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American Classics / Baltimore, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Gershwin / Copland / Bernstein / Rpo / Baltimore
Release Date: 07/27/2010 
Label:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra   Catalog #: 19   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  George GershwinLeonard BernsteinAaron Copland
Conductor:  John Baltimore
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



GERSHWIN An American in Paris: Film Suite. COPLAND Billy the Kid: Suite. BERNSTEIN West Side Story: Symphonic Dances John Baltimore, cond; Royal PO ROYAL PHILHARMONIC 019 (68:44)


The album cover—an American flag with “American Classics” emblazoned across the front—gives this release the Read more feeling of a pops concert program, which essentially it is. This is Volume 19 in a series of releases by the Royal Philharmonic under the title Here Come the Classics , which has been following just such a formula of film-score music and potpourris of light classics. So, be forewarned; this is not George Gershwin’s original 1928 American in Paris score. It’s a hodgepodge of Gershwin song tunes adapted for the score of MGM’s 1951 musical film of the same title. Gene Kelly, who starred in the film, created the choreography for the film’s closing dance sequence, which is drawn from Gershwin’s original American in Paris symphonic tone poem or, as the composer called it, “rhapsodic ballet.”


Copland extracted a suite from his compact ballet Billy the Kid —the entire work lasts just over 32 minutes in the recording I have with Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra—which contains close to three-quarters of the full score. Philip Ramey, in his booklet note to Copland’s own recording of the suite with the London Symphony Orchestra on CBS Masterworks, refers to the work as being in six movements; it’s actually in seven, unless you don’t count the “The Open Prairie Again” refrain of the Introduction. But here arises a bit of a mystery.


On the present recording of Copland’s Billy the Kid Suite, John Baltimore inserts the now common extra movement, “Mexican Dance and Finale,” in between “Street in a Frontier Town” and “Prairie Night” (Card Game at Night), making for eight movements instead of seven. This extra movement does not appear in Copland’s own 1969 performance of the suite; however, I note that in Morton Gould’s classic 1957 recording of the piece for RCA, the additional “Mexican Dance and Finale” is included, as it is on most recent recordings. I must confess to some ignorance on this point. If, by 1957, the movement had already been added and was being included by Gould, why didn’t Copland include it when he made his own recording of the suite in 1969, unless of course it was not Copland himself who added it? Perhaps someone familiar with the provenance of this addition will enlighten me, as I was not able to find the answer.


As with the above Gershwin, the Symphonic Dances from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story are heard on this disc in orchestrations by Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal made for the 1961 film version starring Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, et al.


Performances are smart and snappy, and though this is not the usual type of fare I cover in these pages, I find the CD enjoyable and easily recommendable as a pops concert to lighten the burdens of everyday life.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
An American in Paris by George Gershwin
Conductor:  John Baltimore
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; USA 
Venue:  Blackheath Halls, London 
Length: 19 Minutes 58 Secs. 
2.
West Side Story: Symphonic Dances by Leonard Bernstein
Conductor:  John Baltimore
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; USA 
Venue:  Blackheath Halls, London 
Length: 24 Minutes 23 Secs. 
3.
Billy the Kid: Suite by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  John Baltimore
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; USA 
Venue:  Blackheath Halls, London 
Length: 24 Minutes 16 Secs. 

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