Maurice de Abravanel

Copland: Lincoln Portrait; An Outdoor Overture; Our Town; Quiet City; Morton Gould: Latin American Symphonette

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Aaron Copland can safely be described as one of the most -- if not the most -- influential and significant of all American composers. His life and works spanned nearly the entirety of the twentieth century and his compositional vocabulary changed frequently during that time, while maintaining at its core a sense of folk artistry and uniquely American sensibility. This Vanguard Classics album focuses on an important period in Copland's output: the decade beginning in the mid-'30s. During this time, Copland's music was saturated with folksiness and direct quotations from folk melodies. Perhaps no other piece illustrates this style better than Lincoln Portrait, which provides a synthesis of "Camptown Races" and "Springfield Mountain" with Copland's own original ideas. This performance by the Utah Symphony Orchestra under longtime conductor Maurice Abravanel is narrated by actor Charlton Heston. Recorded in the early '60s, the orchestra's sound quality is generally quite good, although the brass, when playing as a section, are occasionally overpowering and too bright. Heston's speaking voice is deep and earnest, though his delivery is a bit rigid. The program continues with performances of Quiet City, An Outdoor Overture, and Our Town. Throughout, the Utah Symphony provides listeners with an ideally clean, glasslike sound quality that has been digitally remastered without stripping away the original warmth. The album concludes with a performance of the rarely heard Latin American Symphonette of Morton Gould. While the execution of Gould's work is just as solid as the four Copland pieces, it seems somewhat of a jarring mismatch after the more staid, placid works that preceded it.

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