African Heritage Symphonic Series Vol 1 - Coleridge-Taylor, Still, Sowande / Freeman
William Grant Still (1895-1978) greatly admired Coleridge-Taylor, but he also was heavily influenced by the great jazz musicians of his time, in particular W.C. Handy, known as the "Father of the Blues". It's the sound of the blues that opens Still's Symphony No. 1, and to hear it in full symphonic dress immediately calls to mind George Gershwin (both composers knew each other's music). Various forms of jazz and blues permeate the symphony, yet Still constructs his work according to classic symphonic principles, and the result is a highly original, thought-provoking, and ultimately enjoyable creation.
From the African diaspora, we turn to the motherland for the music of Fela Sowande (1906-87). Sowande's Africa Suite (1930) utilizes traditional melodies of his native Nigeria, allowing us to hear the actual modes and rhythms of Africa presented in European orchestral timbres--a hybrid that works thanks to conductor Paul Freeman's rhythmic exactitude and to enthusiastic playing by the Chicago Sinfonietta. Freeman and his band give vibrant performances of the Coleridge-Taylor works as well, and show a far less self-conscious demeanor in the Still Symphony than Neeme Jarvi and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, playing with much more relaxed authenticity and "cool". Cedille's recording is a model of three-dimensional realism, making this disc both a sonic and musical treasure.
--Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: CDR 055
Composer: Fela Sowande, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, William Grant Still
Conductor: Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble: Chicago Sinfonietta