Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, under the direction of Erich Kunzel, turns in a nice set of performances of a group of Copland’s more “populist” compositions (pieces composed in his less challenging, tonal style). The Lincoln Portrait is the featured selection on this disc, and is one of Copland’s best-known and most widely performed and recorded compositions. For those unfamiliar with Copland’s musical tribute to the 16th president of the United States, the piece is a three part composition for standard orchestra and solo speaker. The speaker recites text selected by Copland from Abraham Lincoln’s letters and speeches, supported by Copland’s original music, which includes the interpolation and free use of two popular tunes of Lincoln’s time.

The speaker for this recording of Lincoln Portrait is the famous actress, Katherine Hepburn, whose shaky voice (due to age – almost 80 at the time of this recording- and tremors similar to those of Parkinson’s sufferers) made her a rather odd choice, an emphatic contrast to the stronger-voiced performers who have narrated the Portrait such as Henry Fonda, Charlton Heston, James Earl Jones, and dozens more. However, she gets through it quite nicely and her performance is all the more affecting and touching for her disability.

In addition to Hepburn, we get one set of the two-set Old American Songs, well sung by baritone Sherrill Milnes. The Old American Songs in question are folk songs and ballads chosen and assembled by Copland and arranged for singer and orchestra (initially for singer and piano, but later orchestrated). “Long Time Ago” is incredibly beautiful and is my personal favorite among the five songs in the first set. The fourth song, “Simple Gifts,” is the famous Shaker melody utilized by Copland in his famous ballet score, Apalachian Spring.

The balance of the CD sports several lesser-known but excellent Copland pieces for orchestra. These include The Promise of Living from Copland’s opera, The Tender Land and Jubilee Variations, which receives here its premier (and only, to my knowledge) recording. This is a delightful and very easy-to-listen-to disc with less-complex but highly enjoyable Copland music. Scoredaddy

1. John Henry: A Railroad Ballad for Orchestra (1940)
2. Lincoln Portrait (1942) Katherine Hepburn, speaker
3. The Promise of Living from The Tender Land (1954)
4. Old American Songs, Set 1: The Boatmen's Dance, The Dodger, Long Time Ago, Simple Gifts, I Bought Me (1950) Sherrill Milnes, baritone
5. Jubilee Variations (1945)
6. Ceremonial Fanfare (1969)
7. An Outdoor Overture (1938)

Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, conducted by Erich Kunzel
Recorded in Music Hall, Cincinnati Ohio USA on September 22, 1985 and September 15-16, 1986

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Here is an upgrade on a disc I had posted over one year ago. Originally posted in MP3 @320, it was the second CD presented on this blog and it has become the #1 most downloaded title here. These are magnificent recordings and dare I say, definitive versions of these signature compositions in Copland's oevre.

These are, of course, Aaron Copland's landmark works and are the pieces he is most remembered for. As stated above, Bernstein recorded what many beleive to be the definitive renditions of these compositions, although there are many, many other fine ones out there, a few of which have already been posted in these pages. Scoredaddy

Happy is the composer who has an advocate as passionate and talented as Leonard Bernstein. These Copland performances have been the preferred versions since they were first issued--better even than the composer's own, later recordings. Originally they were spread over two discs, but thanks to the extended playing time of the compact disc, you can now get all three great Copland ballets together, along with the ever popular Fanfare for the Common Man. Bernstein brings to this music the right sharpness of rhythm but also a typically open-hearted warmth. He coaxes a virtuoso response from the New York Philharmonic, which knows this music as well (or better) than anyone. Self- recommending. David Hurwitz

Fanfare for the Common Man (1942)
1. Molto deliberato (2:00)

Recorded at Philharmonic Hall, New York City, NY USA on February 16, 1966

Appalachian Spring - Suite (1943-1944)
2. Very Slowly (2:43)
3. Allegro (2:42
4. Moderato (3:52)
5. Fast (3:35)
6. Subito Allegro (3:44)
7. As At First (Slowly) (1:15)
8. Doppio movimento (6:45)

Recorded at Manhattan Center, New York City, NY USA on October 9, 1961

Rodeo – Four Dance Episodes (1942)
9. Buckaroo Holiday - Allegro con spirito (7:00)
10 Corral Nocturne - Moderato (4:02)
11. Saturday Night Waltz - Introduction - Slow Waltz (4:11)
12. Hoe-Down - Allegro (3:06)

Recorded at Manhattan Center, New York City, NY USA on May 2, 1960

Billy The Kid – Suite (1938)
13. Introduction. The Open Prairie (3:15)
14. Street In A Frontier Town (3:22)
15. Mexican Dance And Finale (2:01)
16. Prairie Night (Card Game At Night) (4:22)
17. Gun Battle (1:49)
18. Celebration (After Billy's Capture) (2:22)
19. Billy's Death (1:19)
20. The Open Prairie Again (1:47)

Recorded at the St. George Hotel, Brooklyn, NY USA on October 20, 1960

On all: New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Eduardo Mata's splendid recordings of Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3, Danzón Cubano, and El Salón México with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra are perennials in EMI's catalog, deservedly so for their remarkable energy, splendid orchestral color, sympathetic interpretations, and wide dynamic range. Mata's renderings of Copland's music -- whether brusque and angular, or smooth and serene -- feel natural, authentic, idiomatic, and as hardy as Leonard Bernstein's popular performances or Copland's own authoritative readings. Since fans still have their pick of their legendary versions on Sony, there is little reason to argue that Mata's recordings are in any way superior. However, they are perhaps equivalent in value, balancing both Bernstein's rawness and Copland's softer touch, and yet never sounding derivative or false. In a blindfold test, it might be difficult to distinguish Mata's recordings from either, so faithful is he to the scores and to their brash spirit.

Symphony No. 3 (1944-1946)
1. Molto moderato, with simple expression 11:00
2. Allegro molto 8:07
3. Andantino quasi allegretto 8:52
4. Molto deliberato 13:10

5. Danzon Cubano (1944) 7:50

6. El Salon Mexico (1933-1936) 10:45

Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eduardo Mata
Recorded at Cliff Temple Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas USA on May 13-14, 1986

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Here’s a change of pace for FANFARE FOR AARON COPLAND. Instead of the orchestral music Copland was most renowned for, we offer a survey of his compositions for solo piano, performed by the finest interpreter of this repertory.

Among the selections included is Copland's famous "Piano Fantasy," one of the most highly esteemed piano works of the 20th century on which the pianist, Leo Smit, does an excellent job on music not easy to play correctly.

This is daring music, usually challenging, but worth the investment in time that is necessary to fully appreciate these pieces. Scoredaddy

Most of this set was recorded for LP in 1978, but Leo Smit returned to the studios in 1993 to add some recently discovered short pieces. Smit, a friend of Copland and a composer himself, plays all of Copland's piano music with great comprehension. He sustains the flow throughout the difficult half-hour Piano Fantasy, though he doesn't create as much excitement in the Piano Variations as the composer did in 1935 on 78s (now on Pearl GEMM CD 9279). Much of Copland's piano music is occasional works or pieces for students, but the major works in the set make it well worth hearing. Leslie Gerber

Leo Smit (piano)

Disc 1
1 Scherzo Humoristique: The Cat and the Mouse (1920)
2 Piano Variations (1930)
3 In Evening Air (1966)
4 Passacaglia (1922)

Piano Sonata (1939-41)
5 I. Molto moderato
6 II. Vivace
7 III. Andante sostenuto

Two Piano Pieces (1982)
8 Midday Thoughts
9 Proclamation

Three Moods (1920-1921)
10 embittered
11 wistful
12 jazzy

Disc 2
1 Petite Portrait (1921)
2 Sentimental Melody (1926)
3 Piano Fantasy (1955-57)

Four Piano Blues (1926-48)
4 Freely Poetic (for Leo Smit)
5 Soft and Languid (for Andor Foldes)
6 Muted and Sensuous (for William Kapell)
7 With Bounce (for John Kirkpatrick)

8 Midsummer Nocturne (1947)
9 The Young Pioneers (1936)
10 Sunday Afternoon Music (1936)
11 Down A Country Lane (1962)
12 Night Thoughts (Homage to Ives) (1972)

Disc 1, #1,2,4,7 & disc 2, #3-12 were recorded at the Vanguard Studios, New York City in January, 1978

Disc 1, #3,8-12 & disc 2, #1-2 were recorded at Hit Factory, New York City on July 6, 1993

Friday, November 7, 2008


Aaron Copland made numerous recordings of his own music, including an extensive series for CBS during the 1960s and '70s, mostly with London orchestras. He was not an especially proficient conductor--consequently, the performances he conducted often lacked pace and rhythmic punch. His last recordings of his most popular scores have been reissued by Sony on an exceptionally well-remastered 3-CD set. These accounts do a good job of conveying the overall shape of the pieces, and they deliver telling characterizations of many episodes. Details emerge that are lost in some other accounts, and there is an appealing gentleness and sweetness to the approach. But the readings do not have as much grip as those of Bernstein and Slatkin, among others, and in spite of the authority they automatically possess, they are not necessarily preferable. Ted Libbey

If you want a prime collection of Copland's more accessible works, this is it. Yes, it's true that Bernstein's recordings of individual pieces are often bolder and livelier; but this set offers the composer's own authoritative view of his work, and for that reason alone it is priceless. In addition, it includes virtually all the orchestral pieces he composed during his "populist phase," from El Salon Mexico (1936) to the Clarinet Concerto (1948). You won't find some of these lesser-known gems, such as An Outdoor Overture (1938) or Letter from Home (1944, written--like Rhapsody in Blue--for Paul Whiteman), on typical single-disc Copland compilations. I'd even go so far as to claim this as one of the four indispensable compilations of American instrumental music from the first half of the twentieth century (the others on my list--in case anyone cares--are Joshua Rifkin playing Scott Joplin, Oscar Levant playing Gershwin, and the Blanton-Webster band recordings of Duke Ellington).

What amazing riches flowed from Copland's pen during the period covered by these three discs! Billy the Kid (1939), Quiet City (1940), Our Town (1940), Fanfare for the Common Man (1942), Rodeo (1942), Lincoln Portrait (1942), Appalachian Spring (1944), and the Third Symphony (1946)--all are here. Some of this music is so familiar, so deeply ingrained in America's cultural consciousness, that we might be tempted to take it for granted. But imagine how much poorer the American concert repertoire would be without it. It's almost impossible, at this point, to conceive of a time when this wonderful music--which is to America roughly what Mussorgsky's music is to Russia, Grieg's to Norway, and Falla's to Spain--didn't exist. It was during the dozen years covered by this collection that Copland pulled away from the pack of his talented contemporaries (Hanson, Thomson, Harris, etc.) and, in a way, but with greater technical sophistication, filled the void left by the tragically early death of Gershwin, whose heyday, 1924-1935, immediately preceded the composition of the works on this collection.

The ballet music is all presented here in the familiar orchestral suites Copland arranged. Most of the selections are played by the London Symphony Orchestra, although the New Philharmonia and the just-plain Philharmonia get cracks at a few key works. The last-named orchestra, for instance, takes on the biggest piece on the program, Copland's Third, the closest thing American music has to a Beethoven's Ninth (although the work's sublime rhetoric has never completely convinced me--it's neither my personal favorite by Copland nor my favorite American symphony . . . but it sure has its moments). In addition to the fine orchestral playing, another treat is that Henry Fonda narrates the Lincoln Portrait--an almost inevitable pick, given the virtually mythic way his acting style embodied the American spirit and the fact that he had portrayed the sixteenth president in John Ford's classic film Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).

The set concludes with what, over the years, has become my favorite work by Copland, the Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp, & Piano, written for and performed here by surely the last century's greatest clarinetist, Benny Goodman. This work effects a concise synthesis between Copland's mature style and his earlier jazz stylings from the 1920s; in addition, the searing eloquence of the opening slow movement seems to me the most profound lyrical writing Copland ever achieved. Stoltzman's recording, ironically enough, swings harder than the king of swing's, but this collaboration between the composer and the man who commissioned it is for the ages.

The only major "populist" scores written after the period this collection covers are the film scores to The Red Pony (1948) and The Heiress (1949). Both can be acquired on an essential Leonard Slatkin CD for RCA. And since this collection doesn't include chamber music, the great Violin Sonata (1943), a kind of more intimate counterpart to Appalachian Spring, will have to be sought elsewhere. (One good option is Gil Shaham/Andre Previn on DG.) A serious Copland collector will also want to grab the other two volumes of the Copland Collection itself. The early set features important works such as the Organ Symphony (1924), Music for the Theater (1925), and the Short Symphony (1932)--but both of the other collections also include long, thorny pieces like the early Symphonic Ode and the late Connotations that can be rather difficult for the average enthusiast to enjoy.

Most of the essential, universal Copland is to be found on this second installment of the Copland Collection, and I would definitely recommend it as the place to start exploring Copland's magnificent contribution to American music. It has been a wonderful and treasured companion of mine for many years, and it also serves to conjure up a timely and inspiring vision of open prairies, nocturnal cityscapes, and the populist, humane values that America should, ideally, epitomize. ADB

CD I (Total timing-73:00)

1. EL SALON MEXICO (1933-1936) (11:25)
New Philharmonia Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers; Engineered by Mike Ross-Trevor & Robert Gooch; Recorded at the EMI Studios, Landon, May 31, 1972)

2. AN OUTDOOR OVERTURE (1938) (8:57)
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Richard Killough & John McClure; Engineered by Hellmuth Kolbe & John Guerriere; Recorded at Walthamstow, London)

3. Introduction: The Open Prairie (3:22)
4. Street in a Frontier Town (6:37)
5. Prairie Night (Card Game at Night) (3:08)
6. Gun Battle (2:30)
7. Celebration (after Billy's Capture) (2: 13)
8. Billy's Death (1:28)
9. The Open Prairie Again (1:46)
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers; Engineered by Hellmuth Kolbe & Ed Michalski; Recorded at Walthamstow, London, November 28 & 29, 1969)

10. QUIET CITY (1940) (9:48)
William Lang, Trumpet• Michael Winfield, English Horn London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Richard Killough & John McClure; Engineered by Hellmuth Kolbe & John Guerriere; Recorded at Walthamstow, London, November 6, 1965)

11. JOHN HENRY (1940, revised 1952) (3:58)
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers' Engineered by Robert Gooch & Mike Rassirevor; Recorded at Walthamstow, London, October 26 & 29. 1968)

12. OUR TOWN (1940) (11:01)
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Richard Killough & John McClure; Engineered by Hellmuth Kolbe & John Guerriere; Recorded at Walthamstow, London, October 2 & 3, 1967)

13. LAS AGACHADAS (The Shake-down Song) (1942) (3:03)
(Lyrics: Spanish Traditional)
New England Conservatory Chorus (Lorna Cooke de Varon, Director)
(Produced by Richard Killough; Recorded at 30th Street Studio, New York City, March 29, 1965)

14. FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN (1942) (3:15)
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers & Richard Killough; Engineered by Raymond Moore, Hellmuth Kolbe & Robert Gooch; Recorded at Walthomstow, London, October 26 & 29, 1968)

CD 2 (Total timing- 77:02)

RODEO (Four Dance Episodes) (1942)
1. I-Buckaroo Holiday (7:44)
2. II-Corral Nocturne (3:46)
3. III-Saturday Night Waltz (4:41)
4. IV-Hoedown (3:31)
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers; Engineered by Hellmuth Kolbe & Ed Michalski; Recorded at Walthomstow, london, October 26,1968)

5. New England Countryside (from The City/ (6: 10)
6. Barley Wagons (from Of Mice and Men) (2:34)
7. Sunday Traffic (from The City) (2:42)
8. Grovers Corners (from Our Town) (3: 10)
9. Threshing Machines (from Of Mice and Men) (3:04)
New Philharmonia Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers; Engineered by Robert Gooch & Mike Ross Trevor; Recorded at EMI Studios, London, June 6, 1974)

APPALACHIAN SPRING (Suite from the Ballet) (1945)
10. Very slow (2:46)
11. Fast (3:03)
12. Moderato (3:37)
13. Fast (3: 30)
14. Still Faster (4:05)
15.As at first (slowly) (1:07)
16. Calm and Flowing (3:12)(Shaker tune: Simple Gifts)
17. Moderato; Coda (3:22)
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers & Richard Killough; Engineered by Raymond Moore, Hellmuth Kolbe & Robert Gooch; Recorded at EMI Studios, london, November 9 & 10, 1970)

18. LETTER FROM HOME (1943-1944) (7:20)
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers; Engineered by Robert Gooch & Mike Ross Trevor; Recorded at Wolthomstow, london, October 26,1968)

19. DANZON CUBANO (Orchestral Version) (1944) (7:11)
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers; Engineered by Mike Ross Trevor & Robert Gooch; Recorded at EMI Studios, London, November 9 & 10, 1970)

CD 3 (Total timing-76:01)

1. Lento (4:17)
2. Subito allegro (3:29)
3. "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history .... " (7:18)
Henry Fonda, Narrator
London Symphony Orchestra
(Produced by Paul Myers & Richard Killough; Engineered by Raymond Moore, Hellmuth Kolbe & Robert Gooch; Orchestral portion recorded at Wolthomstow, London, October 26 & 29, 1968; Narration was recorded in New York, June 7, 1971)

SYMPHONY NO.3 (1944-1946)
4. I-Molto moderato-with simple expression (10:20)
5. II-Allegro molto (8:46)
6. III-Andantino quasi allegretto (9:55)
7. IV-Molto deliberato (14:45)
Philharmonia Orchestra
(Produced by Roy Emerson; Engineered by Mike Sheody & Mike Ross Trevor; Recorded at EMI Studios, London, October 22 & 24, 1976)

Benny Goodman, Clarinet
Laura Newell, Harp
Abba Bogin, Piano
Columbia Symphony Strings
(Produced by John McClure; Recorded at Manhattan Center, New York City, February 20, 1963)


Saturday, November 1, 2008


Davies and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s have recorded a number of discs dedicated to Copland’s work. I like this one the best, especially their version of Quiet City, which comes off quite beautifully.

Dennis Russell Davies is a noted champion of living composers and modern music including Hans Werner Henze, William Bolcom, Lou Harrison, Alan Hovhaness, John Cage, Philip Glass, Giya Kancheli, Arvo Pärt, Virgil Thomson, and Aaron Copland. He has commissioned, premiered and recorded numerous pieces by living composers, along with the standard classical works. Of note are the recordings of Copland's Appalachian Spring with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in 1979 for which he won a Grammy Award; Arvo Pärt Fratres and Miserere; and many of Philip Glass's operas and symphonies including his 5th symphony which is dedicated to Davies. Lou Harrison's 3rd Symphony is also dedicated to Davies.

Upon the discs release in 1989, the New York Times called these performances “sharply articulated, lean-textured readings.” I would have to agree. They have a small, chamber feeling to them, very transparent and spare. To me, this is how Copland’s music sounds best, especially of these small-scale pieces. They are delicate and can easily be overwhelmed by overzealous forces.

William Blount acquits himself very well on the Clarinet Concerto, a piece commissioned and first performed by jazz bandleader Benny Goodman. Blount is a New York musician who has performed Copland’s concerto hundreds of times. His familiarity with the work is pleasingly obvious when listening to this recording.

Music For The Theatre (1925)
1. Prologue (6:09)
2. Dance (3:16)
3. Interlude (5:43)
4. Burlesque (3:15)
5. Epilogue (3:50)

6. Quiet City (1940) (10:02)

Music For Movies (1943)
7. New England Countryside (6:02)
8. Barley Wagons (2:24)
9. Sunday Traffic (2:28)
10 The Story Of Grover's Corners (3:05)
11. Threshing Machines (2:58)

12. Clarinet Concerto (1948) (16:36)

Dennis Russell Davies conducting Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
William Blount, clarinet on #12
Recorded in 1988

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Copland did not compose an extensive repertory of choral music but this is a pleasant sampling which includes the then-premier recordings of Four Motets and Canticle of Freedom composed in 1921 and 1955 respectively.

The more widely-known Old American Songs was originally assembled by Copland for voice and piano and later set for voice and orchestra by the composer. The choral version of Old American Songs was arranged by Irving Fine, Raymond Wilding-White, and Glenn Koponen.

Michael Tilson Thomas has long been an able interpreter of Aaron Copland's works and, in fact, was hand-selected by the composer himself to conduct the chorus for these recordings. Copland had originally planned to handle the conducting chores himself but was too ill to participate.

Background information on this recording can be found in the scanned liner notes contained in the download. For a history and analysis of these compositions, see the comments.

Old American Songs, Set I (1950)
1. The Boatmen's Dance 3:03
2. The Dodger 2:05
3. Long Time Ago 3:10
4. Simple Gifts 1:21
5. I Bought Me A Cat 2:12

Old American Songs, Set II (1952)
6. The Little Horses 3:11
7. Zion's Walls 1:44
8. The Golden Willow Tree 3:20
9. At The River 2:43
10. Ching-A-Ring Chaw 1:33

11. Canticle Of Freedom (1955) 13:46

Four Motets (1921)
12. Help Us, O Lord 2:50
13. Thou, O Jehovah, Abideth Forever 2:29
14. Have Mercy On Us, O My Lord 4:11
15. Sing Ye Praises To Our King 1:41

Recorded in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah in 1986

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


When one thinks of pure musical "Americana", most likely the name Aaron Copland comes to mind. One of the perennial American composers, his music undoubtedly shaped the way we think of American music - and film scoring. While he only scored 10 films, he was nominated for three Academy Awards and won an Oscar for The Heiress. Many people might think of his "Fanfare for the Common Man" or "Appalachian Spring" concert works, and others might think of Of Mice and Men and Our Town for his film scores. "Celluloid Copland" is a new compilation album that has been released which covers four more Copland projects: From Sorcery to Science, The City, The Cummington Story, and The North Star.

From Sorcery to Science was actually a puppet show at the Hall of Pharmacy at the 1939 World's Fair. While basically an infomercial (as most things were at the fair), Copland's music quickly bounced around different world styles, yet somehow remained American at its core. With a triumphant brass "Opening Fanfare", the show began. "The Chinese Medicine Man" and "African Voodoo" use ethnic percussion and scoring, and feel Chinese and African in style, but the tunes themselves are pure Copland. "Finale: The March of the Americas" is a glorious cue full of proud glory and beaming pride: medicine will help us all!

The City was a short documentary done in 1939. The film begins by showing the differences between an idyllic small New England town and a dirty grimy industrial city, where everyone is miserable ("The Steel Mill", "Sorrow of the City"). The main unifying theme is lyrical and complex; it reminds me of something that John Williams would be writing today. The excitement builds a little bit at "Fire Engines at Lunch Hour", where a whistle is put to good effect, along with a tense orchestra, and plenty of Americana. "End Title: The Children" is another fanfare moment, done in the classic Copland style. It's because of his work on this film that he ended up composing Of Mice and Men, and his sporadic (and somewhat short) Hollywood career began.

A suite from The Cummington Story is presented on this album as well. A tender and emotional piece, the documentary follows war refugees as they begin new lives in a small Massachusetts town. This is a great suite of music, and the arrangement by conductor Jonathan Sheffer did a wonderful job keeping the music flowing.

The final suite on the album is from The North Star. A World War II film actually written during WWII, it depicted the Nazi's savage attack on a Russian village. The ending wasn't very upbeat, so famed lyricist Ira Gershwin was brought in to help lighten the atmosphere to send "a cheery message of hope". Here Copland moved away from Americana, and tackled a more Russian style. "Main Title" is a good overall cue, giving you a taste of things to come. The sad, melancholy orchestra in "Death of the School Boy" lead up to the exciting "Song of the Guerillas". Featuring Gershwin's lyrics, Copland's main fanfare is brought to life with depth and complexity. It's an excellent track, and leads directly into the battle suite, contained in "North Star Battle", "The Children's Return" and "Guerilla's Return". Here Copland shows his flare for action cues, with fast moving strings and brass mixed with percussion hits. Stylically similar to some of Prokofiev's music in Alexander Nevsky, this suite is dramatic and exciting - and pretty different from the rest of the music on the album.

The performances by the Eos Orchestra, under the baton of Jonathan Sheffer are quite good, and the sound quality is excellent. This Telarc release has a running time of just about an hour, and for those out there who have very little exposure to Aaron Copland's music, I would have to strongly urge you pick it up. While it may not compare to some of his more "classic" film scores such as Our Town or The Red Pony, this is a great album to have, and I'm sure anyone who gets it will not be disappointed. Dan Goldwasser

From Sorcery to Science (1939)
1. Opening Fanfare 0:10
2. The Chinese Medicine Man 1:44
3. The Witch's Cauldron 1:50
4. The Alchemist 1:23
5. African Voodoo 1:37
6. The Modern Pharmacy 1:08
7. Finale: March of the Americas 1:59

The City (Suite) (1939)
8. Main Title: New England Countryside 4:42
9. The Steel Mill 2:20
10. The Sorrow of the City 2:44
11. Fire Engines at Lunch Hour 2:13
12. Taxi Jam 1:55
13. Sunday Traffic 2:45
14. The New City 4:10
15. End Tite: The Children 1:04

16. The Cummington Story (Suite) (1945) 9:55

The North Star (Suite) (1943)
17. Main Title 2:17
18. Death of the Little Boy 2:13
19. Going To School 1:50
20. Damian is Blind 2:55
21. Song of the Guerrillas 1:11
22. North Star Battle 1:42
23. The Children's Return 1:03
24. Guerillas Return 1:51
25. Leaving the Village 2:16

Jonathan Sheffer conducting the Eos Orchestra
Recorded March 15-20, 2000 at The Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, Purchase, NY USA

Saturday, October 11, 2008


"Louis Lane and the Atlanta Symphony offer fine performances and remain at the head of the pack for uncompromising audiophile sound." - Fanfare

The Lane/Atlanta SO recording comprises three of Copland’s best-known works, and is a decent, if unspectacular, introduction to his works. Some years ago I would have said that "A Fanfare for the Common Man" is Copland’s most famous work. It was written on commission by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; ten composers were commissioned to write patriotic fanfares to "foster patriotic spirit" during World War II. Copland’s is the only of these fanfares to survive in the repertory (although I’ve always wanted to hear the others; I wonder if they’re recorded anywhere). The "Fanfare" opens with a mighty pounding of the drum, followed by a breathtaking trumpet theme which is then expanded by the rest of the brass. The "Fanfare" demands spectacular sound, but to my ears the Louis Lane/Atlanta Symphony recording here is a bit muted and flat, which is curious given that Telarc Digital recordings tend to the "spectacular" side. The other works on the disc fare better: the "Appalachian Spring" and "Rodeo: Four Dance" "Episodes" are well-done, with the sound opening up a bit. Conductor Lane gives the inner movements of "Rodeo" a nice lilt, and the "Buckaroo Holiday" is also well-shaped. I do think that he takes the "Hoe-Down" (which, thanks to the long-running advertising campaign for American beef, is now indisputably the most well-known of all of Copland’s works) a bit too fast. The Atlanta players, particularly the brass, keep up quite well, but some of this music’s charm is lost in Lane’s trip to the races. His "Appalachian Spring" is also brisk, which tends to keep the score’s most dramatic segments from achieving their true potential. But it, too, is well-played by the orchestra.

This spectacular recording, recorded in 1981 and released in 1982, won kudos from the critics for both sound and performance. One of the earliest available CDs, it was known to audiophiles the world over for the stunning clarity and sound of its opening track, containing Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

1. Fanfare For The Common Man (1942) 3:20

Rodeo, Ballet Suite (1942)
2. Buckaroo Holiday (7:21)
3. Rodeo - Corral Nocturne (3:42)
4. Rodeo - Saturday Night Waltz (4:05)
5. Rodeo - Hoe Down (3:15)

6. Appalachian Spring, Ballet Suite (1943-44) 22:25

Louis Lane conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Recorded at Atlanta Symphony Hall, Atlanta, GA USA on May 24, 1982

Monday, September 22, 2008


This blog is poised to return in early October. Upon its return, FANFARE FOR AARON COPLAND will be upgraded to FLAC. FLAC is a lossless codec which allows more judicious compression, resulting in larger files than MP3 but vastly improved sonics. All new posts will be done in FLAC while previously posted items will gradually be upgraded to the superior format. See you soon!

Sunday, August 31, 2008


For those who may be wondering, updates to this blog WILL eventually resume. My family and I are relocating abroad (from USA to South America) and all my belongings, including CD's and computer equipment, are currently in an ocean container sailing southbound. It will be at least another month (end September) until I am up and running once again. Thank you for your patience...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Buster at Big 10-Inch Record was kind enough to lend me the use of this post, which originally appeared on his fascinating blog. I urge everyone to spend some time browsing through and sampling his eclectic collection. Please see the link to his blog below.

Here are Buster's notes from his original post:
Aaron Copland made several records of his own music as a conductor, but only a few as a pianist. Even in this, he only participates in Danzon Cubano. The leading player throughout is Leo Smit, something of a Copland specialist. The selections from Our Town are familiar from the orchestral score. These piano versions are superb. The real find (to me) is the set of Three Blues. In their simplicity and tone, they are reminiscent of Gershwin's Three Preludes. In this piece and the other items, Copland's debt to Satie is apparent.

This was an early 10-inch LP on the Concert Hall label. I've never seen a reissue of it - strange considering Copland's popularity.

I met Copland once a long time ago at a master class. I remember he was mildly critical of one of the student's compositions. The young composer, I heard later, was devastated. Buster

Big 10-Inch Record can be found here: http://big10inchrecord.blogspot.com/

1. Danzon Cubano Suite (transcribed for two pianos) 6:40

2. Three Blues (4:25

"Our Town" Suite
3. Story of Our Town (3:19)
4. Conversation at the Soda Fountain (2:24)
5. Resting Place on the Hill (3:52)

Aaron Copland & Leo Smit (pianos) on track #1
Leo Smit, Solo Piano on all other selections

Friday, May 16, 2008


Two of the pieces on this splendid collection received their premier recordings: the ballet scores Grohg and Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Both are rich, rigorous works and are wonderfully interpreted by these first-tier orchestras under the direction of Oliver Knussen. The third piece, Prelude For Chamber Orchestra, is actually Copland's rearrangement of his Organ Symphony's first movement. Scoredaddy

This music is hardly recognizable as that of America's greatest composer of ballet music. These are very early works of a composer fresh from Europe and from studying under Nadia Boulanger, who taught Copland to rely on folk sources for his music. This, for Copland, meant jazz. Grohg (written in 1922-25, revised in 1935) was Copland's first orchestral work, inspired by the German film Nosferatu, about a sorcerer bringing corpses alive to dance for his pleasure. If the only Copland you're interested in is the one who wrote Appalachian Spring, then this isn't for you. Still, the music is engaging and instructive. Paul Cook

Grohg - Ballet in One act (1922-25, revised 1932)
1. Introduction, Cortège and Entrance of Grohg 7:40
2. Dance of the Adolescent 6:27
4. Dance of the Streetwalker 3:42
5. Grohg imagines the Dead are mocking him 4:41
6. Illumination and Disappearance of Grohg 1:59

7. Prelude for chamber orchestra 6:04 (1924, arranged 1934)

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! - Ballet in One act (1934, version for small orchestra, 1935)
8. Scene i (Prelude) 1:36
9. Scenes ii-iv (The Courtroom; Dance of the Prosecuting Attorney; Danse of the Defense Attorney; Quarrel) 4:48
10. Scene v (The Nightclub hostess sworn in) 0:47
11. Scene vi (The Chorus-girls' first dance) 3:31
12. Scene vii (First Pas-de-deux) 2:49
13. Scene viii (Pas-de-deux continued; First murder) 2:54
14. Scenes ix-x (The Courtroom); The Noneymoon Couple sworn in) 1:30
15. Scene xi (The Chorus-girls' dance with doves) 2:18
16. Scene xii (Second Pas-de-deux with murder) 3:45
17. Scenes xiii-xiv (The Courtroom; the Waiter is sworn in) 1:24
18. Scene xv (The Chorus-girls' third dance) 1:29
19. Scene xvi (Third Pas-de-deux and Murder) 3:24
20. Scenes xvii-xviii (The Verdict; The Courtroom) 1:57

Grohg performed by the Cleveland Orchestra ; other selections performed by the London Sinfonietta. All works conducted by Oliver Knussen.

Grohg was recorded in Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio on May 3, 1993. Other selections were recorded in Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, UK on June 29-30, 1993

Thursday, January 24, 2008


We follow here with an essential collection featuring many of Aaron Copland's most important chamber and vocal works. Also present is one of the most famous (and some think best) interpretations of Copland's landmark LINCOLN PORTRAIT with an interesting turn on the narration by poet Carl Sandburg. His approach is unique and is radically different from any performance I've heard elsewhere. The orchestra is directed by Andre Kostelanetz, who had originally commissioned the work from Copland and conducted its debut performance in 1942.

Both sets of OLD AMERICAN SONGS are sung on this recording by William Warfield, who gave the U.S. premier performances with Copland on the piano as well. These were later set by Copland for voice and orchestra. TWELEVE POEMS OF EMILY DICKENSON is Copland's major contribution to setting poetry to music, a brilliant song cycle and his most significant vocal work. This is Copland's early recording of the work with mezzo-soprano Martha Lipton. He later rerecorded the cycle with Adele Addison.

The chamber pieces are facinating, especially his early VITEBSK for piano, cello, and violin. All are quite modern in feeling, marked by spiky motifs and complex rhythmic structures. The collection closes with Oscar Levant at the piano with some excerpts from BILLY THE KID, as arranged for solo piano by composer Lukas Foss.


