[Editor’s Note: the Telarc reissue programme
of which this CD is part involves moving existing products,
sometimes from the 1980s, off the full-price warehouse shelves
and selling the self-same article at bargain price. This recording
was made and first issued at full price before Copland’s death.
If the cost of clearing ‘stale’ full price stock is that we
have to live with outdated booklet details I, for one, am happy
to live with the results. There is something rather appealing,
even ‘sustainable’ about using old stock in this way giving
it new life without adding to the world’s waste problems. And
it’s the music that counts. That said I too would have reservations
about a CD running for just short of 45 minutes.]
There is an unforgivable – I mean really
unforgivable – gaffe on the case of this disc, repeated
on the booklet within. “Aaron Copland (1900- )” it announces,
implying that we are still waiting for the great man to die,
at the age of 105 plus! Please see our heading for his correct
dates. RIGHT, that off my chest (God it makes me cross),
what about the music?
The Atlanta Symphony is a fine orchestra,
and the standard of playing is very high indeed. Oddly, the
weakest item is the famous Fanfare for the Common Man on
track one. After the opening thumps of bass drum and tam-tam,
the entry of the trumpets is weedy to the point of tentative
– very much percentage play for studio purposes, I fear. After
that, things improve steeply, and Rodeo receives a rollicking
performance, with outstanding solos in “Buckaroo Holiday” from
principal trombone and trumpet. The gentler middle movements
come off well, too, with beautiful soft textures in “Corral
Nocturne”, and a particularly stylish oboe solo in “Saturday
Night Waltz”. The concluding “Hoe-Down” is great fun, and full
of just the right kind of wild energy.
“Appalachian Spring” poses the greatest
interpretative test for conductor and players, and here Louis Lane does well, characterising the
various episodes sharply, yet managing the transitions between
sections most effectively. Perhaps the introduction of Simple
Gifts in the clarinet should be quieter and a little more
diffident, but generally I found this a delightful performance,
with the half-lights of the opening and closing music captured
with complete understanding of the music’s nature – as you might
well expect from an orchestra whose home town lies at the very
foot of the Appalachian mountains themselves.
On a negative note, it has to be said that
even at bargain price the disc doesn’t represent especially
good value with a running time of just 44 minutes 15 seconds.
Another couple of Copland works, maybe something a little more
off the beaten track such as “Down a Country Lane” or the “Red
Pony” film music would surely not have stretched the budget
too much, and would greatly have enhanced the CD’s appeal.
Nevertheless, a fine disc, with a first-class
recording to match the high standards of the performers. Such
a pity, then, that they have been let down by sloppy packaging!
Come on Telarc, keep your eye on the ball, and don’t let your
superb artists down.