With the possible exception of Sergey Koussevitsky, who introduced his music to the world, Aaron Copland had no greater supporter than Leonard Bernstein. More than any other conductor, Bernstein strenuously campaigned for Copland's work and generously helped secure the composer's enormous and lasting popularity. One may still find Bernstein's bravura interpretations less than satisfying, for they are brusque and a little hurried, and the New York Philharmonic is at times too scrappy and pugnacious, even for these rugged pieces of Americana. Yet the four dances from Rodeo, the suite from Billy the Kid, and Fanfare for the Common Man (extracted from the Symphony No. 3) are hard to imagine without some populist roughness around the edges, and any lack of subtlety is compensated by the performers' abundant enthusiasm. Nowhere is their gusto more apparent than in "Hoe-Down," one of the highlights of this disc. However, Appalachian Spring, a tender and evocative work, is rather hard-edged, and some listeners may prefer Copland's 1970 recording on CBS as a gentler alternative. These performances, recorded from 1960 to 1967, have been remixed to improve Columbia's original sound. While the results are uneven, the listening experience is not disrupted by too many volume adjustments.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson