Schwantner: Percussion Concerto; New Morning for the World: Daybreak of Freedom; Velocities

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schwantner
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Percussion Concerto; New Morning for the World: Daybreak of Freedom; Velocities
PERFORMER: Evelyn Glennie (percussion), Vernon E Jordan Jr (narrator)National SO/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68692 2
Although this release is a showcase for both Joseph Schwantner (b1943) and Leonard Slatkin’s National Symphony Orchestra, it is Evelyn Glennie who steals the show. The solo Velocities is seven minutes of sheer virtuosity, a dazzling rainbow of marimba colours called up with aggressive insistence and masterful rhythmic control. Ostinatos in waves of 7/8, cascades of notes, and irresistible moto perpetuo: all this and more is brought to life vividly in Glennie’s hands. She is the soloist as well in Schwantner’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra, and she is no less splendid here, especially in the long central cadenza marked ‘misterioso’. But what is attractive for a few minutes grows tiresome for half an hour, frankly, with all its colours going nowhere and all its retrograde modernist noise. The National Symphony Orchestra, a fine ensemble Leonard Slatkin inherited from Mstislav Rostropovich, copes well but shows strain by the end. It is helpless in the politically correct, doubtless well-intentioned dud New Morning for the World: Daybreak of Freedom. This is the sort of dreary stuff the Soviets perfected and wisely seldom exported, the only thing missing being the sun shining over the Motherland’s tractors on the road to a bright future. To be sure, Martin Luther King’s words would stand on their own on almost any occasion, but they are not well served either by Schwantner’s aimless orchestral ramblings or by Vernon E Jordan’s embarrassingly amateur reading. Octavio Roca