“Road Trip” – Aurora Orch. /Nicholas Collon cond. / Dawn Landes, vocal and guitar/ Sam Amidon, vocals [TrackList follows] – Warner Classics 632791 (1/29/15) ***:
Aurora Orchestra’s Road Trip takes listeners on a journey across America with a program that juxtaposes core American compositions by John Adams, Charles Ives and Aaron Copland with specially commissioned folk/pop-song arrangements by young American composer Nico Muhly, including Paul Simon’s hit ‘Hearts and Bones‘. The collaborations – with Muhly and American singer-songwriter guest soloists Sam Amidon and Dawn Landes are nicely arranged.
The Aurora Orchestra is a really fine British chamber group, and this is a ‘concept’ disc combining some avant-garde instrumental music with some folk-oriented vocals. Road Trip developed from a concert that Aurora Orchestra performed at London’s LSO St Luke’s in March 2012, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. The concert was singled out by Gramophone magazine as one of its Live Highlights of 2012.
It’s an interesting idea, but for many listeners, the divergent styles of music may be a bridge too far. Like many people, I put music on to match a particular mood, and this disc is all over the place. It’s all extremely well played, but if I put it into iTunes I’ll likely make one playlist for the instrumentals, another for the vocals.
For me, the highlights of the album are the precision playing of the Adams Chamber Symphony, the Ives Three Places in New England, and the Copland Appalachian Spring in the original 13-instrument version. They are all familiar pieces, but they are beautifully performed.
Audiowise, this is a fine recording, in a fairly non-reflective environment, which works well for these pieces. The solo vocal tracks are also excellent, with very realistic microphone placement. If you can get past the odd combinations on the program, you will enjoy this disc.
01 Baillie: I sallied out – Aurora Orchestra
02 Adams: Chamber Symphony: I. Mongrel Airs – Aurora Orchestra
03 Adams: Chamber Symphony: II. Aria with Walking Bass – Aurora Orchestra
04 Adams: Chamber Symphony: III. Roadrunner – Aurora Orchestra
05 Trad: Reynardine – Aurora Orchestra
06 Ives: Three Places in New England: The Housatonic at Stockbridge – Aurora Orchestra
07 Trad: The Brown Girl – Aurora Orchestra
08 Copland: Appalachian Spring: I. Very Slowly – Aurora Orchestra
09 Copland: Appalachian Spring: II. Allegro – Aurora Orchestra
10 Copland: Appalachian Spring: III. Moderato (The Bride and her Intended) – Aurora Orchestra
11 Copland: Appalachian Spring: IV. Fast (The Revivalist and his Flock) – Aurora Orchestra
12 Copland: Appalachian Spring: V. Allegro (Solo Dance of the Bride) – Aurora Orchestra
13 Copland: Appalachian Spring: VI. As at first – slowly – Aurora Orchestra
14 Copland: Appalachian Spring: VII. Doppio movimento (Variations on a Shaker Hymn – Simple Gifts) – Aurora Orchestra
15 Copland: Appalachian Spring: VIII. Moderato – Coda – Aurora Orchestra
16 Baillie: Passing Places – Aurora Orchestra
17 Paul Simon: Hearts and Bones – Aurora Orchestra