Neville Marriner / Leonard Slatkin

Virgil Thomson: The Plow that Broke the Plains; The River; Howard Hanson: Symphony No. 2 "Romantic"

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EMI is inarguably one of the great classical recording companies with thousands of superlative discs to its credit stretching back over a century. It is also an English-based company, and the vast majority of recordings are of European orchestras in European repertoire. Because of this paucity of non-European material, EMI's American Classics series has put together some unlikely couplings. Take this disc joining Neville Marriner and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's 1975 recordings of Virgil Thomson's Suites from The River and The Plow That Broke the Plains, plus his Autumn Concertina for harp, strings, and percussion and Leonard Slatkin and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra's 1986 recording of Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 3. Though neither recording is the finest ever made -- there are, after all, Stokowski's Technicolor 1960 recording of the two Thomson suites and Hanson's own rip-roaring 1958 recording of the Second -- both have considerable merits. Marriner was unable to forge an altogether effective relationship with the Los Angeles musicians, but their Thomson suites still have a combination of warmth, color, and bounce that makes them quite attractive. Slatkin, of course, had his most successful long-term partnership with the Saint Louis musicians, and their reading of Hanson's "Romantic" Second is full of heart and polished professionalism. Anyone who enjoys American classical music in general and these seminal works in particular will likely want to hear this disc.

EMI's stereo sound from Los Angeles is evocative, but too close. The digital sound from Saint Louis is likewise evocative, but too distant.

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