Various Artists

The Music of America: Aaron Copland

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The Sony label's Music of America series features excerpts, mostly from the old Columbia Records catalog, of recordings of music by a single composer, in this case Aaron Copland. The recordings go back to the 1950s (the earliest one here is from 1960), with just a few more recent ones mixed in, but this is not the cynical exercise in catalog mining that might be imagined. The recordings chosen were pretty close to the source of the music, and it's handy to have them grouped together on a trio of CDs, at a budget price, with some nice vintage photos thrown in. Several of the performances here were conducted by Copland himself. The 1968 Lincoln Portrait, however, is an editing job, with Henry Fonda's voice from a later performance spliced over the music. The other conductors represented -- Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, and more recently Michael Tilson Thomas -- are all in one way or another Copland's heirs, and the program hangs together. All the expected ballet hits are here, along with several representatives of Copland's jazz-oriented period and a splendid performance of the first set of Old American songs by baritone William Warfield. Nothing from Copland's late turn is included, but this would be hard to justify in a general anthology. Columbia's 1960s sound has held up remarkably well, and this is worth the money as a budget Copland set. The brief booklet overview of Copland's career is in English only.

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