Classical reviews: June 15

Daugherty: Mount Rushmore, Radio City, etc. Pacific Symphony and Chorale, Paul Jacobs (organ). Naxos CD.

Michael Daugherty (born 1954) is a Grammy Award-winning American composer presenting three world premiere recordings.

Mount Rushmore is a dramatic oratorio written in 2010, inspired by those iconic monumental sculptures of four American presidents carved into the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Its movements are named George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln; they contain some of their words and thoughts sung by the fine chorus.

It is grand patriotic music, well-controlled under the baton of Carl St Clair - quirky but inspiring music, although messages are sometimes over-stressed.

(I liked the hymn Rock of Ages superimposed over Roosevelt's words about nature's grandeur at the Grand Canyon.).

Radio City (2011) is a ''Symphonic Fantasy on Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra'' in three movements celebrating the music under the legendary conductor heard by millions across America in live radio broadcasts from 1937 to 1954.

The Gospel According to Sister Aimee (2012) is the wildest work and the standout item - an organ concerto featuring Paul Jacobs, the Grammy-winning organist, with brass and percussion in loud and glorious flights.

Inspired by the rise and fall of a US religious celebrity of the 1930s, its opening is titled ''Knock Out the Devil!'' followed by ''An Evangelist Drowns/Desert Dance'' (featuring an extended organ cadenza with ferocious pedal work) and the final third movement is ''To the Promised Land''.

The work is given the weighty treatment it demands and is well recorded with fine balance and shimmering deep bass to thrill woofers.

Verdict: Bright and bold, modern ''American classics''.


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