Various Artists

American Music of the XXth Century

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With an album title like American Music of the Twentieth Century and pictures of New York on the front cover, it's at least a little ironic that two-thirds of the works on this album are played by orchestras in the U.K. No matter. The CD features magnificent performances of five pieces by three of the most recognized American composers: Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein. This alone would make this album a perfectly suitable choice for a novice listener seeking to gain exposure to these works for the first time. But Virgin Records does something a little different -- and appreciated. It adds in Old and Lost Rivers by lesser-known composer Tobias Picker. How refreshing it is to have a work included that is outside of the typical canon of Barber, Copland, and Bernstein. This addition instantly makes this album not only a good choice for novices, but for more "seasoned" listeners who may never have heard Picker's works. Old and Lost Rivers has a distinctive Copland-esque sound to it, and fits in quite nicely on the album. With powerful performances by some of America's (and the U.K.'s) greatest orchestras, this album is definitely a value.

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