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CD: Crotchet


Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Fanfare for the Common Man (1942) [3:39]
Appalachian Spring (1944) [36:42]
El Salon Mexico (1937) [10:50]
Old American Songs (1951) [24:55]
Bruce Hubbard (baritone) (Songs)
Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico/Enrique Batiz (Fanfare)
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin (Appalachian)
Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Eduardo Mata (El Salon)
The Orchestra of St Lukeís/Dennis Russell Davies (Songs)
rec. March 1985, Sala Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico City (Fanfare); October 1985, Powell Symphony Hall, St Louis (Appalachian); May 1986, Cliff Temple Baptist Church, Dallas (El Salon); October 1989, Manhattan Centre, New York City (Songs). DDD
Experience Classicsonline

This fine disc is a good compilation of Coplandís well known and unfamiliar works.† Itís part of EMIís new American Classics series.† Other issues include discs of Ives, Carter, Reich/Glass and Bernstein. The aim of the series seems to be to combine some of the composersí most familiar works with some pieces that will be new to most listeners.† It helps that most of the works on this disc are performed by American artists who naturally revel in this music.
The most familiar work here is the Fanfare for the Common Man.† Its appealing simplicity has always made it Coplandís most popular work, and it gets an appropriately unsubtle reading here.† You canít really go far wrong with this piece, so suffice it to say that the acoustics are just right.† The drums are arresting at the opening and the different brass groups are placed so as to surround the listener.† A very effective performance.†
Appalachian Spring is a much more nuanced work and shows Copland the orchestrator and nature painter to great effect.† When he wrote the ballet he had no story whatever in mind: it was only later that the tale of the settler community in backwoods Pennsylvania was matched up to it by his friend and collaborator Martha Graham.† Consequently Copland always laughed when people told him that the music ďsounded just like Spring in the AppalachiansĒ.† Be that as it may, the music remains charmingly evocative of the wide open spaces of the frontier and the sparsely populated communities.† No summary of the balletís story is included, but you donít really need it to enjoy the atmosphere he creates.† It is performed with flair by Slatkin and the St Louis Symphony Orchestra. They catch its folksy, homely charm in just the right way, especially in the famous Shaker tune.† Their broadening out at the end of the piece is particularly beautiful.
El Salon Mexico is a, perhaps surprisingly, successful attempt to assimilate Mexican folk songs into a wider orchestral texture.† The ever-changing rhythm is unusual and unstoppable and helps the pieces to move forward relentlessly.† An unusual discovery.
The Old American Songs are just delightful in their own way and share Appalachian Springís ability to chime with our expectations of traditional American folk culture, yet they do so in a remarkably diverse number of ways.† The Dodger is political satire, while Long Time Ago is an old-time love song, and The Boatmenís Dance and I Bought Me A Cat have all the care-free fun of a journey with Huckleberry Finn.† Bruce Hubbardís versatile baritone is perfect for these songs, adapting his approach to match the different mood of each song.† His rich tone is perfect, the orchestra accompanies unobtrusively, and everyone sounds like they are having a great time.
A really successful disc, then, and a good introduction to Coplandís work.† You may not get Rodeoís hoe-down, but there is lots here to enjoy and the songs are enough in themselves to guarantee plenty of fun.
Simon Thompson

see also review by Rob Barnett



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