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CD Review

Aaron Copland

  • El salon México
  • Dance Symphony
  • Fanfare for the Common Man
  • Four Dance Episodes from "Rodeo"
  • Appalachian Spring (1945 Suite)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti
Decca/London Ovation 430705-2
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This is the disc that you want if you want the Detroit Symphony Orchestra playing Copland. More than that, this might just be the disc you want if you love Copland generally, because as single-disc orchestral samplers go, it just doesn't get much better than this. Yes, the Detroit Symphony is recording these pieces again as of this writing for Naxos, but until that set proves essential, this is the ideal choice.

Decca/London recorded some splendid work with Doráti and the orchestra in the early 1980's, and the great Hungarian conductor had already set down superb versions for Mercury Living Presence in Minnesota. Those renditions are rightfully prized but have at times been stupidly hard to acquire. What these later readings lose in excitement, they make up for in sheer beauty and polish. When you consider that the recording venues – United Artists Theatre and "Old" Orchestra Hall – were both abandoned and in an advanced state of decay at the time of these sessions, the achievement is all the more special. History aside, there are few conductors then or since who have brought such a lovely sound to this composer's music. Sure, Leonard Bernstein brought more pizzazz, and Copland's own readings on Columbia an authoritative air, but both lack the tonal sheen on display here.

In particular, Appalachian Spring has been noted as one of the finest versions of the suite available. Universal has always been rather fond of it; why else would it have been released on at least three different product lines? What makes this disc preferable to any of the other releases it has featured on are the couplings. A very fine El salon México and the rare and exciting Dance Symphony complete a wonderful, inexpensive introduction to arguably America's finest composer. Grab it.

Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman