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DAWSON, KAY, ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Arthur Fagen, Naxos

The names of William L. Dawson (1899-1990) and Ulysses Kay (1917-1995), two African-Americans, it should be noted, are not among those usually heard in the canonical repertoire of Western scholarly music. It’s therefore a very good omen that the prestigious Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Arthur Fagen, is focusing on orchestral works by these composers who, along with William Grant Still, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds. and others, shaped the development of 19th- and 20th-century African-American classical music.

[…] With what is only the third major recording of Negro Folk Symphony (1963, 1992), Maestro Fagen and the Viennese orchestra deliver an elegant and poignant performance of a brilliant and varied repertoire. In a context where we are more than ever led to wonder about a lack of diversity, and where the existence of such music must be noted, this album comes at the right time.

Alexandre Villemaire, PanM360.com, The best sounds from all around, June 2020

This recording...has plenty of elegance and fire. Arthur Fagen deftly conducts the orchestra, and to his credit also includes two exemplary works by Ulysses Kay. There are a lot of questions these days about diversity and what American orchestras should and shouldn't be performing. An engaging album like this, with arresting music by two fine American composers, offers some answers.

Tom Huizenga, June 26, 2020, NPR Music, Editor's picks

Das sorgfältige und stimmungsstarke Spiel des ORF-Orchesters aus Wien unter Arthur Fagen sorgt für nachhaltige Interpretationen.

(With care and atmospheric playing of the ORF Orchestra from Vienna under Arthur Fagen ensures lasting interpretations.)

Remy Frank, Pizzicato, Journal about Classical Music, June 27, 2020

GOULD: ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Arthur Fagen, Naxos

Four stars: A well-performed collection of fine music

Arthur Fagen and the Vienna Radio Orchestra have the measure of these works; the conductor manages to convey the American and Latin dance idioms to the Austrian musicians, and they sound totally at home in the music. In the slower movements Fagen displays a supple sense of phrase-shaping. Gould asks of the performers a balance of kinetic energy and warm lyricism. Fagen and the Vienna RSO provide both.

This is a lovely collection of fine music that is under-represented in the catalogue, and Naxos’s well-balanced and rich sound, along with excellent notes by Frank K. DeWald, complete the picture. My recommendation is enthusiastic.

Henry Fogel, Fanfare, June 2020


Fantastic Gould Symphonettes on Naxos

American conductor, Arthur Fagen, has this music securely in his DNA. He draws such idiomatic and authentically "American" playing from this great orchestra, I can’t imagine these readings being bettered. 

Playing and conducting are absolutely first rate. And so is the sound. Naxos has really mastered the art of recording the symphony orchestra in the past decade or so, and this one is simply outstanding. The orchestra is natural in perspective, clean and clear in a warm acoustic, with a brilliant "presence" and effortless dynamic range. It helps bring these performances thrillingly to life. This is one of my favorite discs of the year so far. I enjoyed it enormously.

David Rowe, Davidclassicalscds, June 17, 2020

Performances are excellent with the Viennese orchestra under Arthur Fagen's direction in top form […] This is a welcome addition to the Naxos American Composers series.

Classicalcdreview.com, April 2020

Successful in many genres and far from modern developments, the American composer Morton Gould (1913-1996) composed attractive […] music [...] His technical talent for orchestration and orchestral colours cannot be denied. Add to this a flourishing power of imagination and a sure sense of musical eloquence that everyone can easily understand.              

Arthur Fagen and the musicians of the Vienna Radio Orchestra do an excellent job, and since the sound recording is also of the best quality, this CD can be recommended to anyone who has a penchant for lighter symphonic music.

Remy Frank, Pizzicato, Journal about Classical Music, 16/04/2020

Stir in equal parts of Bernstein and Copland, a teaspoon of Gershwin, a pinch of Grofé and a cup of Leroy Anderson, and you get a taste of what the style and sound of American composer Morton Gould (1913-1996) is like. […] Conductor Arthur Fagen was a friend of Morton Gould which explains why he can so easily coax an Austrian ensemble, the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, to slide into American garb with such conviction. It's nice to see the Naxos label still adding titles to their American Classics series which has played a great role in the renewed interest into well known works as well as neglected gems.

Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sentinel, March 2020

Fagen conducts in a light, airy style...it is crisp, clean and professional

ArtMusic Lounge - March 2020

The multi-functional ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, with conductor Arthur Fagen, play in an American style “to the manner born” ... Most strongly recommended”

David’s Review Corner March 2020

The attractive and inventive light orchestral music of Morton Gould is still delightful when listened to in the right mood - and particularly when delivered with the panache to be found on this disc.

Classical CD Choice, Barry Forshaw, March 2020

The Latin American Symphonette offers a sultry, well-shaped account of the Tango and some good, clear percussion in the concluding Conga.... Fagen and his orchestra are compelling advocates for this sadly neglected fare.

Jonathan Blumhofer, ArtsFuse

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