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Classical - Released February 5, 2013 | Naxos

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Orchestration was Duke Ellington's forte, and it is not a great challenge to adapt his works for full symphony orchestra. The challenge is even slighter in the large tone poems with which Ellington occupied himself for most of the later part of his career; these works, which make up the bulk of the program here, are already written for large group and are replete with instrumental effects. Generally speaking, the arrangers here have transferred some of the wind lines to the orchestral strings and left Ellington's brass writing intact. Indeed, the biggest problem with these works is not as classical music -- Ellington's ambitions clearly went in that direction -- but as jazz: the solos were written for musicians with whom Ellington worked closely, and nobody else can quite duplicate their particular texture and snap. This said, the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra under JoAnn Falletta is filled with musicians with plenty of experience in performing jazz, and this release is nowhere less than enjoyable. Its primary interest lies in the late works, which may be uneven but which show the aging composer continuing to explore new ideas drawn equally from jazz, classical orchestral repertory, and (an underappreciated component of his later style) film music. The album contains Ellington's last composition, the ballet Les Trois Rois Noirs (The Three Black Kings, referring to the King of the Magi, Solomon, and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in whose memory the music was composed). The graphics erroneously give a 1943 date for this work, which was left unfinished at Ellington's death in 1974 and completed by his son. It is quite unlike any other classical-jazz crossover work, with highly original musical imagery. The opening King of the Magi movement is a stylized boogie woogie, focusing unexpectedly on the travels of the Magi to see Jesus, not on the luxury of conventional iconography. The middle King Solomon movement could have come from a film score, while the MLK finale has a warm jubilee mood. The River (1970) is another underplayed score; its images of the Mississippi River are similarly inventive. Bookending these are the more familiar Black, Brown and Beige suite, Harlem, and, most familiar of all, Take the "A" Train, for which Ellington himself was the arranger in this case. Recording the orchestra in its Buffalo home of Kleinhans Music Hall, Naxos achieves idiomatic sound. Recommended for Ellington lovers, especially those interested in the later part of his career. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 4, 2014 | Naxos

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In the west, Reinhold Glière is best known for the "Russian Sailor's Dance" from his successful ballet The Red Poppy, though his other works are starting to be explored more extensively. A prime example is the Symphony No. 3 in B minor, "Il'ya Muromets," a vibrant programmatic work that has received increased attention, with several recordings appearing since the 1990s. As conductor JoAnn Falletta says in her notes for her recording with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on Naxos, it has become a cult piece. This is no doubt due to its exciting medieval subject, its colorful scoring in the manner of Rimsky-Korsakov, and monumental length, all of which make it irresistible to lovers of post-Romantic symphonies and tone poems. Its vivid representations of nature and lush atmosphere make it the kind of accessible but not overplayed music audiences take to easily. Falletta and her orchestra performed the symphony in 2013, live and without cuts, so the work's rich expressions and epic scope are conveyed with more impressive effect than Leopold Stokowski's truncated version, which he recorded in the mid-20th century. While this recording must compete with several other complete versions, it should be counted among the best, and it is recommended for any newcomers to this fascinating symphony. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 25, 2010 | Naxos

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American composer John Corigliano pleases crowds with his accessible orchestral scores, but neo-Romantic is not quite the right word for him. Corigliano's music is historically oriented rather than nostalgic, and in his capacity to draw a variety of resonances from styles and motifs of the past he might almost be thought of as an American Dmitry Shostakovich. This release features two compositions drawn from dramatic presentations, and both of them, expertly adapted to a purely orchestral format, show every sign of becoming repertory standards. Both allow the members of a large orchestra to display their talents, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Michael Ludwig, quite nicely recorded in the orchestra's own Kleinhans Music Hall, step up to the occasion with technically spot-on yet sweeping performances under conductor JoAnn Falletta. Hear the banging effect executed by the violins in the fourth movement of the Violin Concerto "The Red Violin" (track 5), one of Corigliano's most-performed works in its various guises. The concerto is an expansion of the Chaconne for violin and orchestra, which in turn distilled elements from Corigliano's score for the film of the same name. The opening chaconne is polyphonic in the sense in which literary critics employ the word, with distinct narratives set in different historical eras (through which the violin itself travels in the film) occurring sequentially. Phantasmagoria is adapted from Corigliano's opera Ghosts of Versailles; it contains various musical quotations, and the orchestra sets the right dreamlike mood to bring out the effect of these. There are other choices for these contemporary American classics, but this is a good one, with the elusive quality of rediscovering the excitement of symphonic music that has endeared Corigliano to audiences in the U.S. and beyond. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 8, 2019 | Naxos

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Listeners may be forgiven for wondering whether the world needed another recording of Ottorino Respighi's three famous tone poems celebrating the Eternal City: Feste romane (Roman Festivals), Fontane di Roma (Fountains of Rome), and perhaps most famous of all, Pini di Roma (Pines of Rome). But they should decidedly give a chance to this Naxos release featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and American conductor JoAnn Falletta, who knows the ensemble well. For one thing, Falletta earned her stripes with a previous recording of three much less often heard Respighi tone poems that was critically acclaimed and gives her justification for having her say in the big three. More than that, however, there's a certain energy and excitement running all the way through this recording. The Buffalo Philharmonic has a noted brass section; yes, you might find better in Chicago or Berlin, but the climaxes here have real bite. You might find broader readings that work, but it's rare that you'll hear one that captures so much instrumental detail, even as Falletta keeps things moving at an above-average clip. You could sample anywhere and find small pleasures, but try the piano at the beginning of the third movement of Pini di Roma, the nocturnal "Pines on the Janiculum Hill." It gives a feel for how Falletta keeps the unusual coloristic palette of these tone poems in impressive balance. And you might find acoustically more impressive venues than Buffalo's International Style Kleinhans Hall, but not another ensemble who knows it so well and knows how to produce a satisfying effect. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 9, 2018 | Naxos

