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A generously filled superb recording with first rate performances of well and lesser known Copland masterpieces!,
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This review is from: Copland 100 (Audio CD)
Copland's music depicted the values and mores of an America that was as much myth as the nobility and righteousness of the Edwardian Britain depicted in the music of Elgar, but I'm more than willing to suspend belief and happy to "buy into" both. I like to think of Copland in his "pioneer mode" as the John Ford of music,of whose films I am also a great fan, recalling that Ford once reputedly met Wyatt Earp who said of the history of the West that "when truth clashes with legend, print the legend." It's perhaps emblematic of America that the composer who most touches the spirit of that country-and the listener-was a Lithuanian Jew who would probably have been burned alive by The Pilgrim Fathers (they burned Quakers after all!). Copland's music contains allusions to early folk tunes, Shaker Hymns, so-called "Negro Spirituals" and Irish melodies- through to jazz rhythms in works such as his clarinet concerto, and frequently its seemingly simplicity is its greatest strength. So much American music derives from Copland, including notably both Bernsteins-Leonard and Elmer (not related). I love it.
This well filled disc-72 minutes-recorded in 2000 in the Prof Johnson HDCD 24Bit recording series contains a fine selection of his best works. Let me say at once they have never sounded so well-this is one of Reference Recording's finest technical accomplishments! There is a nicely rounded structure to the content, beginning with the renowned Fanfare for The Common Man followed by the equally popular Appalachian Spring Suite and ending with the less familiar Third Symphony.
The Minnesota Orchestra play what is no doubt familiar music to them with style, affection and virtuosity. The recording is very spacious, detailed and with minimal compression resulting in a very wide dynamic range-percussion is thunderously impressive. Eji Oue proves himself a most sympathetic interpreter, fully catching the grandeur of the Fanfare, shaping beautifully the ballet suite where the tender sections are especially exquisite and the rumbustious sections vividly portrayed with swagger and humour-and the great hymn melody nobly stated. There is none of the occasional reticence which has characterised some performances under his baton. One small gripe is that the suite is not divided into tracks-but this is a minor gripe indeed.
For me the real gold is the symphony, which is a virtuoso piece that comes off wonderfully well in these hands. The 4th movement is of course a variation on the opening Fanfare, which is restated in a differing orchestration and is then elaborated upon in a set of dazzling variations, hence my earlier comment about this being a nicely rounded collection. There is nothing intractable about this symphony, with none of the more compressed modernism that Copland employed in later works.
Whether you are looking to explore Copland's music for the first time, adding to your collection or looking for a sonic spectacular, this recording satisfies in every respect. There are many fine alternatives, including of course definitive performances conducted by Copland himself and fine versions by Leonard Bernstein and Dorati for example, but I believe that this is the only compilation of these particular works, and none of the alternatives can match the sonic splendour of this recording. Highly recommended. Stewart Crowe.