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Epoch, symphonie de danse américaine

Epoch, symphonie de danse américaine

30 septembre 2008

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Amazon.com: 3.7 étoiles sur 5 3 commentaires
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Ahead of its Time 5 octobre 2008
Par sdtom - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: CD
Talk about someone being under the radar and you'll certainly include the name of George Frederick McKay. Until the recent releases by Naxos, in their ever-expanding American Classics series, McKay had gotten little or no airplay since his death in 1970. Perhaps it was due to the fact that George spent most of his life in the Pacific Northwest, not exactly the same kind of exposure Copland received in New York. Known as the "Dean of Northwest Composers", McKay was a Professor of Music at the University of Washington for 41 years leaving the area only for a short time to study at the Eastman School of Music and short stints as a conductor in North Carolina, Missouri, and South Dakota.

Composed in 1935 Epoch: An American Dance Symphony was given an extremely favorable review at the premiere by both daily Seattle newspapers. The dance is based on American history as seen through the eyes of some of its greatest poets Edgar Allen Poe, Sidney Lanier, Walt Whitman, and Carl Sandburg, coincidentally all honored by the US Postal Service with stamps. The four sections of the work cover "Symbolic Portrait" (Poe), "Pastoral" (Lanier), and "Westward!" (Whitman), and "Machine Age Blues" (Sandburg) with the "Epilogue" the fifth episode unfinished with the comment from George that this is being prepared by time and will be written and enacted by us all.

"Symbolic Portrait" certainly touches upon the softer side of Poe as well as his curiosity of the ghastly side of life. The choreography ranged from romantic to the macabre (dance of death). While the music in parts is quite dark and dissonant (brass passages) George certainly maintained a melodic nature through the 14+ minutes with solos from harp, flute, and oboe, a struggle between good and evil.

"Pastoral", featuring the University of Kentucky Women's Choir, is a section of pure peace and tranquility. Lanier also played flute and composed, one of his works being Hymn of the Marshes (blackbirds) so the references to the birds could certainly have been one of the contributing factors when composing this second episode.

"Westward", the third episode, is the Whitman section which depicts the beginning of the industrial age with timpani and brass type motif followed by the beckoning of the call of the mourning Cor Anglais to go west to the prairie to settle in the unknown and exciting new land. The episode also includes the movement of the wagons, a tom-tom Indian reference and a playing of the folk tune "Turkey In The Straw", appropriate music as it was written in the early 19th century.

The fourth episode "Machine Age Blues" written about Carl Sandburg and likely in reference to his poetry in his book Smoke and Steel must have shocked the audience with its brash dissonant approach to the 'Steel Age' of the early 20th century. Very much in the Gershwin style it includes riveting, jackhammers, and the sound of a very busy city. It also includes some slow blues, Charleston flapping featuring saxophones, and dance material of the era. Then it just suddenly builds to a loud crescendo and ends with the timpani motif, which started the beginning of the "Westward" episode.

Performed by the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and Women's Chorus the recording sounded fine especially given the fact that this is very likely made up of students. The music is overall very melodic, and very easy to follow after reading the liner notes from the McKay family. To hear the music is like listening to a separate soundtrack from a film never viewed and this reviewer would be very interested to see first hand a performance of the dance. One can hope that there will be future recordings from this excellent American composer. Recommended.

Naxos CD# 8.559330
Produced and Engineered by Tim Handley

Track Listing:
1... Symbolic Portrait (Poe) (14:16)
2... Pastoral (Lanier) (15:28)
3... Westward! (Whitman) (18:49)
4... Machine Age Blues (Sandburg) (13:47)
Total Time is 62:52
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Living American Music History 24 janvier 2009
Par Alden Werkmeister - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: CD
George Frederick McKay's Epoch dance score is highly evocative of a period in the American experience which saw the demise of the free-wheeling 1920's era, and the onset of world economic depression and chronic modern warfare. It was created by youthful dancers, musicians and designers of a large West Coast university who were cognizant of the awesome changes going on in human society, science and politics. This world premiere recording has received praise from a wide range of critics including Richard Freed, who reviews for the New York Times and Soundstage.com. McKay's music is rife with satire concerning modern times and exudes a painful longing for the sweetness of a lost natural world.
0 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 No masterpiece but still an enjoyable encounter 5 novembre 2009
Par G.D. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: CD Achat vérifié
George Frederick McKay (1899-1970) is one of several almost forgotten American composers championed by Naxos in their American Classics series, and while the music is worth hearing, one wonders why they have chosen to devote several releases of his music rather than, say, the music of Henry Kimball Hadley, which is frankly infinitely more rewarding. Anyway, what we have here is sort of an extended choreographic tone poem rather than a symphony (it was conceived of as something of a multimedia event); it is definitely enjoyable enough to be worth a listen, but overall pretty slight. The music is generally lyrical, inventively orchestrated, romantic in spirit but spiced up with dissonances and influences from jazz and popular music.

Symbolic Portraits tracks the life and work of Edgar Allen Poe; it is rather inconsequential but contains some colorful touches. The spirit is perhaps most closely redolent of British contemporaries (some Bax, perhaps, traces of Vaughan Williams), and is mostly reflective with some uneasily dissonant textures and elements thrown in. Pastoral - featuring a wordless women's choir - is peaceful, sunny and content; Vaughan Williams in pastoral mood is brought to mind, but the music seems indeterminate and slightly meandering. Westward, inspired by Whitman, is more inventive with gritty brass and a feeling of wide, open plains - more Harris than Copland, perhaps, but the music at least adopts a sense of direction. Machine Age Blues uses several special effects (sirens, guns etc) but sounds rather bucolic compared to the futuristic motorisms of Mossolov and Markevitch, say, and ends in a jazzy swagger.

Overall the work comes across as very episodic and in no way inducing the sense of a symphonic argument going on, but it is also a little too lowkey and monotone in spirit to really work as a tone poem. Nevertheless, I admit to enjoying it the first time around (less so on a second hearing). No qualms about the performance or sound quality, and at the price I suppose it is eminently worth seeking out for the adventurous, but don't expect anything resembling a masterpiece.
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