- Global Warming, for orchestra - Michael Abels - Chicago Sinfonietta - Paul Freeman - Melanie Germond
- Concerto for cello & orchestra - David Baker - Chicago Sinfonietta - Paul Freeman - Melanie Germond - Katinka Kleijn
- Essay for Orchestra - William C. Banfield - Chicago Sinfonietta - Paul Freeman - Melanie Germond
- Generations: Sinfonietta No. 2 for strings - Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson - Chicago Sinfonietta - Paul Freeman - Melanie Germond
African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. 3by Paul Freeman
African Heritage Symphonic Series Volume III is the third installment in a series devoted to African-American composers on Chicago-based Çedille Records. Conductor Paul Freeman, with the Chicago Sinfonietta, does a splendid job throughout in transmitting these works, carefully constructing and delivering them with a sense of devotion and great care. Michael Abels' "Global Warming" is both the shortest and most accessible of these pieces. It has already gained some traction in concert circles; it is colorful, evokes the signature gestures of multiple cultures, and never gets dull or long-winded. Abels has stated his preference for writing orchestral music, and based on "Global Warming," one is left wanting to hear more of what he has to offer. Though not as immediate as "Global Warming," William Banfield's "Essay for Orchestra" likewise demonstrates a deft handling of orchestral color and interesting ideas. Some of Banfield's preferences in orchestral sound is reminiscent of 1970s television scoring; not a bad place to come from, but it can be overused. Banfield does well to mix it up and keep the level of variety high. David Baker is a long-established name in African-American concert life, and his lengthy tenure at Indiana University in Bloomington, in addition to his large and varied worklist, are well worth admiring. However, his "Cello Concerto," the only one of these works that has witnessed a second recording, is a child of its time and place. It was written in 1975 for Janos Starker, and while Baker's admixture of Berg and Webern is not without its moments of lyricism, it is mostly tense and dense, redolent with the serial academicism that was common on university campuses in the '70s. Not so Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson's "Generations: Sinfonietta No. 2." Although written 40 years after its predecessor, which is now featured on the Çedille Records release Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration, it shares the same concerns with influences and transformation as the earlier work. Toward the end of the first movement, there is a long section that takes a figure similar to that of "I'm in a Dancing Mood" and sends it through a series of variations that is like Hindemith meets Bernard Herrmann. It is eminently listenable, and very well done. From both the content, and the comments from the participants included, it is clear that twenty first century African-American composers have much the same concerns that their Caucasian and Asian colleagues have -- performances, techniques, influences, roots, and relevance. Nevertheless, for a culture now largely unfamiliar with even the basics of symphonic music, any kind of contextual placement is welcome as long it brings this music to the attention of listeners.
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Performance CreditsPaul Freeman Primary Artist
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This is the final release in an outstanding three-CD series devoted to twentieth-century composers of African descent. It presents four works by living composers working in the mainstream of contemporary music. Michael Abels (b.1962) wrote "Global Warming" in 1990, not long after the Berlin Wall fell. It reflects both environmental and international warming, incorporating folk music from various cultures. David Baker's (b. 1931) "Cello Concerto" is lyrical and jazz influenced. "Essay for Orchestra" by William Banfield (b. 1961) is from a larger work for percussion and orchestra, a blend of jazz influences and 19th Century Romanticism. The structure of "Generations: Sinfonietta No. 2 for Strings" by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (b. 1932) is "somewhat autobiograhpical" representing the composer's family relationships. It combines folk melodies, dances, and the B-A-C-H idea in what David Hurwitz called "a Bartókian synthesis." The program notes, written in an engaging style by Dominique-Rene de Lerma, provide a thorough introduction to the work of all four composers.