Metropolis Symphony/Daugherty

September 18, 2009

metropolisInspired by the 50th anniversary of Superman in comics, Michael Daugherty began composing his (5) movement work in 1988. Its premiere performance was given in 1994 at Carnegie Hall, performed by the Baltimore Symphony conducted by David Zinman. While it has been around for 15 years this new Naxos release is my first introduction to this intriguing work, which even includes comic book font on the outer sleeve of the CD.

The talented Daugherty received his doctorate from Yale, teaches music, theater, and dance at the University of Michigan, and has conducted many of the major symphonies of the world. Not only is he involved in orchestral works but he is also known for his chamber and band compositions.

While each of the (5) movements of Metropolis are works in their own right and can be performed individually, according to the liner notes from the composer, this reviewer enjoys the work in full. “Lex,” a diabolical foe of Superman, is presented on the violin in a frantic devilish fashion. One could find it similar to what Herrmann did with his music for Mr. Scratch in The Devil and Daniel Webster or Danse Macabre from Saint Saens. “Krypton,” where Superman was born and escaped from, is a dark movement that begins with strings, a fire horn, and the ominous sound of the clanging of bells, with a main theme that has a similar style to the theme from Sunset Boulevard. The trombones let one know that the end is near in this movement. “Mxyzptlk,” was a comical character, and a scherzo that features two flutes on either side of the stage one trying to outdo the other! It nicely represents the mischievous 5th dimension demon. “Oh, Lois!” is not a romantic encounter but a modern sounding slapstick style played as the composer puts it “faster than a speeding bullet.” “Red Cape Tango,” the highlight and finale of the movement, features the often-played Latin death chant Dies Irae, one of the more recognizable melodies of all time. Given a tango beat part of the time featuring castanets and generous selection of percussion, the movement of 13+ minutes is given ample time to develop. Setting aside the Superman character one could easily see how this could be part of a ballet. This reviewer was extremely impressed with Daugherty’s effective use of percussion in this symphony.

Deus ex Machina, God from the machine, is a work for piano and orchestra about the impact that the coal burning train had on our country. Divided into three movements each one tells a story through paintings, the funeral train of Lincoln, and historic photographs, rather than following the structure of a typical piano concerto. “Fast Forward,” uses the piano not as a source of melody but rhythmic chords and tempos which complements the percussion and the orchestra to create the sounds one might think of with a train. “Train of Tears” is a eulogy that also features “Taps” in the slow, sad, and moving piece of the (7) day trip the train took from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois for the burial of Abraham Lincoln. One can hear the sound of the trains on the tracks in the final movement “Night Steam.”

This will make a nice addition to your hopefully ever growing collection of American Classics on Naxos. Superman collectors will also find this a welcome addition to their collections.

Track Listing:

Metropolis Symphony (1988-93) for Orchestra

1.…Lex (10:01)

2.…Krypton (6:46)

3.…MXYZPTLK (7:02)

4.…Oh, Lois! (5:05)

5.…Red Cape Tango (13:41)

Deus ex Machina (2007) for Piano and Orchestra

6.…Fast Forward (7:40)

7.…Train of Tears (14:17)

8.…Night Stream (11:22)

Total Playing Time is 75:55

Performed by the Nashville Symphony conducted by Giancario Guerrero

Piano by Terrence Wilson in Deus ex Machina

Naxos CD# is 8.559635

2 Responses to “Metropolis Symphony/Daugherty”

  1. jhone Says:

    Thanks for interesting post

  2. […] conducted by William Berz and also feature compositions of Michael Daugherty (Metropolis… )  and James Syler as well as this unique 2006 piece orchestrated by Mackey for wind ensemble from […]

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