Record of the Week; Daugherty Metropolis Symphony; Bizarro Baltimore Symphony Orchestra / Zinman (Argo 452 103-2)
Seckerson, Edward, The Independent (London, England)
It's a bird, it's a plane. . . holy skyscrapers, it's a symphony by Michael Daugherty. Daugherty deals in American mythology. He's big on Elvis. J Edgar Hoover and Desi (I Love Lucy) Arnaz headline among his compositions. He has an opera Jackie O scheduled for Houston and a piano concertino - Le Tombeau de Liberace - in progress for the London Sinfonietta. But is he as wacky as he sounds? Or is that all about packaging and smart titles?
Metropolis, you'll have gathered, is a Superman Symphony (well, more of a suite, actually - its five segments may be performed independently). Daugherty himself describes it as "a musical response to the myth of Superman. . . a rigorously structured, non-programmatic work expressing the energies, ambiguities, paradoxes, and wit of American popular culture". Big words. But where exactly do they leave the caped crusader? And what exactly do they mean in musical terms? Less than they appear to. Metropolis is bigger on effects than material. And even the effects smack of old technology. A kind of B-grade Planets for the Nineties, that's Metropolis. Four referee whistles sound the off for Superman's arch-foe Lex Luthor. Lex (solo violin) comes on strong as a kind of supersonic Tartini, "devil's trill" pyrotechnics riding on the back of a theme redolent of Mission Impossible with attitude. The percussion work overtime on the slapstick, the cartoonish exclamations (Pow! …