Collection: An American in Prague

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bernstein,Copland,Ives,Martinu,Schuman,Stravinsky
LABELS: Romantic Robot
WORKS: Works by Copland, Ives, Stravinsky, Martinu, Bernstein, Schuman
PERFORMER: Czech PO/Aaron Copland
CATALOGUE NO: RR 1973 ADD (distr Scott Butler 081 858 9190)

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‘What an incredible and magnificent oversight by the Czech Censor’s department!’, exclaim Alexander Goldscheider’s rather eccentric booklet notes to this 1973 live concert recording made in Prague. Whatever the truth, the resulting performances (including several lesser-known works, not just the handful of popular pieces Copland was usually asked to conduct on tour at this period), are of quite a high standard, without too much audience noise.

The abrasive but also at times lyrical manner of Copland’s own Inscape has a high charge in this performance; while Ives’s The Unanswered Question receives a compelling, unsentimental account. The American associations of Stravinsky’s 1943 Ode make its inclusion entirely appropriate, and Copland’s reading is again revealingly direct. His own Billy the Kid suite is available in more polished, less cautious, performances, but this one has a refreshing honesty.

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William Schuman’s New England Triptych (1956) subjects hymn tunes by 18th-century American composer William Billings to some generally bland, over-Europeanised elaborations. A slightly untidy but affectionate account of Bernstein’s Candide Overture completes this generously-filled disc. Keith Potter