Michael Daugherty Dreamachine Hits on All Cylinders

In my opinion, Michael Daugherty’s style hits the sweet spot. His music has real substance, working on multiple layers that yield fresh insights with every hearing.

He’s also fully integrated the musical vernacular of pop culture. And he writes in a mostly tonal and strongly rhythmic language. These strengths enable his music to connect with the classical audience and non-classical audiences.

This release features three strong examples of how effective that language can be.

Flutist Amy Porter delivers a heart-rending performance of “Trail of Tears.” According to Daugherty, the concerto makes the journey of the human spirit through extraordinary tribulation. Although some melodic elements emulate Native American melodies, the music transcends race and culture. It’s a powerful work that speaks directly to the heart.

Reflections on the Mississipi is an exciting concerto for tuba and orchestra. The music roils and churns like the river itself. Snippets of “Wade in the Water” surface then disappear back into the ensemble. Soloist Carol Jantsch plays with a warm, golden sound and astonishing technique.

Daugherty says the inspiration for Dreamachine were images that had surprising connections between humans and machines. This tour de force percussion concerto has the soloist performing both roles. Sometimes the percussion instruments sound mechanistic; other times they’re quite expressive. Dame Evelyn Glennie, who premiered the work in 2014, performs here. Arguably one of the greatest percussionists in the world, Glennie provides the soul in the machine.

The Albany Symphony under the direction of David Alan Miller is at the top of its game. Every note hits with precision and just the right intensity. The ensemble performs as if of one mind with the respective soloists. Great music, great performances.

Michael Daugherty: Dreammachine
Evelyn Glennie, percussion; Amy Porter flute; Carol Jantsch, tuba
Albany Symphony; David Alan Miller, conductor
Naxos 8.559807

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