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COPLAND, A.: Billy the Kid / Grohg [Ballets] (Detroit Symphony, Slatkin)


Naxos 8.559862

   Fanfare, November 2019
   American Record Guide, September 2019
   Classical Candor, August 2019
   Fanfare, August 2019
   MusicWeb International, June 2019
   Gramophone, June 2019
   The Northern Echo, May 2019
   MusicWeb International, May 2019
   BBC Music Magazine, May 2019
   AllMusic.com, April 2019
   Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, April 2019
   ClassicsToday.com, April 2019
   Records International, April 2019
   Ionarts, March 2019
   Classical CD Choice, March 2019
   MusicWeb International, March 2019
   Classicalsource.com, March 2019
   The Art Music Lounge, March 2019
   David's Review Corner, March 2019
   Classical Music Sentinel, March 2019

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Arthur Lintgen
Fanfare, November 2019

Leonard Slatkin’s ongoing Naxos Copland series has so far featured his popular works coupled with more obscure music. Slatkin also always seems to come up with an aspect of the music that makes it different and usually more desirable. In this case he plays the rarely heard Billy the Kid complete ballet that gives us about 12 more minutes of high-level Copland. © 2019 Fanfare Read complete review



Barry Kilpatrick
American Record Guide, September 2019

I must say that I wonder why this work is so little-known. It’s fantastic.

Concert audiences know Billy the Kid (1938) as a 20-minute suite with introduction and six scenes. Here we have the complete 33-minute work with introduction and 10 scenes. What’s here (not in the suite) is a longer ‘Mexican Dance’, an exciting scene where Billy escapes from prison, a beautiful waltz scene depicting him in the desert, and somber music for his funeral. It is all so colorful—small wonder that it is so popular.

Excellent playing, sound, notes. © 2019 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, August 2019

The work [Grohg] may be short, less than thirty minutes, but it’s colorful, a little jazzy, and certainly bizarre. Slatkin takes advantage of all of these characteristics, making it a rather fun piece of music and unaccountably overlooked by most other conductors. © 2019 Classical Candor Read complete review



Jim Svejda
Fanfare, August 2019

While the set pieces—“The Open Prairie,” “Gun Battle,” “Billy’s Death”—have a similar color and theatrical point, the passages that were excised for the popular suite—all of which are more than worth hearing—emerge with even more character and a sense of rightness than they do in that very fine earlier recording. Add to this the world-class playing of the Detroit Symphony, state-of-the-art recorded sound, and the Naxos price tag, and this is one bargain that would be foolish to resist. © 2019 Fanfare Read complete review



Robert Cummings
MusicWeb International, June 2019

Slatkin treats the music in Grohg with grit and spirit: he does not sand the edges of the jagged and coarse elements in the score, nor does he tamp down its crushing decibels. His vampire here has teeth with a deadly bite. The plentiful jazzy and rhythmic features of the music emerge with vitality and rich color, and the humorous side of the music is subtle yet divulges an irresistible playful and slapstick-like quality—try nos. 2 and 4.

Slatkin and the DSO turn in an excellent performance of Billy, and again in splendid, quite detailed sound. © 2019 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Christian Hoskins Grohg
Gramophone, June 2019

Knussen’s own 1992 recording with the Cleveland Orchestra on Argo (now Decca) is extraordinarily fine but Slatkin’s incisive and powerful performance is also strongly recommendable.

Slatkin’s new version is as fine as any in terms of its execution, characterisation and involvement… © 2019 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



The Northern Echo, May 2019

A must for devotees. © 2019 The Northern Echo



John Quinn
MusicWeb International, May 2019

Copland’s scoring is vivid and inventive throughout this work. Though he may have revised the orchestration in 1932 with the benefit of a few more years of experience—I simply don’t know what the nature and extent of the revision was—it’s an extremely impressive creation when one thinks that this was his first foray into the orchestral genre. Slatkin and the DSO make a very strong case indeed for this score. The performance is committed, incisive and punchy.

Collectors who have been following Leonard Slatkin’s Copland series need not—and should not hesitate. This is another winner from Detroit and I do hope there will be more to come. © 2019 MusicWeb International Read complete review




BBC Music Magazine, May 2019

Played with terrific swagger by Slatkin’s Detroit forces. © 2019 BBC Music Magazine




James Manheim
AllMusic.com, April 2019

Performances are rare…Slatkin’s reading is good enough to change that. 

…You couldn’t ask for a better combination than Slatkin and the Detroiters in bringing out his [Copland] personality in the music. Highly recommended. © 2019 AllMusic.com Read complete review



Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, April 2019

Slatkin version is nicely dynamic and reminds me that there is plenty to like nonetheless. Some of the thematic aspects sound very good to me now that there is no pressure to approve or not, and Slatkin gives them the airing they deserve.

The score is complicated, well orchestrated and in the end worthy, memorable, a real find. © 2019 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Read complete review




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, April 2019

Leonard Slatkin’s Copland is always first rate, and this release is no exception. He already recorded the complete Billy the Kid in St. Louis for EMI, but that disc could be anywhere right now, except readily available, and so if you want the entire work this performance is just the ticket. I actually prefer the full-length ballet to the suite. You get about ten minutes more music, all of it worth hearing, and the result is a work that has a more compelling range of narrative and less of that picture postcard Americana feel that just might be starting to sound a tad old. It only remains to be said that throughout the disc the Detroit Symphony plays terrifically. © 2019 ClassicsToday.com Read complete review



