Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Three Latin American Sketches: Estribillo (1971) Paisaje Mexicano, Danza de Jalisco (1959);
Quiet City (1940)
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1947)
Appalachian Spring (Original chamber version) (1944)
Paula Engerer, english horn, Scott Moore, trumpet, Laura Arden, clarinet
The Nashville Chamber Orchestra/Paul Gambill
Recorded at Austin Peay State University, Clarkesville, TN, 27th March and 12-13th November 2001 DDD
NAXOS 8.559069 [62:47]


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That Aaron Copland is regarded as the quintessential American composer is completely justified by the inclusivity of his output. There is no other composer from the United States that better represents the make-up of the American people in his music. Educated in Europe, well traveled in Latin America, and the inventor of what he dubbed the American vernacular style of composition, Coplandís works express the diversity of his native land. His legitimization of both the folk and jazz idioms by bringing them to the "classical" concert hall is a contribution that would affect a number of his fellow composers, Leonard Bernstein being the most notable among them.

What a find we have here in the Nashville Chamber Orchestra and its exemplary lineup of soloists. An adolescent amongst performing ensembles, this mere twelve-year-old stands out as an orchestra of maturity and virtuosity. Active in the vital arena of the performance of music by living composers, Paul Gambill and his band have commissioned and premiered more than two-dozen new works. (Nota bene big five: this little orchestra in the south is putting all of you to shame in the "music of our time" department.) One can certainly hope that the worldwide distribution might of Naxos will garner a great deal of attention for this outstanding organization.

Nothing is more satisfying to a critic than to hail a fine program, interestingly planned and excellently executed. And that is exactly what we have here for the price of a combo meal at the local fast food joint. Letís start off with the orchestral works. The Three Latin American Sketches began life as two brief individual pieces that the composer dismissed as unworthy of the concert repertoire. It was not until André Kostelanetz commissioned a third piece in 1971 that Copland revived his two earlier works, putting them together in a suite ripe with the rhythm and color of Latin America. Played here with verve and panache, these three minor scores make for a delightful concert opener.

Appalachian Spring was written in 1944 for Martha Grahamís dance troupe. This was the work that was to make Copland the first American composer to gain international recognition. The music went on to win both a Pulitzer Prize and a New York Criticís Circle award, and is widely regarded as the finest example of Copland Americana style of composition. The performance here is clean, sparse and elegant, with just the right amount of nuance and a very appropriate lack of sentimentality. The opening melancholy string passages are beautifully hushed, and the faster rhythmic passages are precise and clear. The Simple Gifts solo is played to perfection.

There are not sufficient superlatives to heap upon soloist Laura Arden for this spectacular rendition of the concerto for clarinet. Commissioned in 1947 by none other than Benny Goodman, the great jazz man nearly let his exclusive rights to performance of this work expire before he finally got up the nerve to play this fiendishly difficult work in public. Of course, he did play the piece and recorded it many times, twice with Copland himself conducting. This performance is sheer perfection. Divided into two main sections, the concerto is played without pause and is a tour de force for the solo instrument. Opening with a long and mournful melody, Ms. Arden verily weeps through her instrument, and one is lost in the beauty of both the tune itself and her playing. There follows a monster of a cadenza and a fast movement that is pure jazz with an orchestral accompaniment. Pushing the instrument to the extremes of its range without a moment to breathe, Arden rips through this incredibly difficult solo with a childís ease. She is a world-class talent, and we hope to hear more from her soon!

Finally, we come to this writerís very favorite Copland work, the achingly beautiful Quiet City. Paula Engerer and Scott Moore are wonderfully expressive in their sedate and lonely solo passages. Everything is in its place in this performance and one could not ask for a better-balanced rendition. Everything that the composer wished to depict in this picturesque score is brought to the fore, painted on a broad canvas with exquisite colors and the finest of brushes.

Recorded sound is near perfect with a warm reverberant acoustic and an excellent balance between the instruments and between soloists and the orchestra. Viola Rothís program essay is concise, informative and well structured. Recommended without a momentís hesitation.

Kevin Sutton

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