American Classics - Anderson: Orchestral Music Vol 1 / Slatkin, BBC
Leonard Slatkin recorded a marvelous Leroy Anderson collection for RCA with the St. Louis Symphony, and of course Anderson's own recordings for Decca/MCA remain special, but this new series promises to offer several recording premieres, and Jeffrey Biegel's rendition of the terrific Piano Concerto is the best yet. So all in all, it's hard to deny this release the strongest possible recommendation. The music may be light, but the craftsmanship and standard of quality are second to none.
It's a special mystery that Anderson was dissatisfied with the concerto, his only large-scale orchestral work, withholding its publication during his lifetime. We could use a top-notch "Gershwin alternative", and this piece is just the ticket. From the "Rachmaninov without the gloom" opening, to the Latin interludes in the Andante, to the finale's hoe-down reel of a main melody, this piece is a winner. Both Slatkin and Biegel give the piece the royal treatment, playing with both passion and humor. You'll love it.
Among the smaller pieces you'll find familiar favorites (Belle of the Ball, Bugler's Holiday, Fiddle-Faddle, Clarinet Candy, Blue Tango, China Doll), but also some lesser-known but no less delicious surprises. There's The First Day of Spring, a gorgeous meditation reminiscent of the Romanza from Dvorák's Czech Suite, and The Classical Jukebox, in which favorites by Wagner and Liszt serve as a platform on which to graft, P.D.Q. Bach-style, the famous pop tune "Put Another Nickel In [the Nickelodeon]". The playing by the BBC Concert Orchestra is relaxed and charming. Under Slatkin's baton the melodies flow effortlessly, and clearly a good time was had by all. You will too.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: 8559313
Composer: Leroy Anderson
Conductor: Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Concert Orchestra
Performer: Catherine Moore, David McCallum, Derek Hanningan, Jeffrey Biegel, Jenny McLaren, John Blackshaw, Michael Pearce, Neville Graham