Naxos's DVD division has already released the performances on this disc of Virgil Thomson's scores for The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, as soundtracks for a re-release of the original films. That DVD (Naxos 2.110521) contained, as bonus tracks, the original musical performances. The additional investment for the DVD seems minor, considering the historical value of the films themselves and the other additional material (interviews with film participants and some comments from Thomson himself).
However, for the extremely budget-minded or those only interested in the audio experience, these performances by the Post-Classical Ensemble, led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez, merit a strong recommendation. In clear, crisp sound, Thomson's blend of folk material and mid-century orchestration present a sharp profile, unsentimental and yet affecting. Overall, the score for The Plow that Broke the Plains makes for a more cohesive listening experience than that for The River. The latter has one extended sequence of moody music ("Floods"); otherwise, the tracks feel a bit fragmentary. The music for The Plow contains a greater variety of mood and atmosphere.
Naxos's booklet essay, in the typical tiny font, has a fine essay on the composition of the scores as well as a track-by-track synopsis tying the music to scenes from each of the films. Joseph Horowitz, director of the Post-Classical Ensemble, composed the notes.
Again, the DVD offers a richer experience, but those who desire the convenience of the CD format will be grateful for this release.