Most Naxos discs represent excellent value; this
one takes that to extremes. Seventy minutes plus is a good running length;
then we have a programme of three Copland favourites, plus one masterpiece
that has not been served so well in the catalogue. To top it off, these
are really classy performances, brimming with style, wit and poetry.
This is the first of a series of three discs that will include all six
of Copland's ballets.
We begin with Rodeo
, music that was originally created for
a ‘cowboy’ ballet by Agnes de Mille (niece of Cecil B.).
The stunning athleticism of the choreography was matched perfectly
in Copland’s springy rhythms and bold scoring. Slatkin and his
orchestra turn in a brilliantly idiomatic reading, matched by a perfectly
balanced recording. I was delighted to find that, continuing with
the theme of good value, that some of the ‘extra’ material
from the original ballet music has been included, for example the
Ranch House Party
with its honky-tonk piano, coming between
andSaturday Night Waltz
This is followed by an inexplicably neglected masterpiece, Dance
, a comparatively late work, composed in 1959 and intended
to be choreographed by the great Jerome Robbins. Oddly, Robbins developed
the abstract dance into a ballet without
music! So Copland’s
score wasn’t heard until 1962, in a revised version, with the
Bavarian State Opera at Munich - when it was not a success. The discouraging
genesis of the work shouldn’t mislead us. This is wonderful
and, as the composer noted, very “danceable” music, though
of a far more serious and ‘abstract’ character than the
three famous ballets.
The CD concludes with two shorter works from among Copland’s
most popular; El Salón México
is given a meticulous
performance, though it lacks something in sheer bite and exuberance
in the quicker sections - possibly the least satisfying track on the
CD. Danzón Cubano,
on the other hand, is terrific: brightly
coloured, rhythmical, sun-drenched, full of humour and the faint taste
of excellent rum - everything you’d expect from Cuba!
of Copland on Naxos