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Disc reviews: Aurora Orchestra, ‘Road Trip’

Aurora Orchestra

Road Trip

[Warner Classics]

3 stars

A lot of this album is pretentious but I like the idea of what the Aurora Orchestra is trying to do, to present classical music along with pop, and a few things from the gray area in between. Three folk songs are fitted out with orchestral accompaniment by Nico Muhly that really do nothing for them, and that, and the slow pace, give the songs a weirdly lifeless feel. Paul Simon’s “Hearts and Bones,” which in its original version draws its energy from its rapid pace, especially suffers. There are a couple of dull contemporary pieces: John Adams’ ”Chamber Symphony,” a minute-long pastiche of drums and sound effects called “Passing Places” by Max Baillie.

At the heart of the CD, though, is Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” in the original version for 13 instruments. This is such evocative music, and the Aurora Orchestra’s attentive approach makes it blissful. Charles Ives’ “The Housatonic at Stockbridge,” the last movement of a piece inspired by a walk Ives and his bride took on their honeymoon, is also interesting, with its highly unusual orchestration and tonal effects.

– Mary Kunz Goldman

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