Copland, Bernstein

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bernstein,Copland
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Appalachian Spring Suite; Quiet City
PERFORMER: Jeffrey Kahane (piano); Bournemouth SO/Andrew Litton, City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox, Minnesota Orchestra/Edo de Waart
CATALOGUE NO: VBD 5 61612 2 Reissue (1989, 1991)
The backbone of Virgin’s compilation is Litton’s brilliant account of the ambitious Age of Anxiety Symphony, complemented by a raunchy Fancy Free. Vividly recorded, the Bournemouth orchestra is at least the equal of its Minnesota counterpart in attack and swing; though de Waart achieves a touchingly tender conclusion to the West Side Story Suite. Hickox’s Appalachian Spring comes off less well, the resonant acoustic failing to suggest the cramped pit in which this magical score was first heard.

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His performance is up against top-notch opposition on Ultima, with Wolff’s St Paul players fully justifying the decision to record the complete ballet rather than the usual suite. This is only one gem in a highly recommendable all-Copland set, very well recorded throughout, with Dawn Upshaw an exemplary interpreter of the texts as well as the music of the Emily Dickinson settings, and Thomas Hampson is hugely entertaining in the Old American Songs.

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As so often, the presentation of these reissue sets does not live up to the contents. The Virgin booklet has a grotesquely inadequate note, and is wretchedly proof-read. Ultima has fuller information than usual in this series, though the notes are clumsily cut from the originals. Anthony Burton