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Copland: Rodeo- Four Dance Episodes; Piano Concerto; Billy The Kid Suite / Schwarz, Seattle

Copland / Seattle Sym / Hollander / Schwarz
Release Date: 03/27/2012 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8571202   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Aaron Copland
Performer:  Lorin Hollander
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

COPLAND Rodeo: 4 Dance Episodes. Piano Concerto 1. Billy the Kid: Suite Gerard Schwarz, cond; 1 Lorin Hollander (pn); Seattle SO NAXOS 8571202 (58:09)

This is yet another disc in Naxos’s Seattle Symphony collection, and again it consists of previously issued material. Recorded between 1990 and 1993, Read more these pieces were originally issued by Delos, Schwarz’s former label. As is often the case with Schwarz, they are brisk, lively, well-phrased performances, in places quite elegant. I am particularly taken by his interpretation of “Corral Nocturne” from Rodeo, sensitively played and sensuously phrased. This in itself is conducting of the first rank, as it elevates a rather ordinary piece and makes it sound special. “Saturday Night Waltz” is also played with special elegance, and “Hoedown,” based on a country fiddler’s private recording of a tune called “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” has great swagger, although at a tempo a bit too fast to be danced to.

The piano concerto is described on the CD’s back cover as “saturated in jazz and blues effects.” Apparently, that is how it sounds to some listeners, probably those who don’t know real jazz or blues. The use of a flatted third is certainly a keynote of the blues, but does not in itself constitute a true blues feeling. It is, however, an interesting and at times atmospheric work, and played with surprising sensitivity by Lorin Hollander, a pianist generally known for his explosive keyboard effects. I would think that Schwarz possibly reined him in for this recording; if he did, that is all the more to his credit. I am particularly struck by the elegant phrasing of the winds in the first movement, where Schwarz evokes an almost Ivesian sound. As the first movement progresses, in fact, some surprisingly Ivesian tone clusters emerge in the background—surprising because almost no one was familiar with Ives in 1926. The second movement, which follows without a break, has a certain ragtime swagger and raw energy, something like a cross between Bartók and Antheil. A muted trumpet plays out-of-tonality figures at one point, then two muted trumpets at another, undoubtedly a touch of “jazz” for those who thought that Henry Busse was a jazz musician. Hollander is, again, surprisingly light of touch and elegant in his phrasing. A few Paul Whiteman-like spasmodic rhythmic jerks enter near the end, but are made palatable by the piano writing, which is in a different rhythm altogether. The piano settles into the regular rhythm while the orchestra plays against it, but then the tempo slows down as they eventually get back together. After a dead stop in the music, it becomes more lively again in the final pages.

Schwarz’s reading of the suite from Billy the Kid is continually elegant, eloquent, and atmospheric. Indeed, in the opening pages, if one did not know the score, one would not immediately associate the music with the story behind it. Schwarz again delights in bringing out the delicate and atmospheric wind textures, and even when strings enter the picture the music has an ethereal, floating quality. This reading is captivating; it is far more impressive than Copland’s own recording with the Columbia Symphony.

This disc is clearly competitive with most recordings of these works and better than some. For the price, highly recommended.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Billy the Kid: Suite by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; USA 
Date of Recording: 10/1990 
Venue:  Seattle Opera House, Seattle, Washington 
Length: 20 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
Date of Recording: 10/1990 
Venue:  Seattle Opera House, Seattle, Washington 
Length: 19 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Concerto for Piano by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Lorin Hollander (Piano)
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/26/1993 
Venue:  Opera House, Seattle, Washington 
Length: 17 Minutes 55 Secs. 

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