Saturday, July 5, 2014


The name of conductor Joseph Levine hasn't survived, nor that of Ballet Theatre, the most important and innovative dance company in NY (along with Martha Graham) particularly in the Forties. This CD is a memorial to both, and it turns out to be delightful. Three classics of American ballet are included: Copland's Billy the Kid, Bernstein's Facsimile, and a lesser work, Morton Gould's Fall River Legend.

The recordings date from 1953 and 1955; all are in good mono (originally billed by Capitol Records as "full dimensional sound"), although noticeably thin and wiry at full volume. The important thing is how lively and imaginative the interpretations are. The Ballet Theatre orchestra wasn't ful of virtuosos, but they and Levine knew how to play for dancers. These aren't symphonic readings of the kind Leonard Bernstein gave when he did Copland or his own music with hte NY Phil. Great as those performances are, Levine is much lighter and more rhythmic, also more casually swaggering and folksy when need be. This deleted CD from EMI may be hard to find outside the used market, but it's a gem. Amazon reviewer

1-10 Aaron Copland: Billy The Kid (Complete Ballet 1938)

11-15 Leonard Bernstein: Facsimile (A Choreographic Essay 1946)

16-24 Morton Gould: Fall River Legend (Complete Ballet 1947)

Ballet Theatre Orchestra conducted by Joseph Levine
Recorded April, 1953 and April, 1955 at the Riverside Plaza Hote, New York City