WORKS: Three Latin American Sketches; Quiet City; Clarinet Concerto; Appalachian Spring Suite
PERFORMER: Laura Ardan (clarinet); Nashville CO/Paul Gambill
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559069
A newish kid on the American orchestral block and a welcome newcomer to the British catalogue, the Nashville Chamber Orchestra plays these Copland classics crisply and incisively, with well-disciplined strings and exceptional wind principals. In the Clarinet Concerto (1948), Laura Ardan displays secure technique and an attractive tone with a touch of vibrato, but breaks the line too often in the opening slow waltz and the central Cadenza. In Quiet City, Paula Engerer and Scott Moore are eloquent in the solo cor anglais and trumpet parts. Paul Gambill conducts with energy and purpose, but is inclined to linger in slower music, such as the central panel of the late Latin American Sketches and parts of the ballet Appalachian Spring. This masterpiece is given in its familiar suite form, in the 13-instrument scoring of the 1944 premiere but with additional strings: although sanctioned by Copland, this bumping-up produces some balance problems, and jeopardises the intimate feeling of the original.
The version of the Concerto to beat remains the authoritative 1963 recording by its dedicatee Benny Goodman conducted by the composer; and Hugh Wolff with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra offer a well-paced reading of Appalachian Spring with just 13 players and at its full ballet length, alongside excellent accounts of the Latin American Sketches and Quiet City. But these comparisons with versions available only in sets are almost beside the point when Naxos’s modest single-disc price buys you such well recorded and thoroughly enjoyable performances. Anthony Burton