This time around, I'm offering a list a classical CD's that I enjoy. I like music from all periods-- particularly chamber music. But American music has a special place with me. So here's a sampler of some American music-- some of it familiar and maybe some of it new to you.

Randall Thompson
Symphony #2

The Thompson symphony is accessible and enjoyable. It's a great performance by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Neeme Jarvi-- who has been a guest on our program. And as a bonus, there are some shorter pieces by American composer George Chadwick on the disc, too.


Bernstein Conducts Copland

I used to think that composers were the ones who could lead definitive performances of their works. Hearing Aaron Copland conduct his own pieces convinced me otherwise. He was a great American composer, no doubt. But at the podium, he was a little... um... ponderous. Without a doubt, the definitive Copland conductor, in my opinion, is Leonard Bernstein. This CD contains what was originally 2 discs of material that Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic recorded in the 1960's. You get Appalachian Spring, Bill the Kid, Fanfare for the Common Man and Rodeo. The famous (Beef: it's what's for dinner) Hoe-Down movement of Rodeo is absolutely electric under Bernstein's baton. I've heard the Bernstein/NY Phil recording so many times and still just the thought of it makes my hair stand on end. If you want a more recent digital recording, check out this disc from the Seattle Symphony and Gerard Schwarz. It's not a mirror image CD: This one contains the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofe, in addition to Billy the Kid and Rodeo. Schwarz's Rodeo is the closest I've heard to the impassioned Bernstein and the NY Phil.

Diamond
Symphonies 2 and 4

David Diamond might have enjoyed much more success as an American composer, if it were not for a disagreement with conductor Serge Koussevitzky. I forget the exact reason for the fallout, but if my memory serves me correctly, it was petty. Whatever the case, angering a conductor so committed to American composers was a bad move for Diamond. He spent decades in the cold. Daimond was rediscovered by Seattle Symphony conductor Gerard Schwarz several years ago. Schwarz is another conductor committed to the works of American composers. This disc was his first release of the Diamond works. My favorite piece is the 4th Symphony. It's a short piece but contains some beautiful passages. Much of Diamond's work is accessible. So if you've not listened to many American composers, this might be an easy way to get your feet wet.

Zwilich
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra/Piston: Concerto for Flute and Orchesta/Bernstein: Halil

This is more challenging stuff... but well worth the effort. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is one of America's great women composers and Doriot Anthony Dwyer gives persuasive performances on this disc. If you get this CD and findthe going tough, take it easy. Listen to individual movements. Give yourself a chance to get comfortable with what's going on. I find that difficult music becomes easier to understand the more attention I give it. It's made me a Zwilich fan.