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The Plow That Broke the Plains Soundtrack

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Oct. 30 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Soundtrack
  • Label: Nam
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #257,019 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Prelude
2. Pastorale (Grass)
3. Cattle
4. The Homesteader
5. Warning
6. War And the Tractor
7. Speculation (Blues)
8. Drought
9. Wind And Dust
10. Devastation
11. Prelude
12. First Forest
13. A Big River
14. Cotton Pickers
15. Ruins
16. Logging
17. Coal
18. Floods
19. Requiem
20. Tenancy
See all 21 tracks on this disc

Product Description

Pare Lorentz' The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River are landmark American documentary films.* Aesthetically, they break new ground in seamlessly marrying pictorial imagery, symphonic music, and poetic free verse, all realized with supreme artistr

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9b099b88) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b0dad80) out of 5 stars a classic of Americana Oct. 27 2007
By F. A. Harrington - Published on
Around the same time that Aaron Copland began combining American folk (or rather folk-like) themes with European classical (or "neo-classical") composition techniques Virgil Thomson composed in a similar manner for the scores of two films (The Plow That Broke the Plains & The River / Gil-Ordonez, Post-Classical Ensemble) commissioned by the FDR administration promoting New Deal agricultural programs. The Plow that Broke the Plains actually predates Billy the Kid and Appalachian Spring and is not quite as grand a piece as either of those, nor as complete a synthesis of styles, but it nonetheless deserves as wide recognition. Thomson uses more actual bits of 18th century Americana (folk tunes, Stephen Foster songs, hymns and marches) than Copland (who often made up his folk songs) and throws in authentic instrumentation like steel-string guitar, banjo and harmonium. This material gets developed in many striking ways - with spiky counterpoint and strange pungent harmonies. A good example is right at the top where a near quotation of the opening of Brahms' first Symphony leading directly into the "Old 100th" hymn tune. Themes alternate in this manner and get combined an eventually the "Old 100th" receives a stunning, set of variations in the "Wind and Dust" movement.

The River presents the tunes more faithfully to their original forms, and a bit more separate from the "European" music but is a quite interesting work on its own merit. The highlight is the section called "Floods" where the flood waters are evoked by somber swirling contrapuntal string writing.

The Washington based Post-Classical Ensemble is dedicated to bringing stuff like this out of the shadows (although a suite derived from the score has been recorded a few times, these are their first complete recordings). This is a wonderful disc and I hope the Naxos American Classics series will soon feature more from Virgil Thomson, one of America's neglected masters.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b0db1a4) out of 5 stars 45 Years after Stokowski! May 25 2008
By Timothy P. Koerner - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Do you enjoy tuneful American music of the 20th century? If so, this disc might be one for you. Virgil Thomson composed scores for two Great Depression era documentary films about the environment: "The Plow that Broke the Plains" and "The River". His music is delightful, containing elements of folk, jazz and, to this listener, suggestions or reminders of Charles Ives.

If you have never heard this music, don't hesitate in getting the CD. (There's a separate Naxos DVD of the films, too.) The CD is just about all one could ask for. The Post-Classical Ensemble (numbering around 40 players) was founded in 2003 and recorded this music two years later. They play well together, and the woodwind and brass solo passages are outstanding. The sound is close and vibrant. A listener really couldn't ask for much more ...oh perhaps a little closer miking of the banjo, which makes a brief but welcome appearance.

Some listeners/collectors undoubtedly own the classic 1960 recording of suites of this music made by the legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski with the Symphony of the Air orchestra for Vanguard Records. If you are fortunate to possess this LP or CD, by all means do not part with it. But this new Naxos "American Classics" series disc deserves your attention because it contains nearly 20 additional minutes of music (including some that did not fit into Thomson's film score) than the Stokowski suites.

I advise you to get the old Stokowski recording if you can find it, but definitely buy this bargain-priced CD. It's a winner.

Tim Koerner
May 2008
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b0db0cc) out of 5 stars Homespun classics Nov. 11 2007
By Dean R. Brierly - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Hats off to Naxos for making available Virgil Thomson's soundtracks to the New Deal documentaries The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, which respectively explored the Dust Bowl era and flood control of the Mississippi River. Thomson's quintessentially American music -- bold, brash and emotionally direct -- provided the perfect accompaniment to these groundbreaking, socially orientated films. The composer applied his kaleidoscopic musical palette to both projects, mixing folk, country, jazz and classical forms to create sound pictures keenly attuned to the onscreen action. He also made witty and ironic use of homespun instruments such as banjo, guitar and harmonium. The result was music of deceptive simplicity that nevertheless communicates with great power and clarity without overpowering the visuals. In their vivid and unpretentious evocation of American spirit and rhythms, Thomson's soundtracks provided a refreshing alternative to the lushly orchestrated scores that dominated Hollywood in the thirties and forties.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b0db5e8) out of 5 stars Fine Renditions of Thomson's Scores Feb. 25 2008
By Jim - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Spanish conductor Angel Gil-Ordonez and the Post-Classical Ensemble of Washington D. C. specialize in contemporary music. They do spirited renditions of the original film scores that would stand by themselves even if not associated with re-release of the films. Only two complaints: 1) the sounds of musicians' fingers sliding up their string boards in the first movement of The River should have been edited out, and 2) the banjo should have been accentuated in The Rose of Alabama.
HASH(0x9b0dae94) out of 5 stars Deliberate Simplicity March 24 2013
By Theodore Deacon - Published on
Verified Purchase
Virgil Thomson's goal of "deliberate simplicity" has often been difficult to realize in the grandiose space of performance halls or the artificial resonance of the audio control panel. In this issue "The Plow That Broke the Plains," Naxos has caught the spirit of Thomson's aesthetic perfectly. The brilliant clarity and precision of stereo field and placement of this recording reaps enormous benefits while highlighting the unforced artistry of Gil-Ordonez and his fine Post-Classical Ensemble. This disc is now the album I will recommend to those wishing to introduce themselves to Thomson's influential vision of musical Americana. (However, do not forget to watch the powerful documentary that spawned its creation.)