This music is quintessentially American - and not only in the titles - and contains some of the most well-known works of perhaps the most popular of American composers. The score of the lovely ballet "Appalachian Spring" is here presented in its full orchestral version, including the additional episode in the "Variations on 'Simple Gifts'", surely the climax of the whole ballet. As described in the 2010 Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music, in this additional piece of music, a revivalist appears and warns the central couple in the story of what Copland called "the strange and terrible aspects of human fate". A worthwhile inclusion that lends depth of meaning and power to the music. The "Appalachian Spring" is regarded by many as Copland's masterpiece, indeed, perhaps a 20th century musical masterpiece. That is not, however, to detract from the other two pieces on this CD, the "cowboy ballets", "Billy the Kid" and "Rodeo". These provide descriptive music that keeps the mind rolling and the feet tapping. This music would not have come easily to the urbane Copland, but the imagination of the musical scores, their verve and vitality, imagination and energy, showed that this composer was a master of the type. The three compositions on this CD show Copland to be familiar with, if not dependent on, folk songs and tunes. This is balanced by the lyrical and the serene. Each of these qualities is displayed in a recording of breadth and depth that demonstrates what results can be achieved with modern digital recording. I first became aware of this music with the Sony recordings of Leonard Bernstein. This CD recording, by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, takes the music and the recording quality to new levels.
I first heard Rodeo (played along with the Clarinet Concerto) in Edinburgh's Usher hall with the (then) Scottish National Orchestra conducted by the composer. I thought the music wonderful and went out the next day to buy Leonard Bernstein's recording of Rodeo and Billy The Kid. The recording, of course, was an LP and, because I no longer have a record deck, I was denied Copland until I downloaded this CD. I am something of a fan of Michael Tilson-Thomas (heard them a few Edinburgh Festival's ago)and I was not at all surprised to find this performance and recording to be extremely good. It is probably true to say that Copland needs a fine American orchestra and conductor. Here he basks in the brilliant sunshine of both. An excellent recording!
I have been watching Michael Tilson Thomas` semi- educational programme on Sky, these are followed by a performance of the work discussed. Recently he devoted time to Copland and I am glad he did because he opened up a whole new world in my understanding of Coplands music. This disc is an excellent introduction to Coplands music and is brilliantly performed by the San Francisco band and the erudite (as always) Michael Tilson Thomas. Rodeo is pure Americana and you will surely know the Shaker hymn that is included in Appalachian Spring. The only thing missing from the recording is my personal favourite El Salon Mexico - but that is pure greed on my part. All in all this recording is excellent value in every way. Buy and enjoy!
I rate Copland among the great composers of the twentieth century. This recording captures all the subtle nuances with which he illustrates the life of the early USA. I find his equals among some of the very great English composers such as Vaughan-Williams and George Butterworth.