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Clar Cto Salon Mexico
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|1. El Salón México, for orchestra|
|2. Clarinet Concerto: 1. Slowly and expressively. Cadenza|
|3. Clarinet Concerto: 2. Rather Fast|
|4. Music for the Theatre, suite for small orchestra: No. 1, Prologue|
|5. Music for the Theatre, suite for small orchestra: No. 2, Dance|
|6. Music for the Theatre, suite for small orchestra: No. 3, Interlude|
|7. Music for the Theatre, suite for small orchestra: No. 4, Burlesque|
|8. Music for the Theatre, suite for small orchestra: No. 5, Epilogue|
|9. Connotations, for orchestra|
There has never been a better interpreter of Copland's music than Leonard Bernstein. Lenny's affection for--and understanding of--Copland and his music was matched by a unique physical ability to get the feeling of the music across as a conductor; in essence, he became the music when he conducted it, something Copland himself wasn't capable of. As a consequence, Bernstein's accounts of Copland's music speak with a convincing accent and special authority. That's certainly the case with these performances, which date from the last year of Bernstein's life and find him reunited with his old band, the New York Philharmonic. The bookends are the Music for the Theatre, from 1925, and Connotations for Orchestra, commissioned by Bernstein and the Philharmonic for the opening of their new home at Lincoln Center in 1962. Both are impressively done, as is El Salón México, one of the most rousing and colorful of Copland's orchestral essays. A different Copland emerges in the Clarinet Concerto, which was composed for Benny Goodman in 1947 and fashioned with a lapidary touch. The Philharmonic's principal clarinet, Stanley Drucker, steps easily into the solo role, playing with great sensitivity in the pensive opening movement--which, with Lenny on the podium, sounds very slow and full of tenderness, though perhaps a bit too poignant--and showing plenty of agility in the concerto's finale, where Latin and jazz elements come into play along with the high notes that were one of Goodman's specialties. --Ted Libbey
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One can't help tearing up if like me you grew up on Bernstein's version of El Salon Mexico, which he recorded no less than four times. Here the music has great impact from DG's excellent digital sonics. Afflicted with emphysema--as Copland was severely afflicted with Alzhemier's from the mid-Seventies onward--Bernstein struggled bravely to keep up his old panache, but there's an air of melancholy just beneath the surface. The nostalgic slow sections seem as much a nostalgia for lost life as for old Mexico.
Everything on this disc can be heard on various Sony CDs from Bernstein's tenure with the orchestra, which are livelier. As early as the mid-Fifties the teenage Stanley Drucker sat as first-chair clarinetist with the Philharmonic (where he remains today). His version of the Clarinet Concerto is sadder than Richard Stoltzman's dreamy, suave account on RCA, but richer for that.
The next work represent Copland's very early, jazzy modernism in Music for the Theater, where the 25-year-old composer manages to evoke the chic of Paris and the homeliness of the Great Plains in the same work. This reading sounds much better, if slightly less jazzy, than Bernstein's 1958 recording on Sony. The program ends with a piece that Bernstein commissioned for the opening of Philharmonic Hall in 1962, the 12-tone Connotations for Orchestra, probably the last importance public utterance from Copland. Audiences never warmed to his difficult modernist side, but if you can get past the atonality, the underlying gestures in Connotations are remarkably similar to his populist works.
I find it hard to listen to this CD without a catch in my throat, but any listener would find it superb sheerly on musical grounds.
Thank you again Amazon for delivering this hard to find CD in pristine condition.
Copland is pretty much the dean of American classical music, with his stirring orchestral works combining ethnic music forms, both rural and urban, and sometimes exotic, with large-scale orchestrations; and frequently his works are about the very character of this nation which show unmistakable pride in it but not the kind of my-country-right-or-wrong pride that can turn the outside world against us. It is certainly the case here on this recording, made during Bernstein's final series of concerts with the New York Philharmonic in October 1989, which spotlight four examples of prime Copland.
There is "El Salon Mexico", the composer's tribute to the land on the other side of the Rio Grande, inspired by a Mexico City dance hall of the same name where he encountered plenty of Mexican mariachi madness when he went there in 1934. Those Mexican elements, both Indian and Hispanic, found their way into this piece, making it among the most popular in his canon. In a more modern vein is "Connotations", a work in Copland's own form of the 12-tone style that he wrote for Bernstein and the N.Y.P.O. for the opening of Avery Fisher Hall in September 1962. There is also the jazz element to be found in the five-part "Music For The Theatre", which Copland composed in 1925.
But the real delight of this recording is of the composer's 1947 Clarinet Concerto, which incorporates a small orchestra of strings plus harp and piano along with the clarinet soloist. Composed by Copland while visiting Brazil, the work incorporates jazz elements and music from Brazil in its roughly eighteen-minute running time, and it has a fair amount of similarities to both Mozart's beloved Clarinet Concerto and Igor Stravinsky's 1945 "Ebony Concerto" (both Copland's and Stravinsky's works were composed for the legendary clarinetist Benny Goodman). Stanley Drucker, the New York Philharmonic's principal clarinetist, is the soloist here, and he does a stellar interpretation with Lenny and company helping out.
The high quality of both the recording set-up and the performances make this a must for any American classical music aficionado to have in their collection. Seek it out.