Rave Reviews for GRAMMY-Nominated Copland Recording

Rave Reviews for GRAMMY-Nominated Copland Recording
November 22, 2019 leonard slatkin

November 22, 2019

Leonard Slatkin’s recording with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra of Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid and Grohg has garnered widespread critical acclaim and a Best Orchestral Performance GRAMMY nomination for Slatkin and the DSO.

“Played with terrific swagger by Slatkin’s Detroit forces.” 

—BBC Music Magazine

“With this Copland release he and the orchestra have outdone themselves. Copland has always been one of Slatkin’s specialties; he gets the peculiarly American mix of broadness and subtlety in the composer’s music, and his readings of the big ballets are as fine as any on the market. … You couldn’t ask for a better combination than Slatkin and the Detroiters in bringing out [Copland’s] personality in the music. Highly recommended.”

James Manheim, AllMusic.com

“Leonard Slatkin’s Copland is always first rate, and this release is no exception. He already recorded the complete Billy the Kid in St. Louis for EMI, but that disc could be anywhere right now, except readily available, and so if you want the entire work this performance is just the ticket. I actually prefer the full-length ballet to the suite. You get about ten minutes more music, all of it worth hearing, and the result is a work that has a more compelling range of narrative and less of that picture postcard Americana feel that just might be starting to sound a tad old. It only remains to be said that throughout the disc the Detroit Symphony plays terrifically.”

—David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

“Slatkin and the DSO make a very strong case indeed for this score [Grohg]. The performance is committed, incisive and punchy.

Collectors who have been following Leonard Slatkin’s Copland series need not—and should not—hesitate. This is another winner from Detroit and I do hope there will be more to come.”

—John Quinn, Music Web International

“Slatkin and the DSO give a technicolor rendition of this unusual score [Grohg], as well as an elegiac performance of the more familiar Billy the Kid. All three discs are both an affordable way for a collector to acquire all of Copland’s ballet scores, as well as a testament to the fine partnership of Slatkin and the DSO, an orchestra that has revived along with its city, now that Slatkin has stepped back to take the position of Music Director Laureate.”

—Charles T. Downey, IonArts 

“While the —‘The Open Prairie,’ ‘Gun Battle,’ ‘Billy’s Death’—have a similar color and theatrical point, the passages that were excised for the popular suite—all of which are more than worth hearing—emerge with even more character and a sense of rightness than they do in that very fine earlier recording. Add to this the world-class playing of the Detroit Symphony, state-of-the-art recorded sound, and the Naxos price tag, and this is one bargain that would be foolish to resist.”

—Jim Svejda, Fanfare

“I must say that I wonder why this work [Grohg] is so little-known. It’s fantastic.

Concert audiences know Billy the Kid (1938) as a 20-minute suite with introduction and six scenes. Here we have the complete 33-minute work with introduction and 10 scenes. What’s here (not in the suite) is a longer ‘Mexican Dance’, an exciting scene where Billy escapes from prison, a beautiful waltz scene depicting him in the desert, and somber music for his funeral. It is all so colorful—small wonder that it is so popular.

Excellent playing, sound, notes.”

— Barry Kilpatrick, American Record Guide

“Leonard Slatkin is non-pareil in the repertoire, and his characterful and energetic performances are sui generis.”

Barry Forshaw, Classical CD Choice

“Leonard Slatkin’s ongoing Naxos Copland series has so far featured his popular works coupled with more obscure music. Slatkin also always seems to come up with an aspect of the music that makes it different and usually more desirable. In this case he plays the rarely heard Billy the Kid complete ballet that gives us about 12 more minutes of high-level Copland.”

Arthur Lintgen, Fanfare

“The work [Grohg] may be short, less than thirty minutes, but it’s colorful, a little jazzy, and certainly bizarre. Slatkin takes advantage of all of these characteristics, making it a rather fun piece of music and unaccountably overlooked by most other conductors.”

John J. Puccio, Classical Candor

“Slatkin treats the music in Grohg with grit and spirit: he does not sand the edges of the jagged and coarse elements in the score, nor does he tamp down its crushing decibels. His vampire here has teeth with a deadly bite. The plentiful jazzy and rhythmic features of the music emerge with vitality and rich color, and the humorous side of the music is subtle yet divulges an irresistible playful and slapstick-like quality—try nos. 2 and 4.

Slatkin and the DSO turn in an excellent performance of Billy, and again in splendid, quite detailed sound.”

—Robert Cummings, Music Web International

“The Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin sound well situated and fully committed to making these scores breathe life. … It is an offering anyone interested in Copland and the US compositional 20th century will find stimulating and worthwhile. Sincerely recommended.”

—Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

“In short, everything about this performance and recording is utterly musical. … At the start of this review I said Slatkin is doing good things in Detroit. Strike that, he’s doing great things there, as this unmissable coupling so triumphantly testifies. Such are the musical and technical virtues on display here that I’m sorely tempted to make Slatkin’s Billy the Kid my top choice.”

—Dan Morgan, MusicWeb International

“Slatkin pulls all the stops out, and … Naxos has given him sound quality that enhances the performance: crisp, clear and forward rather than overloaded with reverb and echo. The end result is a simply dazzling performance that, for me, goes straight to the top of recordings of this work. Absolutely nothing is played without heart and energy, no details are glossed over, and end result is a very impressive achievement. … No two ways about it, this new release is a real ‘find’ for Copland fanciers. Highly recommended.”

—Lynn René Bayley, The Art Music Lounge

“Throughout, Slatkin’s judgement is spot-on (where other conductors can rush he retains poise) and the DSO is at-one (whether tuttis or solos) with its maestro and the music with playing of precision, vivid detail and sonorous projection, superbly recorded, too, with a natural perspective and a tangibility that puts the listener in one of Orchestra Hall’s best seats. It’s a dramatic performance, full of colour and atmosphere.”

—Colin Anderson, ClassicalSource.com

“As you would expect from Slatkin, a noted interpreter of American music, and his then orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, these are vivid and idiomatic performances of two of Copland’s more fascinating scores. … All in all, a compelling issue for anyone who loves Americana.”

—David Mellor, Classic FM

“The 30-minute score [Grohg] contained one ear-catching surprise after another: a spare, lean and dark opening; stalking bass lines; highly charged jazzy dances; colorful bits of dialogue between solo trumpet and clarinet; a slippery bassoon solo; a songful duet between muted trumpet and piano that suggested a sentimental 19th Century ballad. You could hear Copland the modernist at work, but also intimations of the populist Copland that would emerge some 15 years later in his ballets Rodeo, Appalachian Spring and Billy the Kid. Slatkin led an energetic performance.”

—Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press

“Slatkin’s reading of Billy the Kid on Thursday was often swift but never breathless, revealing a sharp ear for the music’s animated rhythmic bite and its essential strain of lyrical melancholy. The principal attraction of the complete score versus the frequently heard suite is an alluring romantic waltz section that was written to accompany a scene between Billy and his sweetheart. The performance included expressive wind solos, particularly those of Hunter Eberly on trumpet, and Karl Pituch and Bob Williams on bassoon.”

—Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press

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