1. Vitebsk, Study On A Jewish Theme (1929)

Aaron Copland (piano)
Earl Carlyss (violin)
Claus Adam (cello)
Recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio, New York City, NY on October 28, 1966

Sextet For Clarinet, Piano And String Quartet (1937)
2. I. Allegro vivace
3. II. Lento
4. III. Finale

Aaron Copland (piano)
Harold Wright (clarinet)
Julliard String Quartet:
Robert Mann (violin)
Raphael Hiller (viola)
Earl Carlyss (violin)
Claus Adam (cello)
Recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio, New York City, NY on October 27, 1966

Piano Quartet (1950)
5. I. Adagio serio
6. II. Allegro giusto
7. III. Non troppo lento

Aaron Copland (piano)
Robert Mann (violin)
Raphael Hiller (viola)
Claus Adam (cello)
Recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio, New York City, NY on October 28, 1966

Duo For Flute And Piano (1970-71)
8. I. Flowing
9. II. Poetic, Somewhat Mournful
10. III. Lively, With Bounce

Aaron Copland (piano)
Elaine Shaffer (flute)
Recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio on December 11&14, 1972


1. Lincoln Portrait (1942)

The New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andre Kostelanetz.
Carl Sandburg (narrator)
Recorded in New York City, NY on March 16, 1958

Twelve Poems Of Emily Dickinson (1949-50)
2. I. Nature, The Greatest Mother
3. II. There Came A Wind Like A Bugle
4. III. Why Do They Shut Me Out Of Heaven?
5. The World Feels Dusty
6. V. Heart, We Will Forget Him
7. VI. Dear March, Come In!
8. VII. Sleep Is Supposed To Be
9. VIII. When They Come Back
10. IX. I Felt A Funeral In My Brain
11. X. I've Heard An Organ Talk Sometimes
12. XI. Going To Heaven!
13. XII. The Chariot

Martha Lipton (voice)
Aaron Copland (piano)
Recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio, New York City, NY on December 22, 1950 and April 4, 1952

Old American Songs -Set 1 (1950)
14. The Boatmen's Dance (Minstrel Song, 1843)
15. The Dodger (Campaign Song)
16. Long Time Ago
17. Simple Gifts (Shaker Song)
18. I Bought Me A Cat

Old American Songs -Set 2 (1952)
19. The Little Horses (Lullaby)
20. Zion's Walls (Revivalist Song)
21. The Golden Willow Tree
22. At The River (Hymn Tune)
23. Ching-A-Ring Chaw (Minstrel Song)

William Warfield (voice)
Aaron Copland (piano)
Recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio, New York City, NY on August 16, 1951 (Set 1) and August 18, 1953 (Set 2)

Billy The Kid 1938)
24. I. The Open Prairie
25. II. Street In A Frontier Town
26. V. Celebration Dance (After Billy's Capture)

Oscar Levant (piano)
Recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio, New York City, NY on September 1, 1949

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Here is a two-disc collection released in 1991 of late works for orchestra, most of them composed during Copland’s final productive years.

Some of these pieces were composed for other mediums and were adapted by Copland for orchestra. Orchestral Variations and Down A Country Lane were both written for solo piano while the suites The Red Pony and Music For A Great City were adapted from motion picture scores.

This is a near-perfect anthology of Copland’s latter day output. Please see comments for full details on many of the works.

Disc: 1

The Red Pony, Film Suite For Orchestra (1948)
1. I. Morning On The Ranch
2. II. The Gift
3. III. Dream March And Circus Music
4. IV. Walk To The Bunkhouse
5. V. Grandfather's Story
6. VI. Happy Ending

7. Preamble For A Solemn Occasion (1949): Preamble For A Solemn Occasion

Orchestral Variations (1957)
8. Theme: Grave
9. Variation I - Varation XX
10. Coda: Subito lento moderato

Dance Panels (1959, Revised 1962) (Ballet In Seven Sections)
11. I. Introduction: Moderato (Tempo di Valzer); Espressivo un poco rubato
12. II. Allegretto con tenerezza (un poco rubato)
13. III. Scherzando; Moderato
14. IV. Pas de trois. Lento
15. V. Con brio
16. VI. Con moto
17. VII. Molto ritmico; Coda; come prima; Moderato

London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Aaron Copland except 1-6, New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Aaron Copland

1-6 Recorded at EMI Studios, London on May 31, 1972; 7 Recorded at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London on June 14, 1964; 8-10 Recorded at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London on October 26, 1968; 11-17 Recorded at EMI Studios, London on FRebruary 12 & November 29, 1969

Disc: 2

1. Connotations (1961-1962) For Orchestra

2. Down A Country Lane (1962)

Music For A Great City (1963-1964):
3. I. Skyline
4. II. Night Thoughts
5. III. Subway Jam
6. IV. Toward The Bridge

7. Inscape (1967)

Three Latin-American Sketches
8. Estribillo (1971)
9. Paisaje Mexicano (1959)
10. Danza de Jalisco (1959)

London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Aaron Copland except 1 & 7 New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein and 8-10 New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Aaron Copland.

1 Recorded at Philharmonic Hall on September 23, 1962; 2 Recorded at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London on October 26, 1968; 3-6 Recorded at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London on June 13-14, 1964; 7 Recorded at Philharmonic Hall on October 17, 1967; 8-10 Recorded at EMI Studios, London on June 1, 1972