Non-dogmatic American music from do.gma

For their sophomore album, the do.gma chamber orchestra stretches their repertory wings a bit, and come up with an interesting and artistically strong release. American Stringbook features 20th Century chamber orchestra works that, if not quite standard repertoire, certainly should be.
It’s one thing for Americans to try to persuade the classical world to pay attention to American composers — for a European ensemble to take up the cause is refreshing, indeed.

In the liner notes, concertmaster and artistic director Mikhail Gurewitsch writes;

We  dedicate our new production to the rise and development of the American Classical movement. We focus not just on famous composers such as Samuel Barber, but also on the composition of less well-known master,s whom we wish to introduce to a wider audience.

Those lesser-know composers include Arthur Foote, David Diamond, and William Schuman.

The do.gma chamber orchestra performs these works with authority and conviction. Arthur Foote’s late-romantic Suite in E is particularly effective — perhaps because the ensemble seems to have an affinity for the style (their first release was all-Tchaikovsky).

The mid-century works of William Schuman (Symphony No. 5) and David Diamond (Rounds for String Orchestra) also fare well. Diamond’s work is, as the name suggests, a series of rounds, and the ensemble brings out every nuance of the independent lines as they interweave.

Samuel Barber’s Serenade for String Orchestra is beautifully performed. The orchestra lingers lovingly over the rich  harmonies and evocative melodic turns of the piece.

The least successful work on the album is, surprisingly, the most famous. Barber’s Adagio for Strings gets a sedate reading here. For some reason, the upper registers of the strings sounded a little harsh, and the emotive qualities of the rising melodic lines seems to have been dialed back a bit too much.

Still, all in all, American Stringbook is an impressive release. The quality of the music chosen and the overall performance of the do.gma chamber orchestra make a powerful combination. American Stringbook is an excellent introduction to American classical music.

American Stringbook: David Diamond; Samuel Barber; William Schuman
do.gma Chamber Orchestra
Berthold Records

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