America: Brilliant & Bold (8CD)

ABC Classics & Jazz
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Various Artists

Discover two centuries of brilliant and bold American classical music – music with the majesty to define a nation, the brilliance to change the way we see the world, and the energy to embrace the variety and vastness of the land from which it springs.

This collection showcases the most popular masterworks and hidden treasures from broad, rich and exciting musical heritage. 

Released to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great composer, conductor and educator Leonard Bernstein, this box set accompanies ABC Classic FM’s focus on American music over the 2018 Easter weekend.

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Tracklisting includes:

Over 9 hours of music, including complete performances of:

COPLAND Fanfare for the Common Man Appalachian Spring

BARBER Adagio for Strings • Violin Concerto • Dover Beach • Knoxville, Summer of 1915

IVES Three Places in New England The Unanswered Question

VARÈSE Amériques

GERSHWIN Rhapsody in Blue • An American in Paris

JOPLIN The Entertainer • Maple Leaf Rag

REICH Clapping Music • Different Trains

ADAMS Short Ride in a Fast Machine


Plus highlights from:


BERNSTEIN Candide • West Side Story

GERSHWIN Porgy and Bess

GLASS Etudes for Solo Piano

NANCARROW Studies for Player Piano

WILLIAMS Star Wars • E.T. • Raiders of the Lost Ark • Superman


And classics by

CageSousaCoriglianoCrumbAndersonLauridsenWhitacre • and more

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The Australian-American alliance is as strong as ever.



The cover of this ABC box set of eight discs shows an explosive surge of Americana - a Halloween pumpkin, a road sign for Route 66, a Cadillac and so on - which is fun but misrepresents the content. There is serious music aplenty inside. Of course, the popular hits of American concert music are here: Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Copland's Appalachian Spring, some excerpts from Bernstein's West Side Story - but alongside that you find rarer fare such as Ameriques by Edgard Varése; the song cycles Dover Beach and Knoxville Summer of 1915 by Samuel Barber; Copland's Eight Songs by Emily Dickinson and Walter Piston's Clarinet Concerto (the only recording I have ever seen of it). The set is comprised of two volumes of 4 discs each, the second group devoted mostly to later composers with substantial works by John Cage, Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

The other point of interest is that, with few exceptions, these are performances by Australian artists. I had not realised how much American music we had recorded over the years. Many stand comparison with the homegrown versions. Simon Tedeschi is represented in the Gershwin Preludes for Piano, as well as his signature Rhapsody in Blue (a live recording with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Benjamin Northey); Sally Whitwell's acclaimed set of the Etudes and other solo piano works of Philip Glass are here; Northey again, this time in Melbourne, conducts the rare original arrangement for thirteen instruments of Copland's Suite from Appalachian Spring (setting perfect tempos throughout); Markus Stenz conducts the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in a live performance of Three Places in New England by Charles Ives; Amy Dickson plays a Saxophone Concerto (Escapades) by the film composer John Williams, and there are first class renditions of Copland's Emily Dickinson Songs and 'Glitter and be Gay' from Bernstein's Candide by soprano Emma Matthews. It's a shame they couldn't find an Australian performance of Barber's Knoxville Summer of 1915 but Renée Fleming is not a bad consolation prize.