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Monday, April 22, 2019

Symphonic Dances, Copland, Appalachian Spring, Ravel, Daphnis et Chloe, Suite No. 2, Stravinsky, Firebird Suite (1919), David Bernard, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony

A creative and intelligent coupling of several works on a program can make sense to a theme or a season or both. Such creative juxtapositions can transform a particular offering into more than just a sum of repertoire choices. I feel that way about the latest CD from David Bernard and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. It is appropriately called Symphonic Dances (Recursive Classics 2061415).  What stands out to me is how it nicely programs three major works, each of which are Early Modern-Impressionist classics, breakthrough orchestral works, all having some general mythological or otherwise storied relation to the budding natural world and so quite appropriate to mark spring (and summer).

It covers Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring Suite," Maurice Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2" and Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite (1919)."  Each are from ballets, and each have orchestral depth and orchestrational brilliance.

Barnard and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony give us very dynamic versions of each suite, with some of the loudest forte passages I can recall hearing on performances of these. The orchestral staging is very detailed as is essential to the music. These may not be the very best performances I have ever heard--of any of the three--but the competition understandably is quite stiff as each of them has been recorded in numerous versions. The Park Avenue outfit acquit themselves quite respectably nonetheless.

The "Firebird Suite" was on the first classical LP I owned and so it has a kind of foundational sound to me. Both "Appalachian" and "Daphnis" were part of my earliest listening as well, so they belong together in my mind. And as spring flourishes outside I naturally gravitate towards the music.

And as I said above, the choice of these three works in one program is rather brilliant. Each has an essential relation to the others, each has alternatingly wonderfully lyrical and in turn acutely rousing moments. If you for any reason are unfamiliar with the music you are missing out. They each are classics as a rhapsodic sort of  New Music, each revolutionarily lyrical in its day. And so it is hard to pass up this program.

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