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Thomas Kiefner
Film Score Monthly, September 2010

The Naxos release in 2006 with JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic, given the special rosette by the Penguin Guide to recorded classical music, is an excellent choice. In addition to doing a superb job on The Red Pony the disc also offers the Prairie Journal, an eleven minute piece about life and times on the western range from the wakeup call, breakfast, sunrise, cattle herding, and watching the sunset after a long hard day. Letter from Home, a sentimental Copland at his best, and Rodeo (Four Dance Episodes) are also included. Part of Rodeo is “Buckaroo Holiday” a difficult piece to play which can easily be made to sound rather choppy with chunks of music stuck together. This is not the case with Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic who give it a nice feel while maintaining the difficult tempo. Considering the value of Naxos this is highly recommended.




Penguin Guide, January 2009

A Copland collection not to be missed, for it contains much rare and inspired music, notably the nostalgic wartime Letter from Home and Prairie Journal, commissioned by the Columbia Broadcasting Network in 1936, predating Billy the Kid and Rodeo, and just as evocative of the Western landscapes. But even more valuable is Copland’s enchanting score for the 1948 film of John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony about life on a Californian ranch. The delectably folksy Walk to the Bunkhouse and infinitely touching Grandfather’s Story are alone worth the modest price of this superb disc. JoAnne Falletta is totally in tune with the Copland ethos and the excellent Buffalo Philharmonic play all this music with a natural understanding of the idiom: they are wonderfully boisterous in the Hoe Down from Rodeo. Splendidly vivid and atmospheric recording, too. Not to be missed.



Karl Lozier
Positive Feedback Online, February 2008

Jo Ann Falletta is not yet as widely known as she should be. …[This is] a multifaceted collection of Copland's music well performed and once again surprisingly well recorded with no obvious failings. I need to stop saying, "surprisingly well recorded" and simply say, "very well recorded as usual in this fine series". All that represents another top recommendation at a bargain price.



Hecht
American Record Guide, April 2007

Some discs are recommendable just because they present appealing, well-played programs in good sound at a great price. In such cases, comparisons are not the issue; we can enjoy them as a concert in our living rooms. JoAnn Falletta's new Copland disc is one of those.

Rodeo is on the fast side-actually "quick" describes it better. The overall effect is light, lively, deft, and interpretively straightforward, though Falletta's leaning on the front side of the beat creates the sensation of hurrying in 'Buckaroo Holiday' and a lack of reflection in the slower middle movements. If the performance is not all that romantic or imposing, it is definitely catchy- a little like the fine Donald Johanos recording, but lighter and more distantly miked. Anyone who thinks the exciting Bernstein is too fast, as I do, might find Falletta or Johanos ideal. Erich Kunzel is slightly less forward leaning than Falletta and gets more out of the slow movements. He also has clearer and more imposing sound from Telarc, though it is marred considerably by the "Telarc bass drum". Also good is Michael Tilson Thomas's darker, more straight up, and larger scale reading. Worth seeking out is Dorati's Mercury recording with its great energy and visceral sound (but not his dull Detroit remake). Copland's recording is lighter and softer than Falletta. I might even call it looser and passive, but it's enjoyable somehow. I've never liked the oddly balanced but still famous Morton Gould. For the complete ballet (an extra five minutes], I prefer David Zinman's romantic reading to Leonard Slatkin's rather pedestrian one.

I have no reservations about the rest of the program, which follows the same interpretive lines as Rodeo but is less hurried. Red pony, the composer's most famous movie score, and this energetic recording makes as good a case as any that it should be performed as often as Rodeo and Billy the Kid.

The less- known works are carried off in splendid performances. Letter from Home (1944) is a short tone poem that describes a soldier's reactions to a letter. Copland wrote it for a radio performance led by Paul Whiteman. In 1947 he expanded the original radio scoring for full orchestra and in 1962 turned out the slightly shorter version for small orchestra that we have here. (The notes neglect to mention the revisions.) The only other recording I know is Copland's own, which I don't like as much as Falletta's more cohesive and dramatic interpretation.

