Lee III: Voyages - Orchestral Music / Alsop, ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

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In Voyages, prolific American composer James Lee III takes the listener on a colorful journey through his endlessly creative orchestral music; painting biblical imagery in Beyond Rivers of Vision and celebrating the joyous Feast of Tabernacles in Sukkot Through Orion's Nebula, using well-known spirituals to celebrate the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman (Chuphshah! Harriet's Drive to Canaan) and reflecting on the ongoing fight for freedom through his grandfather’s personal experiences in WWII (A Different Soldier’s Tale). His music is played here by the renowned ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop.


Although there may be some in the audience who may be skeptical of music by composers who are pretty much unknown to them, especially contemporary composers, they are in for a treat, for Chuphshah! is an entertaining, very listenable piece, as are all the compositions on this remarkable AVIE recording. From the opening measures of Sukkot Through Orion’s Nebula, with their snare, bass drum, brass, and percussion excitement, you know right away that this is going to be a fun recording for both musical and audio reasons. In his liner note essay, Lee describes Sukkot as “a festive work for orchestra,” and it is certainly that. Next up is the longest composition on the program, the four-movement A Different Soldier’s Tale, based on stories that Lee’s grandfather told him about his experiences in World War II. As you might expect from such a description, it contains some passages of drama and turmoil, as well as passages of pathos and reflection. Beyond Rivers of Vision is in three movements, of which Lee observes “for the most part the form in these pieces is fantasia-like or rhapsodic.” The music has an otherworldly characteristic to it at times that stands in contrast to the drama of the Soldier’s Tale. The CD closes with the afore-mentioned Chuphshah! Harriet's Drive to Canaan, which is based on aspects of the life of Harriet Tubman. His liner note essay is insightful and helpful in understanding what he is attempting to do in all four compositions, but especially so for this one.

As I indicated at the outset, this release is a treat both musically and sonically. The music is energetic and assertive, with plenty of orchestral effects that will show off a good audio system. The engineering team has done a good job, Alsop and the orchestra sound as though they are having a good time playing this mostly extroverted music, and the end result is a highly recommendable release from an exciting young composer.

-- Classical Candor (Karl W. Nehring)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 18, 2022

  • Catalog Number: AV2507

  • UPC: 822252250725

  • Label: AVIE

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: James Lee III

  • Conductor: Marin Alsop

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra