Copland: Music for the Theatre; Two Ballads for violin & piano; Elegies for violin & viola; El salón México (arr. Toscanini); Appalachian Spring Suite

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COMPOSERS: Copland
LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Music for the Theatre; Two Ballads for violin & piano; Elegies for violin & viola; El salón México (arr. Toscanini); Appalachian Spring Suite
PERFORMER: Eugene Drucker (violin), Lawrence Dutton (viola), Diane Walsh (piano); Harmonie Ensemble, New York/Steven Richman
CATALOGUE NO: 9145
To begin and end, Copland in the city and the country: the 1925 Music for the Theatre, which flirts with vulgarity in its parodies of jazz-age clichés; and the suite from the 1944 ballet Appalachian Spring, with its episodes of prayerful simplicity and its variations on a Shaker hymn. Steven Richman and his excellent Harmonie Ensemble, New York, find the right pizzazz for the former, the perfect combination of radiance and incisiveness for the latter and the essential voice of the composer in both. The small forces are well matched by the immediacy of the recording. Between these chamber-orchestra pieces come three rarities on a smaller scale. The Two Ballads, salvaged from late-Fifties sketches for an abandoned violin concerto, are attractive if insubstantial miniatures. The Elegies for violin and viola, written in 1932 but suppressed by Copland in his lifetime, make up a strong diptych which should prove a valuable addition to the string duo repertoire. Arturo Toscanini’s working piano arrangement of El salón México, made in preparation for his only performance of the piece, is no more than a curiosity. Expert performances, though the piano sound is lacking in weight. On a bargain Teldec Ultima double-album, Hugh Wolff and the St Paul Chamber Orchestra give slightly more polished accounts of Music for the Theatre and Appalachian Spring, at its original full length, in the context of a more mainstream Copland programme. But this new disc is extremely enjoyable, and the string rediscoveries will be of interest to all Copland enthusiasts. Anthony Burton

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