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Monday, October 3, 2016

Simple Gifts, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Shaker Village

Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett wrote the beautiful hymn "Simple Gifts" in 1848. I and many of my music-loving brethren were first exposed to the melody as adapted by Aaron Copland in his iconic "Appalachian Spring." The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center recently did a concert in Kentucky's Shaker Village, in an old barn originally used to store tobacco, featuring a program of vintage Americana and most notably "Appalachian Spring" in a version for chamber orchestra.

The concert is just coming out as a CD: Simple Gifts, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at Shaker Village (CMS Live) and it is a beauty.

The version of the Suite from "Appalachian Spring" is simply stunning, one of the very best, no doubt inspired by the setting. But the concert as a whole is inspired as well! We get to hear Gottschalk's "The Union Concert Paraphrase," a rousing piano piece that quotes the National Anthem and other familiar American flag-wavers with typical Gottschalkian panache. Dvorak's "Sonatina in G major for Violin and Piano" is another worthy item. You can hear him quoting or otherwise alluding to Afro-American and other American folk music.

Barber's piano 4-hands "Souvenirs" has a rustic-modern charm that fits in well with the program and provides depth. O'Connor's "FCs Jig" for violin and viola adds roots, as does the pretty obscure but fascinating Stephen Foster "Selections from The Social Orchestra for Ensemble."

But it is "Appalachian Spring" that gets an especially heartwarming and focused reading, as we can readily understand. It gives one a shudder of pleasure, the chills, it is so poignantly done.

And so this is a landmark recording! The ensemble sounds ravishing, they ring the rafters and the production is thrilling, truly.

Highly recommended!

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