This issue of mostly orchestral music by Swiss-German composer Rolf Liebermann (1910-1999, and best remembered as the long-time Intendant of the Hamburg Opera and later the Paris Opéra) is nostalgic for me because of the Concerto for Jazz Band and Orchestra that ends the disc. I well remember bopping around to its dance beat probably thirty-five years ago in a previous recording (and I cannot for the life of me remember who the performers were). I remember being charmed, as I am again now, with the whole notion of a sort of concerto grosso for big band and symphony orchestra that uses pretty advanced harmonies and compositional technique. The combination of Liebermann's skilful use of dance beats (there are sections labeled 'Jump,' 'Boogie-Woogie,' 'Blues' and 'Mambo') with a big band playing full out interspersed with almost impressionistic sections for classical orchestra was just too delicious for words. It sounds a little dated now, partly because the Third Stream notion of mixing jazz and symphonic music has come and gone, but it's still invigorating, and I bet you won't be able to keep from getting up and boogie-ing. There is some pretty impressive free-tonal quasi-improvisatory playing, particularly from the brass, too.
"Furioso for Orchestra" has much the same kind of energy; imagine a twelve-tone Michael Torke. "Symphonie 'Les Échanges'" is a percussion piece (actually arranged by Siegfried Zink from the composer's original score for taped machine sounds) that, because of my background in Scottish folk music, sounds an awful lot, in spots, like what I remember of the intricate, snappy competition drumming heard at Highland Games. It, too, is invigorating and rhythmically clever. The percussion ensemble plays splendidly. The "Geigy Festival Overture" is a good deal less advanced harmonically than the other symphonic pieces mentioned, largely because it quotes, straight, a number of Swiss folksongs. In its twelve minutes it describes the quintessentially Swiss-German Festival of Fasnacht (Carnival) with its pre-dawn pipes and drums.
The only loser (and I hate to say it) on this disc is a cantata for solo soprano and orchestra called "Medea-Monolog." It is set to a poem in German in which Medea declaims, shrieks and moans in an erotic and hortatory frenzy about her love for the Argonaut Jason. Perhaps the reason I didn't like it is that it is the only piece here that doesn't show any of Liebermann's terrific sense of humor (and how often can you say THAT about a twelve-tone composer?) and gets far to hysterical for my taste.
Overall, though, I can recommend this disc for rhythmically alert playing, the invigorating music and, for me, the trip down Memory Lane triggered by the Jazz Band Concerto.
And of course, as we've come to expect, the Naxos production values from engineering to booklet notes are superb.