Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 10
Someone, somewhere, probably gets paid to come up with the dumb titles of collections such as this, and the tendency to use them is definitely on the increase. No, the “range” in question on this disc devoted to the “Spirit of the American Range” is not in truth a kitchen stove, but it might as well be for all that this has anything to do with the music. So let’s forget about the title, which must have seemed as good as any in what passes as classical music “marketing” these days, and move on to the performances, which are uniformly excellent.
Piston’s Suite from The Incredible Flutist has never quite fallen out of the repertoire, and the music remains as fresh and charming as ever in this lively performance. In case you were wondering, the part for the dog is included in “Arrival of the Circus”, and otherwise the spirit of the dance enlivens the entire performance, not least the Spanish Waltz and ensuing Polka. Antheil’s similarly perky Jazz Symphony, a single movement lasting only seven minutes, can sound a bit faded if not played with sufficient energy, but that’s just what Kalmar and his players offer, and its brevity leaves you wanting more.
Best of all, though, is this splendidly punchy reading of Copland’s Third Symphony. First, the outstanding sonics capture the work’s bright orchestral colors in a warm, ample acoustic that goes a long way toward preventing Copland’s consistently high frequency writing from turning excessively screechy (not even Bernstein avoids that entirely). Second, Kalmar’s performance comes quite close to the composer’s own first (and best) recording of the work–for Everest–in its unsentimental directness and muscularity. This makes the scherzo uncommonly exciting, and prevents the finale’s “climaxes for the common man” from sounding excessively bombastic. In short, this really is a very fine release. Don’t let the silly title put you off.
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Recording Details:Album Title: SPIRIT OF THE AMERICAN RANGE
Reference Recording: Copland: Bernstein (Sony Classical); Slatkin (RCA)