SOUNDS OF AMERICA
. S H E R M A N
JS T E V E
P H O T O G R A P H Y
James Conlon, the Cincinnati Symphony and the May Festival Chorus perform R Nathaniel Dett’s oratorio The Ordering of Moses
Dett The Ordering of Moses Latonia Moore sop Ronnita Nicole Miller mez Rodrick Dixon ten Donnie Ray Albert bar May Festival Chorus; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra / James Conlon Bridge F BRIDGE9462 (49’ • DDD) Recorded live at Carnegie Hall, New York, May 2014
How is it possible that a work as soaring and powerful as R Nathaniel Dett’s
The Ordering of Moses could have languished for so long? The oratorio had its premiere by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus in 1937, after which it received a handful of performances around the US, including one in Cincinnati in 1967. Now here’s another by the Cincinnati forces, recorded live at Carnegie Hall in May 2014 under May Festival director James Conlon.
Dett (1882-1943) was a Canadianborn black composer who fused African American folksongs with classical traditions, especially Romanticism. His art is at its peak in The Ordering of Moses,
which presents the youthful Moses as he develops the strength to lead his people to the Promised Land. Those last words come from the spiritual ‘Go down, Moses,’ which Dett employs as a leitmotif to unify the work. Most of the text comes from the books of Exodus and Lamentations. It is a score of bountiful beauty and richness, with vivid choral and orchestral writing that illuminates the messages of faith. Echoes of Brahms and Wagner can be heard along the way, though filtered through Dett’s individual sensibility.
Conlon leads the Cincinnati musicians in a performance of radiant intensity. The chorus, prepared by Robert Porco, are in glorious communal voice and the Cincinnati Symphony blend elegance with vitality. The excellent vocal soloists include tenor Rodrick Dixon as Moses and Donny Ray Albert in the dual roles of The Voice of God and The Word. Donald Rosenberg
Prokofiev Sinfonia concertante, Op 125a. Cello Sonata, Op 119b Zuill Bailey vc bNatasha Paremski pf aNorth Carolina Symphony Orchestra / Grant Llewellyn Steinway & Sons F STNS30057 (62’ • DDD)
It is still difficult to fathom the Soviet regime’s treatment of Prokofiev and
Shostakovich for composing music Stalin and his henchmen heard as too modern, not to mention politically tinged. The two Prokofiev works that cellist Zuill Bailey performs on his new disc might be construed as commentaries on Soviet life, but they also could simply be considered prime examples of the composer’s deeply expressive and potent art.
The Sinfonia concertante was originally a cello concerto for Rostropovich; the composer revised the score and finally gave it a name rooted in the Classical era. The orchestra does play a prominent role in the work but the cello part is one of those wideranging challenges, at turns eloquent, angry and exuberant. Bailey is a master of the music’s emotional extremes, playing with a rich, throbbing sound that he can scale down to a haunting whisper. He teams seamlessly with the superb North Carolina Symphony Orchestra under music director Grant Llewellyn. An earlier work for Rostropovich, the Cello Sonata in C,
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