National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic Continues Fine Tradition
This is the sixth release of the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic. Each year, the Philharmonic records an album of American music with a guest conductor. This time it’s JoAnn Falletta, director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The orchestra is comprised of conservatory students from the U.S. and abroad. While the players may lack experience, they have plenty of talent and musicianship. Every track was a top-flight performance.
I did have a quibble with the recorded sound. I’m not sure if it was the venue, or where the mics were set. But the overall sound was a little unfocused. And I thought there was a touch too much ambiance, which tended to slightly blur the sound.
Still, there’s a lot to like with this release. Falletta is in her element with these works. One of her many strengths is her Mid-Century repertoire.
Aaron Copland’s “The Tender Land” Suite was based on his opera of the same name. But he significantly reworked the material for the suite. Falletta delivers the feeling of the wide-open plains of Copland’s opera. A few motifs and instrumental combinations have become staples of Western movie soundtracks.
Paul Creston’s Saxophone Concerto receives its world recording premiere. And so does Ulysses Kay’s Pietà. Creston’s concerto is a robust post-Romantic work. Creston uses the saxophone as a strictly classical instrument — there’s not a hint of jazz.
Ulysses Kay became the first black composer to win the Prix de Rome in 1949. While there, he was inspired by Michelagel’s sculpture, and composed “Pieta.” This somber and beautiful work could be a companion piece to Barber’s “Adagio.” English hornist Anna Mattix delivers a haunting performance.
Walter Piston’s “The Incredible Flutist” Suite is a staple of modern orchestral repertoire. It’s from a ballet score commissioned by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. So accessibility was key. The score is a delightfully tuneful and fun composition that justifies its popularity.
A fine addition to this Naxos series.
Aaron Copland: The Tender Land Suite
National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic; JoAnn Falletta, conductor