- Appalachian Spring, ballet for 13 instruments
Copland: Appalachian Spring; Hear Ye! Hear Ye!by Leonard Slatkin
The second volume in Leonard Slatkin's series on Naxos of the ballets of Aaron Copland presents the seldom-played "Hear Ye! Hear Ye!" (1934) and the enormously popular "Appalachian Spring" (1944). The music for "Hear Ye! Hear Ye!" is rhythmically brusque, insistent, and expressively hard-edged, accompanying scenes of a murder in a Chicago nightclub and a courtroom trial with jazz-inflected dances and angular melodies pitted against strong dissonances. Most often heard as a suite, "Appalachian Spring" is offered here in its complete version, and it is the opposite of "Hear Ye! Hear Ye!" in its gentle evocation of nature and rural life. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra gives Slatkin emotionally appropriate performances of both works, emphasing the gritty urban ambience in "Hear Ye! Hear Ye!" and the naive sweetness of "Appalachian Spring," all the while communicating Copland's special style of Americana without caricature. Listeners will find both performances engaging and memorable, though those who are easily startled should be aware of the loud gunshots in Scene XII and toward the end of Scene XVI in "Hear Ye! Hear Ye!"
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Performance CreditsLeonard Slatkin Primary Artist
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The complete Appalachian Spring Ballet: Copland’s original vision scored for 13 instruments or the orchestral edition of 1954 (a result of Eugene Ormandy’s lobbying)? The choice is tough. Each has its unique qualities. Now things are further complicated by this brand new recording of the complete ballet as performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra led by their Music Director, Leonard Slatkin. There are at least 2 other excellent recordings of the orchestral version of the complete score: Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony (1988) and Thomas with the San Francisco Symphony (1999). This latest version is superb. Its success is predicated on a combination of factors: the insightful, finely calibrated leadership of Maestro Slatkin, the marvelously responsive playing of the DSO and the vivid, detailed sound obtained by the production team, led by Soundmirror, Inc. One suggestion: Naxos should have provided individual tracks listings for this 37’ work. Ultimately the choice may come down to the couplings. The earlier Slatkin and Thomas recordings include well known Copland masterpieces. This Naxos release features Copland’s rarely performed second stab at composing for the ballet, Hear Ye! Hear Ye! from 1934. Its quirky plot unfolds in a court room, a common theatrical setting in its day. The writing is sophisticated and mercurial, embodying Copland’s “urban” style. The composer incorporates popular jazz and dance elements of the era plus some strategically placed surprises. Minus any visual component, interest is maintained via frequent and unanticipated changes in rhythm, texture and emotional tone. No doubt, Bernstein was well acquainted with this piece when some 10 years later he composed one of his earliest successes, Fancy Free. It’s good to have this exuberant, full throated alternative to the smaller scaled Knussen/London Sinfonietta version (1993). A call out to Charles Greenwell and Guy Barast for their excellent booklet notes.