Other listeners may know his sweeping Copland-esque "New Morning for the World" utilizing the words of Martin Luther King. All of Schwanter's music is imbued with a keen sense of drama and creation of some wonderful tone colors and sonorities. This new disc in Naxos' ongoing "American Classics" series is indeed another brilliant addition to that series but showcases some of the sounds that Schwantner is best known for. His three movement "Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra" is a brilliant tour-de-force for the soloist; in this case the incredible Christopher Lamb. There are moments in this work that are reminiscent of Holst or Stravinsky but also of Schwanter's other output. He is a composer who has always known how to best utilize the percussion section and the mystery and introspection of the middle movement is met by the drive and energy of the outher two. The other works on this album are just as captivating. "Morning's Embrace" was written in 2005 for the National Symphony and Leonard Slatkin. Like Schwanter's other work, "A Sudden Rainbow", this picturesque work opens with tinkling metal percussion and open, plaintive strings. "Morning's Embrace" very effectively evokes a sunrise and makes great use of majestic harmonies that are commented on or "interrupted" by percussion and piano. Similarly, "Chasing Light" is a brilliant four movement work, each movement articulating some aspect of light, including the last movement that evokes both the title and the mood of "Morning's Embrace". This wonderful work is a product of the Ford "Made in America" commissioning consortium.Read more ›
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