American Piano Classics
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American Visions is the kind of programming that Arthur Fiedler used to do so well with the Boston Pops — American classical music with a populist flair — and it shows that the Pops' new young conductor, Keith Lockhart, was starting to revitalize the band in this repertoire. He leads with a flourish for his predecessor, John Williams (the latter's "A Hymn to New England"), and takes off on a spirited "Buckaroo Holiday" from Copland's "Rodeo." "Mississippi Suite" — the first of Ferde Grofé's national travelogues and not as well-known as it once was — gets a sturdy reading from Lockhart, with hints of jazz from some Pops soloists. Lockhart then makes a swerve toward the mystical with a mesmerizing performance of Charles Ives' "The Housatonic at Stockbridge" from "Three Places in New England" — a choice that turns adventurously away from Fiedler territory — before returning back to earth with Howard Hanson's reel-like "Maypole Dances" from "Merry Mount." One could ask for more rhythmic swagger and looseness in Leonard Bernstein's "Times Square" from "On the Town" than it gets here, but Lockhart follows up with three fine mid-20th century slices of concert Americana that rarely get played anymore — Ron Nelson's "Savannah River Holidays," Harl McDonald's "Fiesta" from "San Juan Capistrano," and Jerome Kern's folksy, graceful venture into the concert hall, "Mark Twain: Portrait for Orchestra." Many cheers to Lockhart for bringing them back in digital stereo. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi
Formed: 1977 in Cincinnati, OH
Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s