Dawson: Negro Folk Symphony - Kay: Fantasy Variations & Umbrian Scene / Fagen, VRSO

Regular price $13.99
Added to Cart! View cart or continue shopping.

Dawson’s lone symphony merits more attention than it has received.

-New York Times

William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony was premiered by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934 to huge enthusiasm. Its traditional form houses a continuous process of variation and introduces less well-known Spirituals in fragmentary form, while the work’s recurring motifs, remarkable transitions and syncopations are enhanced in Dawson’s 1952 revision heard here.

The Fantasy Variations by composer and teacher Ulysses Kay employs dissonance with great expressivity in a work of textural and coloristic variety. Umbrian Scene, despite its pictorial suggestion, is lean and sombre.

Arthur Fagen has conducted at the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera and Vienna State Opera, and has led acclaimed orchestras such as the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie. He has recently conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia. Fagen has served as principal conductor in Kassel and Brunswick, chief conductor of the Vlaamse Opera and music director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra. From 2002 to 2007, he was music director of the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dortmund Opera.


This new recording of Dawson's only symphony, the first in almost 30 years, has plenty of elegance and fire, though. Arthur Fagen deftly conducts the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony and also includes two fine works by Ulysses Kay. He was another African American - slightly younger than Dawson, but more prolific. Kay's music also deserves to be heard more. His "Fantasy Variations" from 1963 is brilliantly orchestrated and deceptive.

National Public Radio (Tom Huizenga)

Recorded only twice before, the last time some three decades ago, the fresh approach to William Levi Dawson’s “Negro Folk Symphony” by the conductor Arthur Fagen and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra provides us with another crucial look at this complex, vibrant opus. Because exuberance isn’t the only goal of this music, the cooler sheen of the Vienna’s ensemble sound offers an incisive look at Dawson’s experimentalism. Dawson’s lone symphony merits more attention than it has received.

New York Times (Seth Colter Walls)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: June 26, 2020

  • Catalog Number: 8559870

  • UPC: 636943987025

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: William Levi Dawson

  • Conductor: Arthur Fagen

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra