Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome to Fanfare For Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland has always been one of my personal musical heroes. Mr. Copland cannot be considered one of the major contributors to American music because Aaron Copland IS American music. His influence on two generations of composers in North America (and worldwide) is considerable and the Coplandisms depicting "Americana" he created in his beloved ballet scores and in his globally famous Fanfare For The Common Man are still heard today in film and television music (even in TV commercials!).

Biographical information on Copland is readily available from other sources (see links) so I will not address this on Fanfare For Aaron Copland. We will instead deal with the glorious music composed by Mr. Copland throughout his lengthy career. A systematic survey of Copland's complete oeuvre will not be conducted but a generous cross-section of his work will be posted. These will include orchestral, chamber, and vocal/choral pieces (many lesser-known compositions will be included). Ocassionally we will hear the same piece in different instrumentation. Sometimes we will feature the same piece interpreted by two different orchestras/conductors.
I hope this site will raise awareness of Aaron Copland's titanic contribution to his field and to the cultural history of the 20th century United States. All postings on this site will be in the lossless FLAC format and will be ripped from original CD's in my personal collection. All artwork included with the CD packaging will be added as image scans, now all done at 300DPI.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

SOMETHING WILD - ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK (1961)

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Who would have guessed that Aaron Copland's last film score would receive its first commercial release 42 years after it was recorded?

Something Wild, a 1961 film starring Carroll Baker, was a box-office flop, so distributor United Artists nixed a proposed soundtrack album despite its composer's fame.

New York film-music buff Mark Leneker, doing research into Copland's music four years ago, discovered that Copland had assembled a 35-minute album mockup and that a handful of copies were privately pressed and given to friends.

Leneker contacted the film's director, Jack Garfein, who now lives in Paris (and who, at the time of the film, was Carroll Baker's husband). It turned out that Garfein's current wife had discovered a mint, sealed copy of the LP in the family attic.

Copland conducted a 55-piece orchestra in the music, which is stylistically different from his earlier, more familiar Americana scores like Of Mice and Men (1939) and The Red Pony (1949). Because the film's subject matter is grim and violent (Baker plays a suicidal rape victim in New York City), the composer's idiom is more contemporary, incorporating jazz influences, serialism and occasional dissonance.

Copland adapted the score into a concert work, Music for a Great City, which was premiered in 1964. For those who prefer this suite, Music for a Great City is available in two recorded versions: Copland's own, with the London Symphony Orchestra (Sony 47236), and Leonard Slatkin's, with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (RCA 60149).

Something Wild is a welcome addition to the recent resurgence of interest in Copland's film music. Jonathan Sheffer's 2000 collection (Telarc 80583) of obscure Copland includes suites from The City (a documentary presented at the 1939 World's Fair), The Cummington Story (documentary short, 1945) and The North Star (1943).

More familiar to many listeners will be the Americana classics – Of Mice and Men, Our Town (1940) and The Red Pony – which are regularly performed in concert and have been the subject of multiple recordings over the years. Slatkin's Music for Films collection (RCA 61699) is comprised of a seven-movement suite from The Red Pony, nine minutes from Our Town and the five-movement Music for Movies, which includes two pieces from The City, two from Of Mice and Men – the barley-wagon and threshing sequences – and one from Our Town.

What caps the Slatkin CD is an eight-minute suite from The Heiress, Copland's Oscar-winning 1949 score – including the composer’s Prelude that director William Wyler dropped in post-production in favor of an orchestral arrangement of the plot-specific chanson, "Plaisir d'Amour." Jon Burlingame

Track listing

1. New York Profile (02:48)
2. Park At Night (01:27)
3. Subway Jam (02:16)
4. Mary Ann Resigned (02:01)
5. Incarceration and Nightmares (07:06)
6. Escape Through The City (07:23)
7. Love Music (01:57)
8. Walk Downtown (03:11)
9. Episode On The Bridge (04:51)
10. Mother Alone (00:57)
11. Reunion (01:05)

Total Duration: 00:35:02

Saturday, July 5, 2014

JOSEPH LEVINE & BALLET THEATRE ORCHESTRA: BILLY THE KID/BERNSTEIN: FACSIMILE/GOULD: FALL RIVER LEGEND

The name of conductor Joseph Levine hasn't survived, nor that of Ballet Theatre, the most important and innovative dance company in NY (along with Martha Graham) particularly in the Forties. This CD is a memorial to both, and it turns out to be delightful. Three classics of American ballet are included: Copland's Billy the Kid, Bernstein's Facsimile, and a lesser work, Morton Gould's Fall River Legend.

The recordings date from 1953 and 1955; all are in good mono (originally billed by Capitol Records as "full dimensional sound"), although noticeably thin and wiry at full volume. The important thing is how lively and imaginative the interpretations are. The Ballet Theatre orchestra wasn't ful of virtuosos, but they and Levine knew how to play for dancers. These aren't symphonic readings of the kind Leonard Bernstein gave when he did Copland or his own music with hte NY Phil. Great as those performances are, Levine is much lighter and more rhythmic, also more casually swaggering and folksy when need be. This deleted CD from EMI may be hard to find outside the used market, but it's a gem. Amazon reviewer

1-10 Aaron Copland: Billy The Kid (Complete Ballet 1938)

11-15 Leonard Bernstein: Facsimile (A Choreographic Essay 1946)

16-24 Morton Gould: Fall River Legend (Complete Ballet 1947)

Ballet Theatre Orchestra conducted by Joseph Levine
Recorded April, 1953 and April, 1955 at the Riverside Plaza Hote, New York City

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

JOANN FALLETA & BUFFALO PHILHARMONIC: RODEO/THE RED PONY/PRAIRIE JOURNAL/LETTER FROM HOME

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Although it's played and recorded frequently, there is a genuine difference between a decent performance of Rodeo and a really excellent one such as we have here. This difference can be summed up in two words: rhythm and tempo. When it comes to rhythm, it's not merely a question of hitting the syncopations in the opening movement and concluding Hoedown, but of being both accurate and relaxed enough to let the music swing. This is a quality that Bernstein's performances always had, and JoAnn Falletta understands it too. This gives the music both the necessary verve in the outer sections and real balletic grace in the two inner ones, reminding us that we are, after all, hearing a story told through physical movement.

When it comes to tempo, the issue is at once simpler and less impressionistic. In Buckaroo Holiday, speeds have to be quick enough to prevent the music from breaking up into discrete, detached bits. Once again, Falletta & Co. come through with flying colors. The music never sounds mechanical, disconnected, or excessively "Stravinskian". Copland disliked excessive sentimentality, but his music is never dry (the rich, warm, but clear sonics also help in this department). And what turns out to be a successful recipe for Rodeo works just as well in all of the other pieces here. Prairie Journal (a.k.a. Music for Radio) is one of the least known of Copland's "Westerns", but it's every bit as enjoyable as the three great ballets, and this is as fine a performance as you will hear anywhere. Letter from Home is an exercise in nostalgia that never turns overly sweet.

Best of all, perhaps, is The Red Pony, one of the great film scores of all time, and a glorious work that for some reason seldom gets played live. Copland's invention is of exceptionally high quality throughout, and once again you can hear from the unusual freshness of the opening bars how effortlessly Falletta and the Buffalo players get into the spirit of the music. There are so many delightful moments, from the raucous Circus Music to the unforgettable Walk to the Bunkhouse, a piece that has become the very essence of musical Americana. Finally, it's great to see one of the very popular pieces, like Rodeo, coupled with some less ubiquitous examples of Copland's genius. A wonderful disc! David Hurwitz

1. Prairie Journal (1937) 10:55

Rodeo - Four Dance Episodes (1942)
2. Buckeroo Holiday 7:20
3. Corral Nocturne 3:41
4. Saturday Night Waltz 4:26
5. Hoe Down 3:26

6. Letter from Home (1944) 6:23

The Red Pony Suite (orchestral version) 1948
7. I. Morning on the Ranch 4:27
8. II. The Gift 4:35
9. IIIa. Dream March 2:29
10. IIIb Circus March 2:29
11. IV. Walk to the Bunkhouse 2:58
12. V. Grandfather's Story 4:15
13. VI. Happy Ending 3:11

Recorded at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY USA on January 31 and February 1, 2005

Thursday, October 4, 2012

CHRISTOPHER BRELLOCHS WITH PAUL COHEN: QUIET CITY AND OTHER MUSIC FOR SAXOPHONE

Saxophonist Christopher Brellochs breathes new life into forgotten musical works with the Sono Luminus release of Quiet City. This world premiere recording resurrects the unpublished score of Aaron Copland’s incidental music for the Irwin Shaw play Quiet City, in a new adaptation by Christopher Brellochs.

During his doctoral studies Brellochs obtained a copy of the unpublished manuscript to Quiet City from saxophonist and historian Paul Cohen. The score was handwritten by Copland, included cues and actor’s lines, and called for a chamber ensemble of trumpet, saxophone (doubling on clarinet), clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet), and piano. Here was never before heard music of the highest quality, by an iconic American composer.

Brellochs was granted the exclusive right to record and perform his newly reconstructed chamber adaptation of “Quiet City” by Boosey & Hawkes and The Aaron Copland Fund for Music. This unique opportunity to make a world premiere recording has lead to a search for other unrecorded works by American composers. The results of that search include the whirlwind composition “Sound Moves Blues” by Robert Aldridge, the charming “Suite for Trumpet, Alto Saxophone, and Piano” by Seymour Barab and the invitation to guest artist Paul Cohen to contribute previously unreleased recordings of works by Leo Ornstein, Walter Hartley and Lawson Lunde. Every work on Quiet City features world premiere recordings of prominent American composers.

Saxophonist, composer and arranger Christopher Brellochs has performed at Carnegie Hall and in solo recitals throughout the Northeast, as well as the 32nd International Saxophone Symposium. He was a recent guest artist and lecturer with the Poné Ensemble at SUNY New Paltz (2010) performing his new adaptation of Copland’s “Quiet City”.

Brellochs has lectured at the Manhattan School of Music and a College Music Society Conference on the topics “Benjamin Britten and the Saxophone” and “Aaron Copland and the Saxophone”. His article, “Aaron Copland’s Use of the Saxophone in Wind Band Repertoire,” was published in the Journal of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles. Paul Cohen (saxophone) has appeared as soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, Richmond Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Charleston Symphony and Philharmonia Virtuosi. Cohen’s recent concerts included an Artist - in Residency at the Royal College of Music and Dance in Cardiff, Wales as well as performances at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other stages with the New York Philharmonic, New Hudson Saxophone Quartet and the Manhattan Sinfonietta.

This release is sure to be a favorite with fans of the saxophone and new music, as well as a spectacular addition to the collection of enthusiasts of the works of Copland.


Performers:
Christopher Brellochs, saxophone
Paul Cohen, saxophone
Mitchell Krieger, clarinets
Allison Brewster Franzetti, piano
Donald Batchelder, trumpet
Richard Clarke, viola
Louis Anderson, piano

Composers:
Aaron Copland
Leo Ornstein
Robert Aldridge
Walter S. Hartley
Lawson Lunde
Seymour Barab

1. Quiet City - Aaron Copland, adapted by Christopher Brellochs

2. Ballade - Leo Ornstein

3. Sound Moves Blues - Robert Aldridge

Lyric Suite - Walter S. Hartley
4. I. Prelude
5. II. Scherzino
6. III. Nocturne
7. IV. Gigue

Sonata for Soprano Saxophone and Piano Op.37 (“Alpine”) - Lawson Lunde
8. I. Allegro moderato
9. II. Vivo

Suite for Trumpet, Alto Saxophone and Piano - Seymour Barab
10. I. Allegro
11. II. Slow waltz
12. III. Allegro
13. IV. Molto lento
14. V. Allegro molto

BONUS: Folder contains a Hi-Def video of a full-length performance of QUIET CITY by these same performers (MP4 file is viewable on iPad/Pod, VLC Media Player, and most computer media programs).

Monday, September 24, 2012

FANFARE FOR AMERICA, A FILM BY ANDREAS SKIPIS (DVD5 - ARTHAUS MUSIK 101 573)


This DVD is a very enjoyable way to spend an hour. The first issue I must address, however, may prove a stumbling block for many viewers. The narration of this documentary is in German, with English subtitles. Nowhere is this mentioned on the package, which to me seems deceptive. The explanation is that the film was made by Frankfurt Radio in 2001. If you can get around the incongruity of a film about an American composer in German, I think you’ll find much to enjoy. The interviews in the film, thankfully, are conducted in English. Musically, the film offers fine performances of highlights from Copland’s works, with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony conducted by its then music director, the American Hugh Wolff. I heard Wolff lead a lovely performance of the Clarinet Concerto with Karl Herman and the New Jersey Symphony, so his excellence here doesn’t surprise me. Not all the works included are the usual suspects. There’s the 1925 Music for Theater, the 12-tone Connotations, and the original 13-instrument version of Appalachian Spring. Wolff says that this last, as chamber music, possesses the feeling of settlers in an isolated area. Stella Doufexis also gives a lovely rendition of three of the orchestrated Emily Dickinson songs. One of Wolff’s trenchant observations about Copland is that he did not have a big ego. He did not, as an artist, have to believe that he was right and everyone else was wrong. Copland, claims Wolff, would say that he was doing things one way one day, and maybe another way the next. Excerpts from an interview with Copland put you in the presence of the man, who is absolutely charming. He even discusses his victimization for his leftist views during the McCarthy era without any sign of bitterness. The film does not mention Copland’s homosexuality, although biographer Howard Pollack does say that he lived a temperate life and with restraint. One of my favorite stories about Copland involves his friend Leonard Bernstein urging him to come out of the closet. Copland replied, “I’ll leave that to you, my boy.” On a personal note, Copland studied piano with Clarence Adler, who was my mother’s teacher. Other highlights of the film include an excerpt from Martha Graham and her company dancing Appalachian Spring, and an all too short portion of the Clarinet Concerto with Benny Goodman and the composer conducting. Leonard Bernstein is shown directing A Lincoln Portrait, but no other information is given about this concert. I recall it as a telecast with William Warfield narrating and the New York Philharmonic, from the Royal Albert Hall in London. Director Andreas Skipis has devised some trick camerawork for the performances of Fanfare for the Common Man and Music for Theater that I find very engaging. In sum, this is a good biography with a healthy dollop of beautiful music. It adds to my appreciation of Copland. Perhaps we should ask why there is a film from Germany like this and not one from America. I can’t resist adding one more story about Copland that’s not in the film. Early in his conducting career, Copland was leading a rehearsal, with Serge Koussevitzky in the hall. Afterwards, Copland asked Koussevitzky what he thought of his conducting. Koussevitzky replied, “What do you think of my Double Bass Concerto?” FANFARE: Dave Saeman 

 Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 60 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 5)
1:1 using DVD Dycrypter

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

BOHUSLAV MARTINU PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, ANDREW MOGRELIA: OF MICE AND MEN & OUR TOWN - COMPLETE FILM SCORES

“Hollywood is an extraordinary place. You must come here some time. It's like nothing else in the world. Thank heavens!”
Aaron Copland to Serge Koussevitzky, 18 October 1939

Copland’s interest in film music dates back years before his first cinematic score. He had programmed film music as the next to last of the Copland-Sessions Concerts in 1931. Auspiciously, that concert featured two short films by Ralph Steiner, who eventually provided Copland with the opportunity to compose music for his documentary The City in 1939. One of Copland’s finest scores, documentary or otherwise, it became his calling-card to studio work.

Copland had visited the west coast in the late 1930s, at the urging of his friend and cousin Harold Clurman, who was advocating for him with studio music executives looking to attract new talent from the concert world. Though early meetings failed to produce any engagements, it does point up a larger campaign by Copland at this time to expand his audience by producing works for theater and radio. Compositionally, Copland’s music shifting more and more into that quintessential “American sound” we associate with him to this very day.

Accounts differ on how exactly Lewis Milestone, the director for the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, encountered Copland’s music to The City. Whether it was at the urging of Milestone’s violinist brother Nathan, or Copland’s agent, Abe Meyer, the result was his arrival in Hollywood in October 1939.

Copland struck rare artistic gold with his engagement to score Of Mice and Men. Milestone had won a lawsuit against producer Hal Roach that included a cash payment and a contractual agreement to fund the movie—this, and the absence of any studio Musical Director, meant a hands-off approach rarely afforded a new composer on the lot. Copland composed at the piano, screening the movie using a portable editing device called a moviola. This allowed him great precision in placing the beats of each cue to the picture and dialogue. The score was written in about six weeks and recorded with a 45–52 piece studio orchestra under the direction of Irvin Talbot on 11 to 12 December 1939. Copland’s score is a remarkable work, avoiding many of the musical devices already commonplace by 1939. Copland did not write leitmotifs and pin them to all the characters, instead he wrote music to correspond with the broader ideas of the work. The main theme for Of Mice and Men is a folk-like melody, something Copland described as likely to have been whistled by the main characters George and Lennie, and it expresses the idea of the better life they are reaching toward. This theme, by extension, becomes the hopes of all the marginalized characters depicted in the film. Copland was unafraid to experiment in modernistic expression in the score. Most notably, the 26 second clashing chord that climaxes The Fight cue offered unheard of modernism for the time, and is likely some of the most dissonant music Copland ever created. The critical scene of Lennie accidentally killing Mae (Curly’s wife) in the film allowed Copland to create new themes late in the score which he interwove masterfully with the dream theme in the final dramatic cues. The scene where George shoots Lennie certainly was one of the most heartrending scenes filmed in the 1930s (much less today) and demonstrates a high point in the marriage of music and picture. The poignancy of loneliness, the tragedy of the outcast, and the ultimately ennobling spirit of the common, struggling American, are themes Copland connected to over and over again in his career. In this score he charts them out with incredible sensitivity to the film’s narrative.

