Copland: Rodeo; Dances Panels; El Salón México
Dance Panels is Copland’s forgotten ballet, written in 1959 for Jerome Robbins but never choreographed by him, and hardly a concert favourite either. It’s an abstract piece, treating its simple material – repeated notes, scales and arpeggios – mostly in varieties of waltz time, though the fifth of its seven movements (or ‘panels’) is a jazzy duple-time scherzo, and the finale has a stretch of strenuous 5/8 metre. There’s vintage Copland here, and Leonard Slatkin is a persuasive advocate; but the full-size string section of the Detroit Symphony occasionally swamps details in the small wind complement. (This isn’t a problem with the Orchestra of St Luke’s more light-footed account under Dennis Russell Davies on Nimbus.)
The headline work is the cowboy (and cowgirl) ballet Rodeo, for once presenting the complete score rather than the familiar Four Dance Episodes: this includes a raucous ‘Ranch House Party’, complete with honky-tonk piano, and a few other additional passages. The performance is fresh and breezy, but also responsive to the score’s moments of tenderness. Complementing the two ballets are two concert pieces based on Latin American dances, the popular El salón México and the more up-front Danzón Cubano. Again these receive lively performances, though in El salón the tempo sags disconcertingly in the sentimental episode around the 7 -minute mark. Overall, despite such minor quibbles, this is an enjoyable programme; and Dance Panels is certainly worth discovering.