Nashville is one of those American cities, like LA, that has a deeper than expected pool of really fine instrumental musicians, in their case because of the country music industry there. And the Nashville Symphony, and now the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, have made some fine recordings for the ever-resourceful talent scouts at Naxos. Of course, Naxos USA is based in Tennessee, too, so maybe there's some connection there. All of which is to say, this is a fine recording.
There are umpty-ump recordings of Copland's 'Appalachian Spring', in various of its instrumental guises. This is the familiar suite fashioned by Copland and premièred by the New York Philharmonic in 1945, after the piece had been such a hit the year before with Martha Graham's dance company in a version for thirteen instruments. This performance has much to recommend it--rhythmic verve, dead-on intonation, respect for the folk-tinged nostalgia of the piece. It doesn't eclipse recordings by Copland himself or Bernstein, say, but it can certain hold its head up.
The rarely heard 'Three Latin American Sketches', which couples 'Estribillo', the last orchestral piece Copland wrote (1972), with two pieces written in the 1950s, are given decent performances. One keeps expecting something comparable to 'El Salon Mexico' but, of course, that doesn't happen. The pieces are not from Copland's top drawer, but certainly deserve to be heard.
The Clarinet Concerto, played here by Laura Arden, always startles with its wickedly difficult cadenza which links the concerto's two jazzy movements, and Arden really delights with that and the down and dirty gliss that ends the piece. This one's a keeper.
The only slightly less than terrific performance on the disc is 'Quiet City', and that's not the fault of the English horn and trumpet soloists; no, they do a fine job. This piece, which is mostly quiet, mostly pensive, needs to have a strong backbone; this performance is too soft-edged. One does not get the sense of a great city in the hour just before dawn, as Copland intended, but perhaps more middle-of-the-night Peoria (no offense, Peorians!). There's not enough angst here, not enough loneliness.
The sound, as one expects from Naxos, is good. There are good program notes by Viola Ruth.