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Still: Symphony 2; Dawson: Negro Folk Symphony; Ellington: Harlem

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 4, 1994
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$19.09
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$19.09 & FREE Shipping on orders over $49. Details Usually ships within 5 to 7 days. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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  • Still: Symphony 2; Dawson: Negro Folk Symphony; Ellington: Harlem
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Editorial Reviews

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Dawson's Negro Folk Symphony had an early advocate in the person of Leopold Stokowski, who actually recorded it. It's a lively and colorful work, but the real find is the Second Symphony by Still. It's a thousand pities that no one has done the complete cycle (there are five of them), for he was a wonderful composer. If Gershwin had been a symphonist, this is what his music might have sounded like. There's the same "jazz fusion," but also a true elegance of utterance that places Still at the forefront of American composers of his era. Järvi and the Detroit Symphony do the music proud, and Ellington's classic, arranged for full symphony orchestra, sounds great. --David Hurwitz
  • Sample this album Artist - Artist (Sample)
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9:58
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8:22
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3:43
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7:28
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11:09
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Detroit Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Jarvi
  • Composer: Still, Dawson, Ellington
  • Audio CD (January 4, 1994)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B000000ATE
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,033 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Paul Beaudry on December 3, 2007
Format: Audio CD
This CD is amazing. I wish all of Still's symphonies were recorded by Chandos with Järvi conducting the Detroit Symphony as this and the Still #1 are of the highest quality in it's composition, recording, and performance. These pieces are indispensable for those wanting an essential view of American music and particularly African-American classical music. As much as Still #1 has gotten much attention world-wide I like this one better and it's never talked about. What an oversight. The Dawson piece is also amazing and this is the first time I've heard of him. You can be sure I never forgot him after hearing this! Also Ellington, is of course, Ellington - one of the greats of all time. How I wish Still #3, 4, and 5 would have been recorded in the same series with some of these other surprise gems. Chandos has such a high recording quality and Järvi with Detroit just nail this music. I've heard there is a recording of Still #3 out there but not with a major orchestra. If you're even thinking about buying this, grab it before it goes out of print. This is high quality stuff and this CD is one of my favorites in my 2000+ CD collection. That's a high standard to stand out among that many recordings.
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As American as apple pie. That's what this music is, played with feeling and style by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Neeme Jarvi. The best way to describe it: S'Wonderful, with strains of Gershwin, negro spirituals, blues, and jazz. Original, not refried Mozart or Beethoven--American music, full-bodied, red-blooded, perfectly arranged for orchestra.

William Grant Still achieved fame when the New York Philharmonic performed his Symphony No. 1 in 1930. Still had trouble composing a successful follow up, and for a number of years thereafter was better known as an arranger. He persisted, and on 10 December 1937 Leopold Stokowski conducted Still's Symphony No. 2 "Song of a New Race." It remained unrecorded, however, until this issue by Jarvi and Detroit, in 1993.

William Levi Dawson is probably better known for his arrangements of negro spirituals, idiomatic settings that make full use of the human voice. He began work on the Negro Folk Symphony while living in Chicago. While on tour with the Tuskegee choir in New York he showed the manuscript to Leopold Stokowski who made suggestions for its expansion. In this enlarged form, comprising three movements, it was first performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934. After a trip to West Africa in 1952, however, the composer revised it to embody authentic African rhythmic patterns, and it was in that form that Stokowsky recorded it, and that it is most frequently played today, including this newest recording.

Duke Ellington was a world-renowned figure when he composed "Harlem" in 1950. He had just completed a European tour, and on the return voyage Ellington composed this new piece. It was commissioned by Arturo Toscanini, as part of a "Portrait of New York" suite.
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A few months ago I was introduced to the music of William Grant Still (d. 1978) via these same forces in their recording of his Afro-American Symphony (Still: Symphony No. 1; Ellington: Suite from "The River"), purported to be the first such work by an African-American composer to be played by a major orchestra (the New York Philharmonic in 1930). I commented: "....while this symphony is fleetingly entertaining, it's not a very elaborate musical expression." Still's second symphony "Song of a New Race" seemingly eschews much of the European-derived formalism heard in that earlier work and strives for a more "homegrown" classical/folk idiom. Again, Järvi and the DSO immerse themselves in it, though here their playing is freer and more alive to the expressive possibilities the score presents. Irrespective of the composer's own predilection to "....[represent] the American colored man of today; in so many instances a totally new individual produced through the fusion of white, Indian, and Negro bloods....", this later music (premiered in 1937 by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra) presents the listener with a more delightfully varied, colorful, and thoroughly American expression while adhering to classical musical ideals. Though culminating powerfully, the symphony oddly ends on a harumph of a note, but...

...it segues most comfortably with the Negro Folk Symphony of William Levi Dawson (d. 1990), a renowned arranger of choral spirituals and whose long career included founding the music school at Tuskegee Institute.
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If you like great music ,compsition scoreining and duke eliingtonn this is for you. It turns your ears as well as your soul on!
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