This collection of thoroughly American music comes from Britain's Aurora Orchestra. Like many other releases it mixes classical and vernacular materials; unlike most other such examples, it tries to bring together diverse audiences, with several traditional songs performed by fast-rising Vermont balladeer Sam Amidon in arrangements by contemporary composer Nico Muhly. The theme is travel, and John Adams' Chamber Symphony, with its "walking bass" middle movement and Roadrunner finale (quite a bit like the music of Michigan composer Michael Daugherty), takes on an entertaining quality in this perspective. Does the whole thing hold together? One leans to yes while hearing the underperformed original version of Copland's Appalachian Spring, so much more lithe and spontaneously magical than the full-orchestra version, and completely integrated with the rest of the program. One leans to no with the final Paul Simon number, which just does not click with what has gone before. One might take issue with a few things here and there -- the plummy folksinging of Dawn Landes is a good deal less effective than Amidon's -- but Warner Classics gets full credit here for trying something genuinely innovative, and it's often delightful.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Appalachian Spring (Original version for 13 instruments)|