Tuesday, March 17, 2009


This brilliant new issue—Leonard Slatkin's first St Louis recording for EMI—is particularly valuable for bringing us, not just the ballet Suite from Billy the Kid, which has been recorded many times, but the complete ballet. [Some sleeves state that this is the first complete Billy the Kid, which is incorrect, it is however the first complete Rodeo featuring some seven or eight minutes of extra music and including the piano interlude in "Saturday night waltz" which has seldom previously been heard—EMI are correcting this on subsequent reprinting—Ed.) Billy receives roughly ten minutes more of music, much of it illustrative in Copland's colourful and distinctive way but also including two complete numbers. One is a quick waltz based on the Old Smokey theme used a moment previously in the passage following the Mexican Dance. The other is much more substantial, a slow romantic waltz based on the Mexican Dance theme, which represents Billy finding refuge with his Mexican sweetheart. When the total time of the ballet at about 32 minutes makes a good concert length (and here a generous LP side-length), I hope we shall hear this full version more often now.

With this performance Slatkin confirms the impressions one had from his RCA recordings and from last year's European tour by the St Louis Orchestra, that it is a refined as well as a brilliant band. As recorded in the Powell Hall, St Louis, the sound at first gives the impression of being on the dry side, but in fact it has plenty of bloom along with clean directional effects. It gains substantially over both Bernstein's (CBS 60114,5/82) and the composer's own couplings of Billy the Kid suite and Rodeo (CBS 72888, 2/71), when the definition of the digital recording and its range bring out much of the detail in Copland's colourful orchestration. Unlike them it avoids any aggressiveness but conveys plenty of bite as in the spectacular and highly atmospheric account of the gunbattle in Billy the Kid. Some of the woodwind solos are not quite so distinguished as those from the LSO principals on Copland's version but the result is every bit as authentic. E.G.

Leonard Slatkin, who has done such outstanding service for American music, upholds the Copland tradition with potent, sympathetically argued accounts of the big ballets. The performances by the Saint Louis Symphony could hardly be bettered, and the recordings stand out for their solid sound as well. Slatkin does both Billy the Kid and Rodeo in full, restoring some delightful music in both scores that is missed when only the suites are presented. In Rodeo, for example, it comes as a delicious surprise to hear the Saloon-piano interlude before the "Saturday Night Waltz"--and Slatkin insists on an out-of-tune upright--just the right touch. These are idiomatic, persuasive accounts, thrilling in their buildups and potent in their climaxes. Even Appalachian Spring is done in full, though in its version for full orchestra. The treatment here is gentle, and while Slatkin generates less voltage than Bernstein, his reading has nobility and an engaging warmth. The recordings were made at a rather low level, but have a wonderful ambience and extraordinary dynamic range. Unfortunately, the individual scenes of Billy the Kid are not separately banded. Ted Libbey

1 Billy The Kid (Complete Ballet) 1938 (32:26)

Rodeo (Complete Ballet) 1942 (22:52)
2 Buckaroo Holiday (7:07)
3 Corral Nocturne (3:34)
4 Piano Interlude & Saturday Night Waltz (7:57)
5 Hoe-Down (4:14)

Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; Conductor - Leonard Slatkin
Recorded October 8 & 9, 1985, in Powell Symphony Hall, St. Louis, Missouri


Scoredaddy said...


If you download this album and appreciate my efforts sharing it with you, please make a comment below.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for your interesting and informative posts.

Anonymous said...

I love this work & am just beginning to appreciate Leonard Slatkin. So I look forward to hearing this.


Scoresdecine said...

Thanks! At last, the complete scores!! Your blog is amazing, really!!

Kwork said...

This blog is amazing! Thanks a lot for this.

Hitch said...

Thanks for making Copland's beautiful music available.