This recording of the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra (1987) and the Paradiso Choruses (1974) represents an important addition to the Martino discography in that it makes available for the first time on CD two of Donald Martino's large-scaled works, virtually none of which are currently in the catalog.
“... The work [Cto. for Alto Saxophone] is in three movements, which are played without break to form a twenty-three minute stretch of lyrical and ever-fascinating music. Martino is a romantic, in his gestures and his sounds, but not a champion of or contributor to modish “New Romanticism”... The concerto impresses one first by its exuberance of invention. The soloist begins with a beautiful, singable twelve-note melody, and then proceeds to show his instrument’s ability to deck a tune with Chopinesque tracery ... Composers versed in jazz enjoy its [the saxophone’s] vivacity and velocity and its protean voice. It can sparkle, and it can sing emotionally without becoming “oily.” Martino uses it in this way, with poetry and grace. His scoring, for a medium-sized orchestra, including piano, is iridiscent, imaginative, unusual ... This is a captivating piece, richly but elegantly wrought...”
— The New Yorker (from a review of a concert performance)
The Paradiso Choruses was conceived not only as an independent concert oratorio but also as the "Paradiso" section (Act III) of Martino’s projected musical drama Dante, based on the Divina Commedia. Massive in scale (it requires nearly 300 performers, choristers, assistant conductors, and instrumentalists), the piece is completely tonal and eclectic in reference. Clearly in the lineage of the late Romantic extravaganzas, it is shot through with vague reminiscences of Debussy’s The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, Elgar’s oratorios, and Mahler’s “Symphony of A Thousand.”