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Branford Marsalis Orpheus Chamber Orchestra: Creation

From intimate, sacred moments to vivid cinematic vistas, Branford Marsalis and the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble prove a powerful and absorbing combination on the welcome classical outing Creation. Evidenced on his earlier effort Romances for Saxophone, Marsalis has a talent for blowing haunting, straight-toned soprano lines which float, dreamlike, above an orchestra. This technique is utilized to great effect here as counterpoint to foreboding strings on a rich, heartbreak-filled read of Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 3,” and setting long, languid lines against orchestral pluck to create a sense of warm awe on Ravel’s “Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte.” Marsalis showcases his range on a diverse selection of pieces, from the stark and lovely prayer of Faure’s “Pie Jesu,” to the complex dissonance and dark moods of Darius Milhaud’s dramatic “La Creation du Monde.” A wide-ranging centerpiece is played out in Milhaud’s “Scaramouche Suite,” which oscillates from breezy traveling music to stately discourse, again testing Marsalis’ considerable range-and restraint-as each passage is approached with detail, dynamics and a give-and-take which shows the ensemble as well as the soloist. The tasty dessert here is Debussy’s familiar “Golliwogg’s Cake-Walk,” gently piped by Marsalis, in conversation with big orchestral flourishes-the perfect finish to a welcome excursion.

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