Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Copland; Adams; Baillie
LABELS: Warner
WORKS: Copland: Appalachian Spring; Ives: Three Places in New England – ‘The Housatonic at Stockbridge’; Adams: Chamber Symphony; Songs (arr. Muhly); Baillie: Improvisations
PERFORMER: Sam Amidon (vocals, guitar), Dawn Landes (vocals); Aurora Orchestra/Nicholas Collon
CATALOGUE NO: 0825646327911


Nicholas Collon’s young Aurora Orchestra has been creating a buzz on the London musical scene with its brilliant performances and its innovative programming. This American-themed disc, very well recorded, will enhance its reputation. John Adams’s Chamber Symphony, inspired equally by Schoenberg and cartoon scores, is taken at a cracking pace, even faster than the composer’s own (with the London Sinfonietta on Nonesuch), making it an exhilarating white-knuckle ride. Aaron Copland’s ballet suite Appalachian Spring, in the original scoring for 13 instruments, is given a lovely performance, fresh in colouring and crisp in attack. And ‘The Housatonic at Stockbridge’, the last of Charles Ives’s Three Places in New England (in the 1929 chamber-orchestra version), is wonderfully atmospheric in its evocation of a hymn heard through the mists over a river.

So fine is the playing here that I would have been glad to have had the whole of Ives’s triptych, and perhaps something else from the American concert repertoire. Instead, the theme of travelling is pursued in a couple of short soundscapes created by the multi-instrumentalist Max Baillie, and subtly supportive arrangements by Nico Muhly of British and American folk songs and Paul Simon’s Hearts and Bones, appealingly sung by two Americans. The result is a ‘concept album’ which on a straight-through hearing I found puzzlingly diffuse. So forget the concept and listen to the music!


Anthony Burton