Leonard Slatkin / Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Copland: Rodeo; Dance Panels; El Salón México; Danzón Cubano

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Conductor Leonard Slatkin has recorded Aaron Copland's much-loved Rodeo before, with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra for Angel in the early 1990s. That recording was quite popular in its day, but this new collection of four dance pieces, representative of Slatkin's late-career flowering in Detroit, is at least its equal. One advantage is the inclusion of the little-performed Dance Panels (1959/1962), a transitional work between Copland's populist manner and his full-scale capitulation to modernist diktat. Slatkin actually makes a good case for it here, with vigorous rhythms cutting through the extended harmonies piled atop the composer's characteristic infectious tunes. Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony also do very well with Rodeo. Slatkin fills in a lot of the musical spaces with small details that add spiky, angular rhythms, reserving the full payoff for the final Hoe Down movement. El Salón México also receives an attractive performance, with only the Danzón Cubano of 1942 lacking something in the way of rhythmic zip. The work of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, an organization that reached the brink of disaster and has returned, is also worthy of note; there are few junctures where you can know that you are dealing with a group of preponderantly young players. No doubt Slatkin deserves the lion's share of the credit for this: he has forged an interpretation attuned to the capabilities of the organization he's working with: urgent, a bit rough. The ensemble sounds great in its longstanding home, downtown Detroit's Orchestra Hall, with contributions from the hall's house engineer, Matt Pons. Well worth the time even of those wondering whether they need yet more Copland.

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