Black Composers Series: The Complete CBS Masterworks Collection

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In the 1970s, CBS Masterworks made a groundbreaking series of recordings featuring the music of Black composers. The nine LPs released all featured the pioneering conductor Paul Freeman. Sony Classical is proud to reissue the complete Black Composer Series in a single original album collection with each CD remastered from the original analogue tapes. The composers featured span several centuries and come from many different backgrounds. A bonus tenth album features Hale Smith’s Symphonic Spirituals, arrangements of 12 Spirituals for voice and orchestra originally released by Paul Freeman in 1979. The many superb performers in this collection include the London Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore and Detroit Symphony Orchestras and the Juilliard String Quartet. But is it the composers, many still little known today, who are the true stars of this milestone collection.

REVIEW:

In 1974 Columbia Masterworks, in association with the Afro-American Music Opportunities Association, launched a Black Composer Series. Nine LPs eventually appeared, all devoted to mostly world-premiere recordings of works by composers of color spanning nearly two centuries. Apparently no effort was spared to ensure world-class results regarding research, preparation, and performance, and the series met with almost universal critical acclaim. Sony/BMG now brings these recordings together for the first time on CD, transferred from the original multi-track masters and packaged in original jacket format...the heightened analytic clarity [of the recordings] further underlines the indisputable care and commitment that conductor Paul Freeman brought to these scores.

The earliest-born composers hold fascination in that one would be hard pressed to ascertain their identity without a score card, so to speak. For example, the Guadeloupe-born Parisian Joseph [Bologne, Chevalier de] Saint-Georges (1745-1799) may have been a younger contemporary of Haydn, yet his attractively tuneful style harks back to an earlier “classicism in embryo” 18th-century style. The Violin Concerto in F-sharp minor by José White Lafitte (1836-1918) was well received at its 1867 Paris premiere, yet the manuscript lay dormant at the Bibliotèque Nationale until musicologist Paul Glass uncovered and edited the score in time for a 1974 New York performance. Lafitte obviously composed the concerto to showcase his own violin virtuosity, which must have been formidable, given the solo part’s flashy yet expressive writing. Aaron Rosand’s warm singing tone and effortless technique make a compelling case for today’s young violin wizards to try their hands at this minor masterpiece.

Composed in 1816, the Requiem Mass by Brazilian composer José Mauricio Nunes Garcia (1767-1830) proves far stronger, more varied, inventive, and dramatic than [previously recorded works]...Mozart’s influence pervades, most prominently in the Dies irae and the fugal Kyrie (Garcia actually led the Mozart Requiem’s Brazilian premiere in 1819), while the Offertory features two lovely extensive bass solos, sung superbly by Matti Tuloisela.

All of the collection’s 20th century composers (and one late 19th century composer) are represented at their best...Of George Walker’s two major works here, I prefer the Trombone Concerto’s rhythmic unpredictability and pronounced emotional contrasts...Olly Wilson’s Akwan for piano, electric piano, and amplified strings conveys more joyful energy and an organically freewheeling style. Perhaps it would have been better to subtitle Ulysses Kay’s “symphonic essay” Markings a ballet, and that’s a compliment.

A disc given over to works by Panamanian composer Roque Cordero (1917-2008) may be the collection’s prize. Its centerpiece is a substantial and powerful three-movement Violin Concerto, written in 1962 for the New York Philharmonic’s violinist Sanford Allen, who plays the living daylights out of it here. Shades of Alban Berg’s songful serialism may hover over the first movement’s continuous solo/orchestra dialogues, notably in the first movement where shimmering strings support Allen’s cruelly exposed high-register musings. On the other hand, the vigorous finale’s unrelenting double stops have an asymmetric urgency that never lapses into cliché...Terrence McKnight’s introductory essay discusses the Black Composers Series within its historical context, and offers short yet informative composer biographies that zero in on key career milestones. It’s good to have all of this music available again.

