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Jonathan Woolf
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alternatively Crotchet

American Music of the XXth Century
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Adagio for Strings (1938) [7:10]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Fanfare for the Common Man (1943) [3:07]
Appalachian Spring (1944) [26:01]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
Candide overture (1956) [4:07]
Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1958-61) [24:36]
Tobias PICKER (b.1954)
Old and lost rivers (1986) [6:36]
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Jukka-Pekka Saraste (Barber); London Philharmonic/Carl Davis (Fanfare); City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox (Appalachian); Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton (Candide); Minnesota Orchestra/Edo de Waart (Dances); Houston Symphony/Christoph Eschenbach (Rivers)
rec. dates and locations not given
VIRGIN CLASSICS 391339 2 [71:52]

Not only are these performances not new but more than one has reappeared in two reissue guises to date. Without going into the minutiae of it you will also have come across Hickox’s Appalachian Spring and Carl Davis’s Fanfare on Virgin 561702-2 and in that case you will have found them coupled with Quiet City and Peter Lawson’s recording of the Copland Piano Sonata.
The recordings themselves, none here dated with precision, derive from sessions made between 1988 and 1991. My colleague Dominy Clements has already written a review of this and promptly anticipated pretty much everything I was planning to write. This is a strange compilation, I agree, and opening with Barber’s Adagio and following it with the Fanfare is surely someone’s idea of a bad joke – I realise one can button-press to avoid such things but in the real world programming does matter even in more commonplace compilations such as this and if that running-order makes any sense to you, you’re a better man than I.
In any case I’m not sure it much matters. Having just listened to Toscanini’s premiere performance of the Adagio it left me in no mood to put up with such a clinical, run-of-the-mill run through as propagated by Sarasate and his Scottish forces. Anti-expressive is the phrase for this – which, who knows, may be your bag after a lifetime of film soundtracks and the like; but it’s not mine. 
Carl Davis and the LPO turn in a creditable though not monumental performance of the Fanfare, should you want to hear it again. Then Hickox turns up with a band going by the moniker of the “City of London Symphony Orchestra”. Holy Cow, what’s going on here? There’s some slipshod editorial work hereabouts but I’m not sure Hickox is the man for Copland anyway, whether he’s with his City of London Sinfonia or some invented body. There are some beautifully phrased clarinet solos – distinguished wind playing all round – and some lissom string work but it doesn’t quite cohere. I doubt American audiences would find it either rhythmically tight enough or burnished enough.
De Waart and the Minnesota Orchestra turn in a highly responsive set of the Symphonic Dances – punchy where required, agile and idiomatically played if not with the last ounce of polish - if it’s polish you’re actually looking for here. The only other “local” performance is that of Tobias Picker’s rather beautiful Old and Lost Rivers, which is played by the Houston Symphony under Eschenbach.
So, typos, misattributions, too short gaps between tracks, sub-par performances (in part), quixotic-to-bizarre running order, recycled product. Interested?
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Dominy Clements


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