Records International, April 2019

Grohg (1925) is the most ambitious example of Copland’s Parisian years and one of the least-recorded, a precociously brilliant one-act ballet scored for full orchestra, inspired by the silent expressionist film Nosferatu. The first example of Copland’s new ‘Americanized’ music of the 1930s was Billy the Kid (1938), based on the life of the 19th-century outlaw and heard here in its full version. This was the first fully fledged American ballet in style and content: brassy, syncopated, filmic and richly folk-flavored. Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin. © 2019 Records International



Charles T. Downey
Ionarts, March 2019

Slatkin and the DSO give a technicolor rendition of this unusual score, as well as an elegiac performance of the more familiar Billy the Kid. All three discs are both an affordable way for a collector to acquire all of Copland’s ballet scores, as well as a testament to the fine partnership of Slatkin and the DSO, an orchestra that has revived along with its city, now that Slatkin has stepped back to take the position of Music Director Laureate. © 2019 Ionarts Read complete review



Barry Forshaw
Classical CD Choice, March 2019

The Naxos label has done considerable service to the glorious Americana of Aaron Copland. Leonard Slatkin is non-pareil in the repertoire, and his characterful and energetic performances are sui generis. This is the third instalment in Slatkin’s cycle of Copland’s ballet works with the Detroit Symphony. The first release is the complete recording of Rodeo, with Dance Panels, El Salón México and Danzón Cubano, available on 8.559758 (also released in Blu-ray Audio – NBD0037). Copland did as much as anyone in establishing American concert music on the world stage, and his ballet scores proved to be among his most important and influential works. Grohg is the most ambitious example of his Parisian years, a precociously brilliant one-act ballet scored for full orchestra, inspired by the silent expressionist film Nosferatu. © 2019 Classical CD Choice




Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, March 2019

Leonard Slatkin is doing good things in Detroit, and his ongoing Copland cycle is ample proof of that. Since he became music director of the DSO in 2008, he’s recorded four Copland albums, of which this pairing of Grohg and Billy the Kid is the latest.

At the start of this review I said Slatkin is doing good things in Detroit. Strike that, he’s doing great things there, as this unmissable coupling so triumphantly testifies. Such are the musical and technical virtues on display here that I’m sorely tempted to make Slatkin’s Billy the Kid my top choice. At the very least, this performance belongs up there with those of Copland, Bernstein and Litton, with more goodies still to come. Can’t wait!

An already promising cycle just got a whole lot better; super sonics from Soundmirror, too. © 2019 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Colin Anderson
Classicalsource.com, March 2019

Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra play every note of Billy the Kid (1938)—there is also a Suite—and the complete score not only convincingly extends familiar sections but includes fine music otherwise lost. Throughout, Slatkin’s judgement is spot-on (where other conductors can rush he retains poise) and the DSO is at-one (whether tuttis or solos) with its maestro and the music with playing of precision, vivid detail and sonorous projection, superbly recorded, too, with a natural perspective and a tangibility that puts the listener in one of Orchestra Hall’s best seats.

It’s a dramatic performance, full of colour and atmosphere… © 2019 Classicalsource.com Read complete review



Lynn René Bayley
The Art Music Lounge, March 2019

…Slatkin pulls all the stops out, and for once Naxos has given him sound quality that enhances the performance: crisp, clear and forward rather than overloaded with reverb and echo. The end result is a simply dazzling performance that, for me, goes straight to the top of recordings of this work. Absolutely nothing is played without heart and energy, no details are glossed over, and end result is a very impressive achievement. Slatkin even manages to suggest a jazz swagger in “Celebration” (which, at the 1:10 mark, includes a theme that sounds a bit like the 1931 popular song When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba) and in Bravo, Lenny!

No two ways about it, this new release is a real “find” for Copland fanciers. Highly recommended. © 2019 The Art Music Lounge Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2019

Continuing Leonard Slatkin’s traversal of the orchestral music of Aaron Copland, with two very differing full ballet scores including the seldom performed, Grohg. This seems to be one of only two recordings presently available, the ballet score coming from Copland’s student days in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, its genesis coming from the 1922 silent film Nosferatu, which, in turn, had been taken from Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. Asked who wrote Grohg, I guess few would believe it was a Copland score, and he also soon disowned it as soon as he completed it. Certainly atypical of his works at this time, it proved something of an embarrassment to a composer who was intent on creating a new era of American music, and he withdrew it without ever hearing it performed, the score remaining unknown until its first performance in London in 1992.  For a young composer in his early twenties the thirty minute one-act ballet was a most ambitious project, its highly coloured scoring with its many scary climatic moments, fully realised in this new performance from Slatkin, aided greatly by the high impact recording. It is coupled with the complete ballet – almost as rare on disc – of Billy the Kid, the first fully-fledged American ballet. In this format it lasts thirty-three minutes and is in seventeen scenes relating the life of the outlaw who became known in American folklore as Billy the Kid, many of his exploits probably much exaggerated. I think I have heard all of the available recordings – Naxos have three versions of the much abbreviated Suite - and would place this one very much as my recommended recording. The Detroit orchestra are in fine form, the Gun Battle a pure moment of high drama, and is very extended in the original ballet score. © 2019 David’s Review Corner



Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, March 2019

Nothing quite matches the opening Open Prairie segment of Billy the Kid as far as setting the scene for a ballet that glorifies the pioneering days of the outlaw cowboy. And Copland’s use and mix of folksong, cowboy dances and Mexican tunes brings all of it to life. You can practically smell the leather on the saddles and see the tumbleweeds roll by.

This recording on Naxos as part of their comprehensive ‘American Classics’ series, with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Leonard Slatkin, presents the complete ballet and not only the customary ‘suite’, and therefore presents a complete and linear version of the musical narrative, all of which is well played and well engineered. © 2019 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review





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