Three New American Albums for Your July 4th Week

Email a Friend

FREE Download: Pianist Benjamin Pasternack plays Dvorak’s Suite in A Major "American," 5th Movement (Allegro)*

This week's featured albums explore the distinctive sounds of American music in string quartets, orchestral works and solo piano music.

New World Quartets
Brodsky String Quartet          
Available at

The Brodsky Quartet is known for its wide-ranging repertoire, from Mozart and Shostakovich to Tavener and Bjork. The centerpiece of their latest release is Dvorak’s American Quartet. Granted, this work has few actual musical links to American folk music but its themes are a delight and played with great verve by the Brodskys. There is also a version of Barber’s Op. 11 Quartet (with its famous Adagio), played with passion and dignity; Copland’s Two Pieces; Dave Brubeck’s Regret; and Gershwin’s early, jazz-inflected Lullaby.


Dvorak and America
Post-Classical Ensemble; Angel Gil-Ordóñez, conductor; Benjamin Pasternack

Available at

At the center of this ambitious recording is the premiere of a work for actor and orchestra called Hiawatha Melodrama. It was conceived and assembled by the author and music entrepreneur Joseph Horowitz, with contributions from NYU musicologist Michael Beckerman. The piece consists of the narration of a condensed version of Longfellow's 1855 poem "The Song of Hiawatha" flavored with a score drawn largely from Dvorak's "New World" Symphony. The idea is to draw links between a poem that had been hugely popular when Dvorak arrived in America, and the composer’s Symphony, which captured some of the soulfulness of black spirituals. Baritone Kevin Deas is the fiery and affecting narrator here.

The recording also features examples of Dvorak's American-influenced compositions such as the Violin Sonatina in G, his Humoresques, Op. 101 for piano, his American Suite, Op. 98, plus three works by American composer and Native American music scholar Arthur Farwell. The fine Benjamin Pasternack is the soloist on the piano works.


Ives: Symphony No 2; Carter: Instances; Gershwin: An American In Paris
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Ludovic Morlot, conductor
Available at

The Seattle Symphony has been in the news for everything Pulitzer Prizes to a hip-hop soloist of late. The inaugural releases on the orchestra’s in-house record label risk getting lost in the shuffle – but they shouldn’t. Q2 Music has already looked at the ensemble’s all-Dutilleux release. This collection of American composers is a fine counterpart, spanning Ives's Second Symphony, Elliott Carter's final orchestral work, Instances (a spiky but colorful curtain-raiser that Seattle premiered) and Gershwin's An American in Paris. Seattle has plenty of experience with American repertoire and the performances are full of swagger and brilliance.

* Not into Facebook? Sign up below for our weekly e-newsletter and you'll receive the free download when it goes out on Thursday.