Strange Humors/Mackey, Daugherty, & Syler
December 27, 2010
My first introduction to John Mackey in the work Strange Humors is part of a new Naxos #8572529 release in their Wind Band Classics Series. The works are performed by the Rutgers Wind Ensemble conducted by William Berz and also feature compositions of Michael Daugherty (Metropolis… https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/metropolis-symphonydaugherty/ ) and James Syler as well as this unique 2006 piece orchestrated by Mackey for wind ensemble from the original string quartet work from 1998. After listening to this several times it is hard for this reviewer to imagine it not having the brass and wind instruments. Perhaps I’m mistaken but as a string quartet piece it would have lost so much of its impact.
Mackey has combined the percussion of Africa with the oriental mystery of the Middle East with a solo from first the English horn and then a saxophone. It ends in big band fashion featuring sliding trombones and dissonant brass riffs in a 5 plus minute opus. This work is a true example of blending three or four styles in one relatively easy to listen to work. Well done!
Raise the Roof, from Michael Daugherty, a work for wind ensemble and timpani was written in 2007 and performed by the University of Michigan band. It was originally commissioned and performed by the Detroit Symphony in 2003. The timpani part is huge in this work as it is allowed to explore melody as well as rhythm in this homage to buildings in New York. The piece begins with a melody from the tuba followed by a second melody from the woodwinds and the timpani. The wind melody is somewhat mysterious, a bit oriental, and more time is devoted to it than the first melody. The brass melody is somewhat somber from the tuba but as it evolves the brass especially the trombones take over and make it majestic. The work ends with the two melodies being blended into one. Todd Quinlan, the timpani soloist, does a fine job of melding the two sections of the orchestra as well as providing his own interpretation of the woodwind melody.
Brooklyn Bridge, also a work of Michael Daugherty, is a four movement clarinet concerto nicely performed by Maureen Hurd. Each movement is a view from different sides of the bridge with the final “North” movement being a nice jazz riff written with Artie Shaw a swing clarinetist supreme of the thirties, forties, and fifties in mind. This work premiered in 2005 by the Michigan band. The work in addition to the flavor of buildings has a South American flavor.
The Hound of Heaven is from 1988 and is based on a symbolic poem of the same name by Francis Thompson. The six movement work is religious in nature with many somber and dissonant passages. Beginning the work is a reference to the famous Holst work The Planets, a movement of war. The second movement switches to a quiet religious cue with some beautiful brass chords not unlike something you might hear in a Star Trek film or a Gil Evans arrangement. Throughout the third and fourth movement there is marvelous playing with an emphasis on brass chords. The conclusion is one of faith and hope. A solitary trumpet is the instrument that bridges one movement to another melding them together in a complete package.
This CD is a nice introduction to works you’ve likely not heard before and is well worth exploring further. Available as a download from Classics online.
1. Strange Humors 00:05:17
Raise the Roof (version for timpani and wind band)
2. Raise the Roof (version for timpani and wind band) 00:12:58
3. I. East 00:08:06
4. II. South 00:08:43
5. III. West 00:03:23
6. IV. North 00:08:31
The Hound of Heaven
7. I. I Fled Him, Down the Nights 00:02:21
8. II. The Gold Gateway of the Stars 00:03:26
9. III. Within the Little Children’s Eyes 00:01:53
10. IV. Nature’s – Share with Me 00:02:23
11. V. And Smitten Me to My Knee 00:02:41
12. VI. I am He Whom Thou Seekest! 00:05:41
Total Playing Time: 01:05:23