Leon Botstein

Copland: Inscape; Sessions: Symphony No. 8; Perle: Transcendental Modulations; Rands: Where the Murmurs Die

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Appearances can be deceiving, and anyone who judges this CD by its cover photo may be a little disconcerted by the contents. The green rural landscape may suggest that the music is in a populist, Americana vein, but the dark storm cloud on the horizon hints that the four orchestral pieces by Aaron Copland, Roger Sessions, George Perle, and Bernard Rands are more forbidding fare. Stark, shadowy, and severe, these atonal and serial works represent an aspect of American music that is complex and sophisticated in theory and expression, and far removed from the popular concert repertoire; if anything, Copland's Inscape (1967), Sessions' Symphony No. 8 (1968), Perle's Transcendental Modulations (1993), and Rands' "...where the murmurs die..." (1995) exemplify the advanced techniques and practices prevalent in academic circles of the late twentieth century. The committed performances by Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra indicate their high regard for these difficult works, and their seriousness also shows the respect they hold for Francis Goelet, the philanthropist who commissioned them, and to whom this recording is dedicated. Yet unless one is prepared for some rigorous listening, this disc may prove more edifying than enjoyable. On the whole, the sound quality is decent, but soft enough in some places to require headphones.

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