AMERICAN SCENES, from composer Samuel A. Livingston is, as its title suggests, a painterly tribute to America. The album’s title piece, Three American Scenes, is a three-movement suite that expresses the grandeur of the American west, the serenity of a mountain lake at dawn, and the bustle of a busy day in a large city. The album opens with Celebrating the Fourth, which depicts an American Fourth of July celebration. The final two selections feature works for concert band with a solo instrument – the flute, in Silvertube Variations, and the clarinet, in Balkan Dance. In that last selection, Livingston turns his attention beyond our shores, to the harmonies and rhythms of the folk music of the Balkan countries, especially Bulgaria and Macedonia. Altogether, AMERICAN SCENES is thoughtfully-crafted and unabashedly jubilant, expressing appreciation for America and the world beyond with refreshing sincerity.
The Great Adventure album ended up getting many mentions when the best albums of 2019 were being discussed. 2020 brings us the live representation of that album, filmed and recorded in Brno, in the Czech Republic…
This vastly entertaining comic work centers around Kate, a talkative, shrewish woman who is avoided by everyone at the village dance. Angry, she announces that she would dance with the devil himself, and voila!, the Devil Marbuel–not-quite-Lucifer, but a “junior” devil–enters and carries her off to Hell. The clever shepherd Jirka offers to rescue her. In Hell, all the devils sit around playing cards, and Kate and Marbuel enter.
This is music of tremendous imagination. Knehans scores with a masterly hand, his sound paintbrush unerringly hitting the mark. The orchestral writing is magnificent (and beautifully realized here). All credit to the virtuosity of the Brno Philharmonic and the expert ear of their conductor, Mikel Toms, for delivering such a razor-sharp performance. A fascinating disc.
LEGENDS AND LIGHT VOL. 2 from Navona Records leaves no stone unturned. From the vast expansiveness of the open sea to the microscopic particles of our world’s chemical makeup, this follow-up to 2018’s LEGENDS AND LIGHT is an ambitious collection of new works for large ensemble performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Brno Philharmonic. In this album, seven composers offer their insights into the components of our world through music, with works highlighting cultures, locations, forces of nature, and human life. While many of the pieces are arranged for orchestral ensembles, listeners will also find Scottish Great Highland bagpipes and Irish Uilleann pipes featured on the album, offering a deeply rewarding listening experience.