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Orchestral  African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. l 
African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. l
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African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. I
Chicago Sinfonietta
Paul Freeman, conductor
Cedille Records CDR 90000 055

"10/10 -- A sonic and musical treasure" (

"This music is all first-class . . . it's hard to imagine that you won't be beguiled by this collection." (Fanfare)

This recording is the first disc in an emerging three-CD series devoted to twentieth-century composers of African descent, a project inspired by CBS Records' landmark Black Composers Series of the 1970s. Paul Freeman, artistic director and featured conductor for the long out-of-print CBS series, conducts the Chicago Sinfonietta for Cedille's African Heritage Symphonic Series. Dominique-René de Lerma, chief consultant and program annotator for the CBS series, is writing the program notes for Cedille's series. This recording was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Chicago Sinfonietta.

Best known for his serious choral masterpiece, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is represented by two works in a lighter vein. "Danse Negre" from African Suite sounds like a rousing overture evocative of Broadway musicals of a later era. The work was inspired by the writing of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the celebrated African-American poet whom the composer knew and admired. Coleridge-Taylor's charming, often balletic Petite Suite de Concert, Op. 77 was championed by England's counterpart to Arthur Fiedler, Sir Dan Godfrey.

Nigerian Fela Sowande's African Suite (three selections) from 1930, scored for string orchestra and harp, incorporates traditional Nigerian melodies and the influence of Ghanian composer Ephiraim Amu. The suite's first movement, aptly named "Joyful Day", is lovely and energetic, with a big-hearted opening that brings to mind Copland's Appalachian Spring from 1944. Sowande was also an accomplished organist, schooled in the works of Bach and Handel, which perhaps accounts for the fugal orchestral writing in the "Nostalgia" movement. The delectable, folkloric movement titled "Akinla" adapts a melody from West African "highlife", a spirited dance style that mixes African, Caribbean, and Western sonorities.

William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1, "Afro-American", evolved from blue-based sketches he wrote during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance while arranging for jazz ensembles. Freeman's sultry, swinging interpretation is several minutes faster than competing CD versions. Freeman, who worked directly with Still on performances of the First Symphony and other works, says Still "always emphasized the 'flow' of the music, and faster tempos were often the natural outcome."
Click here to download the CD booklet.

Click the Cedille Player at the upper left to hear excerpts from the tracks highlighted in red below. These have been carefully chosen as representative of the recording program.

PROGRAM (51:26)

Samuel Coleridge Taylor
1. Danse Negre from African Suite (1898) (6:14)

Samuel Coleridge Taylor: Petite Suite de Concert (1910) (13:36)
2. La caprice de Nannette (3:54)
3. Demande et reponse (3:59)
4. Un sonnet d amour (3:02)
5. La tarantelle fretillante (2:29)

Fela Sowande: African Suite (selections) (1930) (10:02)
6. I. Joyful Day - Allegro giocoso (2:33)
7. II. Nostalgia - Andante (4:14)
8. V. Akinla - Allegro non troppo (3:07)

William Grant Still: Symphony No. 1, "Afro-American" (1930) (21:10)
9. I. Moderato assai (6:10)
10. II. Adagio (4:18)
11. III. Animato (3:19)
12. IV. Lento, con risoluzione (7:11)

Recorded: May 23 & 24, 2000 in Lund Auditorium at Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois Producer: James Ginsburg Engineer: Bill Maylone Cover: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (Courtesy of Jeffrey Green, England) Design: Melanie Germond Notes: Dominique-Rene de Lerma