Joseph Schwantner's Chasing Light...

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Pulitzer laureate Joseph Schwantner sits in the 20th-century somewhere at the crossroads of Debussy and Steve Reich, dipping his brush equally in lush orchestral colors and non-Western forms of percussion to create eclectic soundscapes, a sample of which can be heard on his latest CD for Naxos.

The New York Philharmonic’s principal percussionist Christopher Lamb takes the reigns, opening the disc with Schwantner’s oft-played Percussion Concerto, written for the Phil on its 150th anniversary. Hypnotic though it may be (especially in the kaleidoscopic and kinetic first movement with a focus on the marimba), this three-movement concerto never drops its energy, and Lamb virtuosically juggles the multifaceted percussion section and distinct tones from the buoyant first movement to the elegiac and cathedral-like second and a restrained yet vigorous—and improvisatory—third.

Under the baton of Giancarlo Guerrero, the Nashville Symphony offers up two other Schwantner works, including the world premiere recording of a lush tone-poem, Morning’s Embrace and the ambitious and spirited Chasing Light…, a work written around a poem (also penned by Schwantner). Inspired by a misty New England morning and full of sonic fireworks, Chasing Light… was part of Ford’s Made in America Project and was subsequently performed over three years by orchestras representing all 50 states in the union. All told, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect work to celebrate Independence Day this year.

Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Music by Joseph Schwantner
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
Naxos
Available at Arkivmusic.com