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CD Review

Out West!

Tone Poems of the American West

  • Ferde Grofé: Suite "Grand Canyon"
  • Aaron Copland:
  • Suite "Billy the Kid"
  • Four Dance Episodes from "Rodeo"
Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
Delos DE3104
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This is a fine disc that gives collectors a good introduction to American orchestral music. While Naxos has been releasing these older Seattle Symphony programs, they haven't released this particular program this way, and so to get these contents you'd need to buy two rather shot discs. My suggestion is to go to Amazon and get this cheap, unless you really need the Copland Piano Concerto on Naxos 8.571202.

These always energetic performances helped establish the Seattle Symphony under Schwarz as a powerhouse in American music. In particular, the Grofé has fewer options than you might expect for such a vivid and popular work. While not matching Leonard Bernstein on Sony, I could pick this over Doráti on Decca and be happy. In Copland, there is far more competition, but Schwarz holds his own. Again, Doráti and Bernstein (on Decca/Mercury and Sony, again) have a marginal edge, but the Seattle forces play very well and there is much to admire in terms of collective virtuosity and rhythmic verve. In fact, the only thing about these performances that I dislike is the sound, which (for Delos, especially) is rather low-level and lacking in impact. You'll have to crack up your system more than usual – and I was surprised how much higher I had to go – but once you do the audio quality is much better. For connoisseurs, this disc is perhaps not an essential purchase, but stands as a testament to one of America's last great musical partnerships of the 20th Century.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman