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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 


Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Appalachian Spring Suite (1944)
Lincoln Portrait (1942)
Howard HANSON (1896-1981)

Symphony No. 3 (1938)
Melvyn Douglas (narrator - Lincoln)
Boston SO/Serge Koussevitzky
rec Symphony Hall, Boston: 31 Oct 1945 (Appalachian); 20 Mar 1940 (Hanson); 2 Feb 1946 (Lincoln)
mono ADD
DUTTON LABORATORIES ESSENTIAL ARCHIVE CDEA5021 [73.30] Superbudget


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These historic recordings works are linked by wartime and the premonition of war. The Copland works belong to the war years - both post-Pearl Harbour. Appalachian Spring was when recorded here still work 'hot off the presses'. It was a ballet with a ballet reputation rather than concert music. It is done with deliciously rushed slides and deep-running bass-heavy figures (13.45). Koussevitsky relishes the Stravinskian influence which is, in his hands, very strong indeed - direct from Le Sacre and Petrushka. In addition Koussevitsky does tender duty to the more plaintive voices (e.g. 16.22). Holstian and Respighi influences can be heard at 18.52. He makes a real Abschied out of the last five minutes. This suddenly becomes the centre of gravity of the whole piece - giving it symphonic weight.

The Hanson with its Pohjolan and Brucknerian rumblings is a pioneer recordings as are all of these tracks. The symphony only flags in the finale where the pesante element weighs down the sense of direction. There is Sibelian pert wind writing aplenty. Hanson tries in the andante tranquillo to build the breadth of his great free-ranging theme in his Romantic Symphony. He just misses. He builds some surprisingly sinister visions as well - especially in the finale. His opera Merry Mount (will that work ever be recorded in modern sound?) was the quarry for this Breughel-Dali surrealism. Koussevitsky takes his time - all the time in the world! The largamente does not work as it should ending up far too ponderously rhapsodic.

The Lincoln Portrait has all the usual stirring strengths. What impresses though is the sudden poignant tenderness of the music for the words 'He was born in Kentucky'. This has been done well by many others and in better recordings. My recommendations are James Earl Jones on Delos and Charlton Heston on Vanguard. There were some quibbles when this disc first appeared in 1998 but at bargain price there is too much here to savour to let an allegedly synthetic sound quality deny you the pleasure of this deeply felt music making. For my part the sound quality was perfectly satisfactory. It is no barrier to enjoyment.

Rob Barnett


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