* AARON COPLAND: Rodeo (complete ballet); Dance Panels: Ballet in Seven Sections; El Salon México; Danzon Cubano – Detroit Symphony Orch./ Leonard Slatkin – Naxos Pure Audio Blu-ray with 96/24 DTS-HD MA 5.0 surround or PCM stereo 2.0 NBD0037, 70:11 [9/24/13] *****:
Leonard Slatkin, who has now moved from his longtime position as conductor of the St. Louis Symphony (thru 1995), to the Detroit Symphony (which celebrated its 125th Anniversary last year), is a perfect choice for the music of Copland. Next to Copland’s friend Leonard Bernstein and his protegee Michael Tilson Thomas, Slatkin had recorded much of Copland’s orchestral music. he even won a Grammy with his recording for Naxos (on a standard CD) of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. Unusually, these works are not among those Slatkin has recorded before, but he does a bang-up job of them.
The five movements of Rodeo sound like there might have been dancers on the stage in the Max M. Fischer Music Center in Detroit when this was recorded. The concert work flashes with all of the composer’s unique Western-style sounds and rhythms, and everyone seems to be enjoying a real “Hoe Down” to the utmost. Copland seemed to capture the most identifiable “American sound” in classical music of any American composer ever. The Jazz Age is honored in the composer’s Dance Panels, which was revised in 1962, a few years after it was originally written. It is much less tonal than Rodeo but not serialized. This is a Copland work not often heard and a welcome addition to this Copland collection.
We go sound of the border for the last two shorter and better-known Copland works. El Salon Mexico came out of an effort by the state department to encourage good connections with South America in the face of a probable eventual entry into the war in Europe in the mid-1930s. Copland used authentic Mexican Mariachi melodies and created a high-energy, glittering orchestral work of nearly 12 minutes. For his later Danzon Cubano (1942, rev. 1945) he had sat at a table in the middle of a Havana dance hall which had two dance bands playing ferociously at both ends. It was a sonic experience which Charles Ives would have craved, and Copland turned it into an orgy of displaced accents and exciting Latin sounds.
Since the descriptive paragraph at the top of this audio-only Blu-ray ends with a positive quote from AUDIOPHILE AUDITION’s review of the earlier Copland: Lincoln Portrait, I would be moved to say very positive things about this release, but no matter, it’s a winner any way you look at or listen to it.