- The Tender Land, suite from the opera
- Piano Concerto
- Old American Songs, for voice & piano, Book 1
- Old American Songs, for voice & piano, Book 2
No matter how definitive some recordings of certain works may be, it is absolutely necessary for new recordings of those works to be added to the catalog in order for music to stay alive in the hearts and minds of listeners. In the case of this Naxos disc with Robert Hanson leading the Elgin Symphony Orchestra in works by American composer Aaron Copland, the definitive recordings come from the composer himself, who taped all the works included here either for RCA or Columbia. And though in every case Copland's own recordings are superior, this disc still ought to be heard by anyone who loves the music. Copland's recording of the orchestral suite from his opera "The Tender Land" with the Boston Symphony is both warmer and richer in tone than this one, but Hanson and the Illinois musicians clearly love the music and their affection shows in their big-hearted performance. Similarly, though Copland's recording of the "Piano Concerto" with the composer as soloist and Leonard Bernstein leading the New York Philharmonic is bolder and more rhythmically driven than this one, pianist Benjamin Pasternack is a powerful soloist who brings enough energy and virtuosity to the work to make it sound bright, shiny, and new, particularly in the closing Allegro assai. The final pair of works here are the two books of "Old American Songs" in the version for chorus, soloists, and orchestra; however, the earlier recordings with heroic baritone William Warfield and Copland leading the Columbia Symphony far outrank these with blustery baritone Nathaniel Stampley. Despite his manifest enthusiasm, Stampley adds nothing to these familiar pieces and the St. Charles Singers, though obviously a fine chorus, lack the weight and strength to make these straightforward songs succeed. Still, all these pieces need these performances if they are to continue to be part of the living repertoire, and as additions to the Copland catalog, Hanson, Pasternack, and the Elgin Symphony's performances will be welcome by fans of the American composer. Naxos' sound is clean and cool.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Copland: Piano Concerto; The Tender Land (Suite); Old American Songs based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
I know the "Old American Songs" were originally set for solo voice, and I have recordings of Copland accompanying Warfield (the original soloist), and conducting the orchestral version. But I first learned these pieces as a member of a chorus, singing them, so that's my favorite arrangement, though the least common. On this disc, the St James Singers are terrific: the first time I played it, I couldn't believe the speed at which they perform "Ching-a-Ring Chaw." The famous "Simple Gifts" is here, and "By the River"; I really like the ballad "Long Time Ago," too. Just the songs would have been worth the modest cost of this recording, but it also includes an orchestral suite from the opera 'The Tender Land' (with the tune of "Zion's Walls" again) and the rather strange piano concerto (well-played, just not my cuppa).