– ClassicsToday (Jed Distler)



Product Description:


  • Release Date: January 18, 2019


  • Catalog Number: 19075862152


  • UPC: 190758621524


  • Label: Sony Music Entertainment


  • Number of Discs: 10


  • Conductor: Paul Freeman


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Juilliard String Quartet, Morgan State College Choir, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic


  • Performer: Alain Planès, Betty Allen, Sanford Allen, William Brown, Richard Bunger, Doralene Davis, Miriam Fried, Natalie Hinderas, Barbara Jordan, Jaime Laredo, Faye Robinson, Aaron Rosand, Janos Starker, Denis Wick, Matti Tuloisela



Works:


  1. Symphony in G Major, Op. 11 No. 1

    Composer: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  2. String Quartet in G Major, Op. 1 No. 1

    Composer: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges

    Ensemble: Juilliard String Quartet


  3. Symphonie concertante for 2 Violins in G major, Op. 1 No. 3

    Composer: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Miriam Fried (Violin), Jaime Laredo (Violin)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  4. Scena from Ernestine

    Composer: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Faye Robinson (Soprano)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  5. Symphony No. 1 'Afro-American'

    Composer: William Grant Still

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  6. What does he know of dreams? (from Highway 1, U.S.A)

    Composer: William Grant Still

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  7. You're wonderful, Mary (from Highway 1, U.S.A.)

    Composer: William Grant Still

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  8. Hiawatha's Wedding Feast: Onaway! Awake, beloved!

    Composer: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  9. African Suite: Danse Nègre

    Composer: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  10. Markings

    Composer: Ulyesses Kay

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  11. Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra

    Composer: George Walker

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Denis Wick (Trombone)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  12. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

    Composer: Roque Cordero

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Sanford Allen (Violin)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  13. Miniatures (8)

    Composer: Roque Cordero

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  14. Requiem Mass

    Composer: José Maurício Nunes Garcia

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Doralene Davis (Soprano), Betty Allen (Mezzo-soprano), William Brown (Tenor), Matti Tuloisela (Bass-baritone)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  15. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

    Composer: José White

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Aaron Rosand (Violin)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  16. Sonata for Cello and Piano

    Composer: David Baker

    Performer: János Starker (Cello), Alain Planès (Piano)


  17. Sahdji

    Composer: William Grant Still

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  18. African Suite

    Composer: Fela Sowande

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  19. Lyric for Strings

    Composer: George Walker

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  20. Akwan for Keyboards, Amplified Strings & Orchestra

    Composer: Olly Wilson

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Richard Bunger (Piano & Electric Piano)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  21. Squares (An Essay for Orchestra)

    Composer: Thomas Jefferson Anderson

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  22. Visions of Ishwara

    Composer: Talib Rasul Hakim

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  23. Piano Concerto

    Composer: George Walker

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: Natalie Hinderas (Piano)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  24. Celebration

    Composer: Adolphus Hailstork

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  25. Ritual & Incantations

    Composer: Hale Smith

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  26. Lift Every Voice and Sing (arr. Hale Smith)

    Composer: John Rosamond Johnson

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  27. Jesus Lay Your Head in the Window (arr. Hale Smith)

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  28. Honor, Honor (arr. Donald Erb)

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  29. He Never Said A Mumballin' Word (arr. William Brown)

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  30. A Change Has Got To Come (arr. Hale Smith)

    Composer: Jacqueline Hairston

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  31. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (arr. Frederick Tillis)

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  32. Gospel Train (arr. Morton Gould)

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  33. Let Us Break Bread Together (arr. Hale Smith

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  34. Witness (arr. Hale Smith)

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  35. The Revival (arr. Morton Gould)

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  36. This Little Light O' Mine (arr. Hale Smith)

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman


  37. Deep River (arr. Frederick Tillis)

    Composer: Traditional

    Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

    Performer: William Brown (Tenor)

    Conductor: Paul Freeman