Saturday, September 1, 2018

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.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

THE TENDER LAND (AN OPERA IN THREE ACTS)

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Aaron Copland didn't have the theatrical instinct of a George Gershwin or even a Gian Carlo Menotti, but that didn't keep him from writing one of the best operas we have in the "American" vein. The Tender Land was composed in 1953 on a commission from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II--who since the premiere of Oklahoma! 10 years earlier could afford such largesse--and received its premiere on April 1, 1954 at the City Center in New York. Concerning a girl transformed into a young woman by her first experience of love, The Tender Land is set in the American Midwest during the 1930s. The libretto by Horace Everett (a pseudonym of Erik Johns) was inspired by photographs taken by Walker Evans of a rural, Depression-era mother and her daughter that had appeared in James Agee's book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

The music is cut from the same cloth as that of Appalachian Spring--the melodic, easygoing, folkish vein that Copland could manage about as easily as breathing. Lightly scored (calling for winds and brass in twos) and with spoken dialogue in the style of the musical stage, the score has come to be regarded as one of Copland's finest, as he himself believed it to be. You couldn't get a more authentic cast than the one heard here, consisting entirely of good American singers whose delivery is appropriately nonoperatic, and including Minnesota native Elisabeth Comeaux in the central role of Laurie. Philip Brunelle leads the forces of the Minnesota-based Plymouth Music Series in an idiomatic if slightly underpowered performance that comes from the Heartland and goes straight to the heart. Ted Libbey
Although the folk-tinged ballet scores that made Copland the quintessential American composer of the early 1940's are outside the scope of this selection, he worked along similar lines well into the 50's. ''The Tender Land,'' his 1956 opera about a girl's coming of age on a Midwest farm, is the culmination of this style, offering both the orchestral warmth and evocativeness of ''Appalachian Spring'' and the homey vocal writing of ''Old American Songs.'' Its attractions include a gorgeous quintet (''The promise of living''), an infectious barn dance (''Stomp your foot'') and a touching finale. The Brunelle recording, with Elisabeth Comeaux as Laurie and Dan Dressen as Martin, does the score full justice. Allan Kozinn


Disc: 11. The Tender Land: Prelude
2. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 1: The Front Yard Of The Moss Home
3. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 1: 'Two Little Bits Of Metal'
4. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 1: The Arrival Of The Postman
5. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 2: Opening The Package
6. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 2: 'This Is Like The Dress I Never Had'
7. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 2: Dance And Exit
8. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 3: Laurie's Entrance: 'Once I Thought I'd Never Grow
9. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 3: Ma's Entrance
10. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 3: 'Remember The Boy That Used To Call'; Ma's Exit
11. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 4: Entrance Of Martin And Top
12. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 4: Martin And Top Enter The Farmyard
13. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 4: Duet: 'We've Been North'
14. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 4: Grandpa Meets The Boys
15. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 4: Trio: 'A Stranger May Seem Strange That's True'
16. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 4: Interlude - Martin And Top Make Horseplay
17. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 5: The Invitation
18. The Tender Land: Act One, Scene 5: Quintet - 'The Promise Of Living'
CD1 Duration: 42:23
Disc: 21. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 1: The Graduation Eve Supper
2. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 1: The Supper Ends
3. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 1: Grandpa's Toast: 'Try Makin' Peace'
4. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 1: Laurie's reply: 'Thank You, Thank You All'
5. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 1: The Invitaition To Dance
6. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 1: The Dance: 'Stomp Your Foot Upon The Floor'
7. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 2: Dance Music And Dialogue
8. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 3: Party Music Back In The House
9. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 3: Top's Song: 'Oh, I Was Goin' A-Courtin'
10. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 3: The Dancing Resumes
11. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 3: Duet: 'You Dance Real Well'
12. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 3: 'Laurie...You Know, Laurie'
13. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 3: Duet: 'In Love? In Love?'
14. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 3: 'The Tender Land'
15. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 4: Grandpa's Confrontation
16. The Tender Land: Act 2, Scene 4: Party Farewell
17. The Tender Land: Act Three: Introduction
18. The Tender Land: Act Three, Scene 1: Entr'acte
19. The Tender Land: Act Three, Scene 1: Duet: 'Laurie, Laurie...'
20. The Tender Land: Act Three, Scene 1: Martin Alone: 'Daylight Will Come In Such Short TIme'
21. The Tender Land: Act Three, Scene 1: Dialogue
22. The Tender Land: Act Three, Scene 1: Top's Aria: 'That's Crazy' And Exit Of Martin And Top'
23. The Tender Land: Act Three, Scene 2: Interlude: Daybreak
24. The Tender Land: Act Three, Scene 2: 'The Sun Is Coming Up'
25. The Tender Land: Act Three, Scene 2: Laurie's Farewell
26. The Tender Land: Act Three, Scene 2: 'All Thinking's Done'
CD2 Duration: 64:12

Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of The Plymouth Music Series Minnesota, directed by Philip Brunelle
Recorded October, 1989 at Ordway Music Theatre, St Paul, Minnesota

Friday, May 20, 2016

THE HEIRESS: ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK

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Hello Friends: Today we have a real treat, courtesy of some generous online friends. I have obtained the kind permission of Southview212 to share with you the never-before-released original tracks from Copland's THE HEIRESS score. Please keep in mind that these are rough-sounding recordings taken from the original acetates. They were never intended for release and they are encoded @320kbps, MP3.

There are 14 untitled tracks, approximately 26 minutes of music. Aside from an eight-minute suite recorded by Leonard Slatkin and The St. Louis Symphony (available here on this blog), this is the only existing source (that I am aware of) of this score, which is truly in need of a complete restoration and recording.

Thanks also to my friend Jean for allowing me to utilize the "cover art" he designed for this THE HEIRESS. enjoy! Scoredaddy

For a well-researched article on this music, please read "You Have Cheated Me”: Aaron Copland’s Compromised Score to The Heiress which was published in Film Score Monthly May/June 2005. Written by James Lochner http://www.filmscoreclicktrack.com/2009/03/14/you-have-cheated-me/

LEONARD BERNSTEIN/NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC: THE SECOND HURRICANE

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Apparently, the Bernstein Century aims to issue every scrap Bernstein recorded for Columbia. Although this will prove invaluable for archivists and fanatics (myself included), Bernstein's wide range of activity produced some pretty marginal stuff. The Second Hurricane was written in 1936 for a high school performance (directed by Orson Welles!) but the painfully trite libretto seems more like one of those grade-school pageants that charm doting parents while their little Jimmy or Suzie is up on the stage, but otherwise is pretty grim. Copland's music, though, is full of fine, unpretentious touches. The dozen musical numbers begin each of the CD tracks, so you can skip most of the stilted dramatic interludes; otherwise, the overall effect is pretty doleful. In the Beginning is a colorful but reverent a cappella setting of scripture, written for the Robert Shaw Chorale in 1947.

A mono recording, one that hasn't been released until now, is that of Copland's In the Beginning. This is an attractive a cappella work with texts based on the book of Genesis, and it's hard to say why the present recording sat in the can so long. Perhaps it's because the sound is a little muddy, even by 1953 standards. I can't hear any gross deficiencies in the performance, and Lipton is a good singer with clear diction. Furthermore, this is a rare opportunity to hear Bernstein in the role of a choral conductor. The Second Hurricane dates from the Depression era; its first director was Orson Welles. It's a school opera, and in that way it reminds me of Britten's Let's Make an Opera! and Noye's Fludde. It's mostly on that level, musically speaking. The story concerns six high school heroes, their worried parents, and their friends. The heroes have been sent to a hurricane-stricken area to provide disaster relief. (When was FEMA founded?) On the way, their plane develops difficulties, and they are stranded on a hill while the pilot flies off in search of mechanical help. Frustrated and scared, they begin to quarrel, and it's only the threat of a second hurricane that pulls them together. Eventually, they are rescued, and there is the requisite happy ending. Bernstein is the avuncular narrator, and he keeps the action flowing. (Together, the two acts last barely more than 45 minutes.) The young people of the High School of Music and Art carry out their solo and ensemble duties with maturity. There are no texts, but you'll be able to understand the words anyway. The 1960-vintage sound is excellent.

1. In The Beginning (1947)
Martha Lipton, mezzo-soprano with Chorus Pro Musica

The Second Hurricane (A Play Opera in Two Acts) 1936
2. Choral Overture
3. We Don't Know, We Don't Know
4. What's Happened, Where Are They?
5. Gyp's Song
6. How Childish They Are
7. Like A Giant Bomb
8. Introduction
9. Two Willow Hill
10. Sextet
11. Jeff's Song
12. Queenie's Song
13. The Capture Of Burgoyne
14. Finale
Soloists & Chorus of the High School of Music and Art, New York City
Leonard Bernstein, narrator

New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein

#1 was recorded on May 27, 1953 in New York City, NY; all others recorded on April 3, 1960 at the Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York City, NY




Sunday, September 13, 2015

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

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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

Sunday, July 19, 2015

LEONARD SLATKIN/ST. LOUIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: MUSIC FOR FILMS

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There comes a time when you just have to grow up and face the fact that Aaron Copland really was the great American composer of the twentieth century. Everyone knows his music and everyone loves his music. And the more Copland you listen to, the better he gets. Even his film scores have great stuff in them. The big tunes, the populist rhetoric, the brilliant orchestral colors, and the sense of awe and transcendence that are the hallmarks of his best music can be heard in his film music.

In this recording by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Copland's film music gets the full Technicolor treatment. Their music from The Red Pony has its humor, grandeur, and an aching lyricism. Their suite from Our Town has its stoicism and its romanticism. The suite from The Heiress has its pathos and irony. Their Music for Movies has its bathos and bombast. And their closing #Prairie Journal has its epic scope and occasionally trivial tunes. Slatkin leads with energy and conviction. The St. Louis plays with subtleness and strength. RCA's early-'90s digital sound is warm and rich and full. ~ James Leonard

An unmissable Copland collection. Though the front cover bears the title "Music for Films", the earliest offering here was written in 1936 following a commission from the CBS radio network. Music for Radio (also known as Saga of the Prairies or Prairie Journal) was one of Copland's first conscious efforts to attain a greater simplicity of utterance and stronger melodic appeal, and its clean-cut, out-of-doors demeanour is relished to the full by these performers. Copland wrote eight film scores in all, the first three of which—The City (1939), Of Mice and Men (1939) and Our Town (1940)—formed the basis for his 1943 concert suite, Music for Movies. Slatkin gauges the differing moods of each of the five tableaux with unerring perception and the playing of his St Louis group easily scores over Copland's New Philharmonia (on a three-disc set) in terms of infectious panache and memorable poise.

Perhaps Copland's most enduring achievement in this particular field remains his 1948 score for The Red Pony. Again, the new performance is all one could wish, possessing a homespun delicacy ("The Gift"), infinitely touching affection ("Walk to the Bunkhouse") and poignant nostalgia ("Grandfather's Story") that really capture the imagination. There's real swagger, too, in the joyous "Happy Ending" number (such deliciously pointed trombones at 0'32"!) as well as a truly exhilarating sense of wide-screen spectacle. Indeed, neither rival production can match the present display: the composer's own recording is, in all truth, not untainted by a certain stiffness and the hard-edged recording now sounds uncomfortably dated, whilst Sedares's Phoenix account of the film score is just a touch cautious (and his hardworking strings are rather lacking in body and muscle as recorded).

In addition, Slatkin also gives us the heart-warmingly evocative concert suite Copland compiled from his score for Our Town (more easefully flowing than Copland's occasionally sticky LSO version), as well as a first commercial recording for Arnold Freed's idiomatic 1990 reconstruction of Copland's Academy Award-winning 1948 score for The Heiress, which happily restores the "Prelude" that director William Wyler rejected for the final print. With excitingly full-bodied Powell Hall sonics to match, this compilation is a winner all the way. AA

The Red Pony (1948) 23:15
1. Morning on the Ranch [4:30]
2. Gift [4:46]
3. Dream March [2:25]
4. Circus Music [1:43]
5. Walk to the Bunkhouse [2:37]
6. Grandfather's Story [3:41]
7. Happy Ending [3:01]

8. Our Town (1940) 9:05

9. Heiress Suite (1948) 8:06
Prelude/Catherine's Engagement/Cherry Red Dress/Depart

Music For The Movies (1943)
10. New England Countryside [5:11]
11. Barley Wagons [2:13]
12. Sunday Traffic [2:28]
13. Grovers Corners [2:20]
14. Threshing Machines [3:01]

15. Prairie Journal [Music for Radio] 1936 [11:20]

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin
Recorded November 22, 1991 and April 18, 1992 at Powell Symphony Hall, St. Louis, MO USA

Monday, April 20, 2015

ORPHEUS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA: APPALACHIAN SPRING, SHORT SYMPHONY, 3 LATIN AMERICAN SKETCHES, QUIET CITY

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Copland originally wrote ''Appalachian Spring'' for 13 instruments, all that could fit in the pit for the 1944 premiere of the Martha Graham ballet - a version he suppressed once the suite for full orchestra caught on. With his concise and rhythmically exciting ''Short Symphony'' (1933) he did something of the reverse; since it proved too difficult for many orchestras, he made a sextet setting, which we are likelier to encounter. Here are variants on both originals - the ''Spring'' Suite in a chamber orchestration (the 13 instruments plus extra strings), the symphony in a chamber orchestra reduction devised by Dennis Russell Davies - along with chamber orchestra renditions of ''Quiet City'' and ''Three Latin American Sketches.'' Orpheus plays with verve if not an especially original point of view. In DG's recording, close and striking, the ''Short Symphony'' is a real grabber. Mark Swed
With exceptionally vivid sound, bright and immediate, giving a realistic sense of presence, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra's collection makes for a very distinctive Copland record of four works in which the composer is at his most approachable. The version of Appalachian Spring recorded here is neither the usual orchestral suite nor the ballet version, but a combination of the two which I cannot remember hearing on record before. In this version, published in 1958, Copland simply makes the same cuts as in the orchestral suite, but keeps the light, transparent scoring of the 13-instrument ballet version, though on his authority the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra augment the string section. The result is a delight, with each instrument cleanly identifiable, underlining the wide-open-spaces freshness of Copland's inspiration. The rhythmic bite is sharpened with the prominent piano giving the texture a distinctive colouring. The extra strings add a degree of sweetness without inflation.

The scale of performance in the other works, too, is most winning. The jaggedly obvious Stravinskyan echoes in the first movement of the Short Symphony are underlined by the closeness of the performance. Though this work, written between 1931 and 1933, uses triple woodwind, horns, trumpets, piano and strings, the absence of heavy brass and percussion prompted the composer himself to suggest that it is ''an enlarged chamber orchestra''. That is just the impression that a performance on the Orpheus scale conveys, with the relatively intimate acoustic of the Performing Arts Center at New York State University, Purchase, concentrating the sound, adding to the impact, though without aggression.

The hushed musical city-scape of Quiet city on this scale may not be quite so mistily evocative as with a full orchestra, but the intensity is if anything even greater, particularly when the trumpet and cor anglais soloists are so characterful. The Three Latin American Sketches date from several decades later. The second and third were written for the 1959 Spoleto Festival, and in 1971 Copland added the first to make the present effective triptych of fast, slow, fast, with the Latin-American rhythms of the final ''Danza de Jalisco'' particularly catchy.

In all this music the cutting edge of Copland's invention is enhanced in performances as immaculately drilled as these. Though there is nothing heartless about them there is a consistent sense of corporate purposefulness, of live communication made the more intense by the realism of the recording. Edward Greenfield

1. Appalachian Spring: Suite (1944-1945) 25:26

Symphony No 2 "Short Symphony" (1932-1933)
2. I. Tempo = 144 (incisivo) 4:27
3. II. Tempo = circa 44 5:27
4. III. Tempo = 144 (preciso e ritmico) 5:46

5. Quiet City (1939) 9:26
Stephen Taylor (English Horn), Raymond Mase (Trumpet)

Three Latin American Sketches (1972)6. Estribillo 3:11
7. Paisaje Mexicano 3:30
8. Danza de Jalisco 3:39

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Recorded in March, 1988 at the Performing Arts Center, State University of New York, Purchase, NY USA