After the West Coast première for Of Mice and Men, Copland headed back to New York. He had been offered an immediate follow-up film, but declined because, as he wrote to Virgil Thompson, “the picture stank.” His agent may have been scandalized, but it was a relief to his friends who feared he might be consumed entirely into the motion picture business. The desire for greater exposure may have led Copland to Hollywood, but it was really the War which kept him there. The violence in Europe was unsettling the nation, and Copland was no exception. He found it difficult to write as if nothing was going on. Part of his decision to score the film version of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town only three months after finishing Of Mice and Men was, in a measure, the desire to do something which could lend comfort to the country in a time of increasing anxiety. He also saw it as a personal challenge: to demonstrate that a composer could create two wholly different musical scores within a brief window of time.

Director Sam Wood, afforded Copland nearly as much freedom as Milestone did in creating the score. Copland eschewed using any popular tunes, deciding instead to create an original score that once again had folk-like qualities while adding cues of an almost quasi-religious feel which served to emphasize the universal themes of the work, detailing the life of a town against the life of the universe. Irvin Talbot (Copland would not conduct his own film scores until The Red Pony in 1948) once again conducted a studio orchestra of about fifty players. The well-known Grover’s Corner theme gets the most play, but the love theme, which does double duty as a motif for Emily and George, the young couple in the drama, is featured nearly as much. The more expansive “music of the stars” is quoted prominently in the main titles, the beginning of the third act on the hilltop cemetary overlooking the town, and in the epilogue. Smaller thematic material includes the narrator’s theme, which often bookmarks cues, and the children’s theme. Perhaps some of the most striking, unheard music from the score is the cemetery music, which is quietly celestial, functioning almost like a kind of American Fantasia. The climactic cue Emily’s Dream where Emily re-visits her sixteenth birthday is at turns reflective, dissonant and plaintive. It features the use of musical saw, which Copland used as a way to tamp down on the sentimentality of the moment.

Elements of these two film scores were adapted to concert suites by Copland. Much of the music from Of Mice and Men used in his Music for Movies suite was scaled down and re-arranged for a more chamber-sized orchestra, often using friendlier keys. The Our Town Suite has become a mainstay for many orchestras. The published suite dated 1945 and dedicated to Leonard Bernstein originally given its première in June 1940 on the radio to promote the film by Howard Barlow and the Columbia Broadcasting Symphony. It incorporated more music from the original score.

Copland garnered a total of four Academy Award Nominations in 1940 and 1941 for these two scores. One for best original scoring, and one for best music score (regardless of author or genre). The only nominee to do so in both categories. Their impact on the ears of audiences and composers, both for film and concert stage, was deeply felt and lasts with us today. The uniquely American institution of Hollywood finally found a uniquely American voice. Mark Leneker

Click HERE for an interesting interview with the producer of these recordings

Of Mice and Men (1939)
1 Prelude and Titles 3:12
2 The Wood Scene 2:06
3 The Wood at Night 1:13
4 On the Ranch 1:53
5 Threshing Machine No. 1 0:42
6 Threshing Machine No. 2 1:10
7 Threshing Machine No. 3 1:11
8 Barley Wagons 1:42
9 Mae at Home 2:34
10 Death of Candy's Dog 3:08
11 Mae in the Barn 1:36
12 In the Bunkhouse 5:51
13 Preliminaries to Fight 1:19
14 The Fight 1:18
15 Death of Mae 2:54
16 George Determined 1:14
17 Near the Brush 3:40
18 Lennie's Death 2:17
19 End Title 0:30

Our Town (1940)
20 Main Title 2:12
21 Story of Our Town 2:06
22 Off to School 1:22
23 Introducing the Professor 0:54
24 Grover's Corners 0:56
25 Emily in Love 1:01
26 The Town at Night 5:00
27 The Letter 1:16
28 Grover's Corners Again 1:00
29 George and Emily 3:51
30 The Drugstore Scene 0:55
31 The Hill Top 5:29
32 The Crisis 1:30
33 Scene in the Cemetery 7:28
34 Emily's Dream 5:06
35 The Epilogue 1:53
36 Cast of Characters 0:39

Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Andrew Mogrelia