Even more interesting is Prairie Journal (1937), an exciting, colorful work that foreshadows Rodeo and Appalachian Spring. Because it was commissioned by CBS radio, its original tide was Music for Radio. Copland changed the name after a contest seeking something more colorful produced Saga of the Prairie, though the original title remains in use in some quarters. Prairie Journal is a great lead-off, and I cannot imagine the Leonard Slatkin and Keith Clark recordings improving on it.

The sound of this recording is evenly balanced and blended as well as quite natural and musical. It's also distant, and I can imagine some listeners wanting more sparkle on top, as well as more clarity and detail.



Geoff Bennett
Limelight Magazine, March 2007

This release contains one of his most recorded works, the Four Dance episodes from the ballet Rodeo, so it faces some pretty stiff competition. How does it compare? Well actually, rather well. The Buffalo Philharmonic is a tight and tidy orchestra and they play with concentration and enthusiasm for their Music director JoAnn Falletta, who enjoys a well-deserved reputation for capturing the spirit of American music. She even manages to bring fresh insight to some of Copland’s best-known pieces. The Suite from the 1948 film of Steinbeck’s novel The Red Pony, one of Copland’s finest creations, here receives a colourful and sympathetic performance. Of particular interest are the two less-familiar pieces written for radio. Prairie Journal was commissioned by CBS Radio in 1936 and partly owes its title to the listeners’ response to the first broadcast. Letter from Home, the one work not depicting life in a sprawling western landscape, was composed during WW II. Its sentimental strains evoke the emotions of troops at the front, as they open their mail from home.



C. Michael Bailey
Blogcritics, November 2006

Aaron Copland's (1900-1990) music has enjoyed three intellectually empathetic conductors —Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, and the composer himself. This list has more or less remained fixed since Thomas' Copland: Old American Songs/ Canticle of Freedom / Four Motets on Sony (1987). Finally, we may add to this list maestro JoAnn Falletta. Falletta and her Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra have produced the most adroit and well-performed Copland collection released in some time.

Copland, son of Polish-Lithuanian Jewish parents enjoyed a broad musical education both in the United States, with Rubin Goldmark (1872-1936) and Paris, with Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979). Copland was exposed to many composers while in Europe, being especially enamored of the Ballets Russes of Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872-1929), an influence that resulted in "Grohg" (1925/32), "Billy the Kid" (1938), "Rodeo" (1942), and "Appalachian Spring" (1944).

Copland was a master of small spaces, short compositions like ballets, suites, poems, and musical scenes. He was also a master of incorporating American folk melodies into his compositions, making his pieces, perhaps more than those of hid enigmatic contemporary, Charles Ives, a popular musical snapshot of the American spirit. It is from these richly textured smaller works Falletta has chosen her and her Buffalo Orchestra's recital.

Refreshingly (and somewhat frustrating) is this collection does not include "Appalachian Spring". Falletta instead chooses to devote digital space to lesser recorded works such as "Prairie Journal". This creative gamble pays off in an effective collection of Copland miniatures. Falletta takes full advantage of Buffalo's robust brass and rumbling bass strings. The conductor's pacing and sense of rhythm are inerrant as is easily heard of the most famous vignette presented, "Hoe Down" from "Rodeo" as well as in the remaining ballet dance episodes presented.

Also beyond reproach is Falletta's gentle transformations in diminuendo and crescendo sections—I cite the dynamic flux of "Prairie Journal" and Rodeo's "Buckaroo Holiday," offering similar challenges. As film soundtrack, the selections from "The Red Pony" possess a manifold dynamism requiring an informed and delicate conducting hand. "Letter From Home" is plaintive and pastoral, a love note sent from afar, recalling home. If Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique is program music, then all of the compositions recorded herein are American program music, performed with great grace and attention.



Peter Dickinson
Gramophone, October 2006

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