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For this 2018 Naxos release, JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra present a standard program of orchestral music taken from Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. The four music dramas that make up the cycle, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, are represented by their best-known excerpts, in the familiar concert adaptations by Hermann Zumpe, Wouter Hutschenruyter, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Ludvík St'astny. As dependable as Falletta and her orchestra are in conventional orchestral repertoire, the performances here seem detached and a bit cautious, seeming displaced from their element and lacking Wagnerian intensity and force. Because the music has been recorded so effectively by the great Wagner conductors of the past and by quite a few of the present, dedicated fans may regard this CD as a basic introduction to Wagner's Ring and nothing more. Listeners seeking a "greatest-hits" compilation may find this disc more than adequate for getting acquainted with such favorites as the Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla, The Ride of the Valkyries, Forest Murmurs, and Siegfried's Rhine Journey, among other highlights. However, they should use this disc as a springboard into the music dramas, which offer a wealth of great music as the composer intended it to be heard. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 31, 2006 | Naxos

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These may not be the finest recordings of Copland's orchestral works ever committed to disc -- after all, they have competition from Bernstein, Slatkin and, of course, Copland himself -- but for listeners who love the music, they will still provide a thrill and a chill. The twenty first century Buffalo Philharmonic is not the same orchestra it was when Michael Tilson Thomas ran it 40 years earlier -- with smooth strings, warm winds, bold brass, and powerful percussion, it's much better. And while music director JoAnn Falletta may not be in the same class as Tilson Thomas, much less Bernstein or Slatkin, she is clearly as fond of the music as the composer and does everything to give the best possible performances. Her Rodeo may lack some of the pizzazz of Bernstein's, but it still has plenty of pop and fizz, and her Suite from The Red Pony may lack some of the warmth of Slatkin's, but it still has plenty of heart. In the shorter Prairie Journal and Letter from Home, Falletta and the Buffalo's performance nearly equals Copland's in emotional impact and surely surpasses his in technical polish. While those who love the music will not want to give up their Bernstein, Slatkin, and Copland recordings, they may want to check these recordings out anyway. Naxos' sound is cool, deep, and clear. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 16, 2004 | Naxos

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Classical - Released June 10, 2013 | Naxos

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JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra continue their series on Naxos of the orchestral works of George Gershwin with this 2013 release, featuring performances by pianist Orion Weiss and clarinetist John Fullam. Weiss, who has established himself as a concerto soloist of prodigious skill, shines in the Rhapsody in Blue, by far the most celebrated selection here and obviously the selling point of the CD, considering the brilliance of this young artist and his vigorous performance. Fullam's turn in Promenade is a small, jaunty solo, but the piece is a charmer with its tripping melody and it serves as a good-natured interlude for the program. The orchestra delivers the overture to the musical Strike Up the Band with more than a little of the excitement of Broadway, but its real showpiece is Catfish Row: Suite from Porgy and Bess, which presents highlights of the opera in a condensed but effective form. It's worth noting that all the selections are arrangements, so in the strictest sense, these are not orchestral works in Gershwin's own hand, though the arrangement by Ferde Grofé of Rhapsody in Blue is so familiar to listeners, it is intextricably a part of the canon. The other arrangements are less familiar, though Gershwin's music is still well-served by the work of arrangers Don Rose, Sol Berkowitz, and Stephen Bowen. These recordings were made between 2010 and 2012 at the Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, and the sound is clear and warm. © TiVo
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Classical - Released May 25, 2010 | Naxos

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Classical - Released November 27, 2007 | Naxos

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Italian composer Ottorino Respighi's name is almost synonymous with his wildly popular set of three orchestral suites referred to collectively as the Roman Trilogy. Regrettably, many of his numerous other orchestral compositions are rarely heard in the concert hall and are infrequently recorded. Naxos does listeners a great service by demonstrating the value of Respighi's other masterful orchestral works to listeners. Church Windows, probably the most recognizable work outside of the Roman Trilogy, was brought about through Respighi's interest in the use of modes in Gregorian chant. Interestingly, the titles and descriptions of these four movements were written after the music was completed. The effortless transition between the heavy, earnestness of Church Windows and the light, relaxed, folksy feel of Brazilian Impressions is a testament to Respighi's far-reaching versatility. Wrapping up the program is Rossiniana, an orchestral suite lifted from an earlier piano composition. Although containing Rossini's name, the composition is not based on the opera composer's works, but rather the sensibilities and characteristics found in Rossini's music. Performing all of these works is the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under JoAnn Falletta. Overall, their efforts are quite solid. There are some occasional ensemble difficulties, particularly in the sometimes unwieldy brass section of Church Windows, when all of the rhythms across the orchestra are not completely lined up. However, intonation and sound quality are both quite good, and Falletta does a satisfactory job of capturing the varying characters of the three compositions. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 10, 2017 | Naxos

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Classical - Released April 14, 2017 | Naxos

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Classical - Released November 6, 2015 | Naxos

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Classical - Released March 31, 2009 | Naxos

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Classical - Released August 22, 2002 | Naxos

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Classical - Released September 2, 2014 | Naxos

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Classical - Released August 24, 2010 | Naxos

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Classical - Released August 6, 2013 | Naxos

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Classical - Released September 29, 2009 | Naxos

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Classical - Released December 5, 2014 | Beau Fleuve