Daugherty: Route 66; Ghost Ranch; Sunset Strip; Time Machine

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COMPOSERS: Daugherty
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Route 66; Ghost Ranch; Sunset Strip; Time Machine
PERFORMER: Bournemouth SO/Marin Alsop, Mei-Ann Chen, Laura Jackson
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.559613

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An orchestra is divided into three spatially separated units, each with its own conductor so that they can play in independent but coordinated tempos. Could it be Stockhausen’s Gruppen?

No, here the piece in question is Time Machine by the American composer Michael Daugherty, based on such un-Stockhausen-like material as ticking and rattling percussion, jazzy riffs (sometimes masquerading as Renaissance dances), a Samuel Barber-style welling-up of counterpoint and a Hollywood march. It’s an intriguing exploration of ideas about past and future, and of an area outside Daugherty’s usual comfort zone.

Well within that zone are Route 66 and Sunset Strip, entertaining musical travelogues in which Daugherty turns the orchestra into the biggest of big bands, adding value to jazz and pop clichés. But a more thoughtful and ambitious approach is evident in the BBC-comissioned triptych Ghost Ranch, an atmospheric evocation, using textures made up of contrasting layers, of the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe and of the artist’s home in the New Mexico desert.

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The vivid recording was made in the summer of 2008, at the end of Marin Alsop’s six seasons as principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. These confident, loose-limbed performances demonstrate how she succeeded during that time in turning the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra into just about the best American orchestra in Europe. Anthony Burton