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


Scoredaddy said...

Connotations was one of the most exciting commissions of Copland's career: the featured premiere at a gala concert by Leonard Bernstein and; the New York Philharmonic inaugurating the orchestra's new home in Lincoln Center's Philharmonic (later Avery Fisher) Hall. Copland, who dedicated the score to Bernstein and the members of the Philharmonic clearly felt the need to write something special for the occasion and worked assiduously throughout 1961 and 1962 to get it done in time for the scheduled performance on September 23.
A sold-out crowd of about twenty-six hundred attended the ‘white-tie' gala; another thirty-five hundred gathered outside the new hall in order to glimpse the star-studded audience, which included First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Mayor Robert Wagner, U.N. General Secretary U Thant, and leading figures in the arts, from Rudolf Bing and Lucia Chase to Isaac Stern Merle Oberon. A number of prominent composers also turned up, including Samuel Barber, Henry Cowell, Roy Harris, Walter Piston, Richard Rodgers, William Schuman, and Roger Sessions. The evening's program presented the "Gloria" from Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Copland's Connotations on the first half, followed after intermission by Vaughan Williams's Serenade to Music and the first movement of Mahler's Eighth Symphony. The concert was televised and later broadcast nationwide.
In the tradition of the Symphonic Ode (1929) and the Third Symphony (1946), Copland composed for this august event the third and last of his orchestral works in the grand manner. Connotations in particular recalls the Ode, not merely because both are one-movement works lasting just under twenty minutes but because both feature intense strings, piercing winds, blaring brass, pounding percussion-in short, the same kind of hard-edged (as opposed to the Third Symphony's more exultant) look at contemporary life. In a program note for the premiere, Copland wrote, "After some consideration, I concluded that the classical masters would undoubtedly provide the festive and dedicatory tone appropriate to such an occasion. For my own part, I decided to compose a work that would bring to the opening exercise a contemporary note, expressing something of the tensions, aspirations and drama inherent in the world of today."
Also like the Ode, Connotations explores its basic idea-here a twelve tone row (specifically, three four-note harmonies) in a series of alternating fast and slow sections, thereby creating a complex variation form related as well to the Piano Variations. (Connotations even contains a prominent motive strongly reminiscent of that piano piece.) Its title, according to the composer, refers both to the music's "primary meaning" (namely, the tone row) and its "subsequent treatment," which "seeks out other implications-connotations that come in a flash or connotations that I might have only gradually uncovered." Some of the other titles he considered, such as Pregnancies, imply similar notions.
At the same time, as a twelve-tone work, his first for orchestra, Connotations struck a distinctive stylistic profile. Explained Bernstein, "Connotations is Copland looking back at earlier works from the vantage of 1962-and the 1962 point of view is a twelve-tone one." Some of the music's thorny sonorities also bespoke new perspectives. In addition, the emphasis on harmony, already noted in the Nonet, represented a departure of sorts, requiring a different kind of listening, for one does not always have the sharply etched unifying melodic phrase or fragment to hang on to. Virgil Thomson exaggerated when he remarked that "counterpoint was totally lacking in Connotations"; but as with the Nonet, Copland himself referred to the harmonically oriented "chaconne" in discussions of the work.
Connotations' straightforward ABCBA arch also resembles the Nonet. These sections yield long-familiar moods: the A sections are prophetic, tragic; the B sections, jazzy, frenetic; and the brief middle section, pastoral, reflective. But a new darkness hangs over the whole. The outer portions are grave; the jazzy sections rather cheerless; the pastoral contrast more weary than peaceful. The music often seems lost, uncertain, trapped; this includes the ending, a series of crashing twelve-tone chords that offer nothing like the Ode's valiant resolution. Along with its twelve-tone language, its spiny orchestration, its harmonic structure, and its archlike form, such solemnity made Connotations a particularly complete, if unusually severe, summation of the composer's late work.32
At the premiere, the bewildered gala audience responded, in Copland's words, with "a confused near silence." Robert J. Landry reported in Variety:
For the majority of the audience, all over 35, if the ladies don't object to the sweep of the statement, it was totally evident that Copland represented an assault on their nervous systems which they resented. Seldom has this reviewer heard such outspoken comment in the lobbies after such dull response in the auditorium. It is strictly accurate to declare that an audience paying $100 a seat and in a mood for self-congratulation and schmaltz hated Copland's reminder of the ugly realities of industrialization, inflation and cold war-which his music seemed to be talking about.
After the performance, Jackie Kennedy, looking radiant, found herself i tongue-tied with the composer, unable to utter more than, "Oh, Mr. Copland." (When he asked his companion for the evening, Verna Fine, what to make of this, she answered, "Oh, Aaron, it's obvious. She hated it!") Aside from a very few critics, such as Louis Biancolli-who called it "a turning point in his career, a powerful score in 12-tone style that has liberated new stores of creative energy" -most reviewers did not care for the piece either. Everett Helm deemed it "unnecessarily strident," Harriet Johnson thought it "too long for its content," and Richard Franklin Goldman found it "completely without charm," while Paul Henry Lang and others used the occasion to bemoan, in Lang's words, Copland's "yield to the conformism of 12-tone music."
When Bernstein brought the work to England in early 1963, the reviews contained similar talk of "mere din" and "dodecaphonic deserts," though the English cautioned against hasty judgment. A recording of the world premiere released in 1963 brought a similarly bleak outpouring, Robert Marsh finding the work "dreary" and "dull," and Irving Kolodin calling it "rather relentlessly grim." "Connotations for Orchestra sounded rather strident on September 23," wrote Everett Helm; "on the disc it becomes ear-piercing." Through it all Copland remained typically unperturbed and philosophical. "I hope that you and I will turn out to be justified in enjoying that kind of music," he wrote in response to an appreciative letter from the very young Christopher Rouse.
What audiences and critics failed to realize was that Bernstein's rather harsh and overblown performances, preserved on record, may have played some part in the work's poor reception. In contrast, revivals by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic (1973), Edo de Waart and the San Francisco Symphony (1979), and Sixten Ehrling and the student Juilliard Orchestra (1987) brought cheering ovations and raves in the press. "The work is beautifully put together: full of energy, variety, thought," said Desmond Shawe-Taylor of the Boulez performance. Reviewing the piece as played by de Waart, Bartlett Naylor wrote of "a majesty hidden in this dark piece," and Michael Andrews spoke of Copland's "mammoth, anxious and angry vision." And after hearing Ehrling and the Juilliard Orchestra, Peter Davis praised the music's "pungent and exhilarating Coplandesque sonorities." Harold Schonberg specifically judged Boulez's rendition superior to Bernstein's, writing, like Shawe-Taylor, that the Frenchman seemed particularly well disposed to "this kind of music."
One might have thought that Bernstein only needed time to digest the score, but when he revived Connotations in 1989 (in an unauthorized shortened version) the reviews were even worse than at the premiere (with again an occasional exception, such as Tim Page's). No one, apparently, considered the possibility that the limitations they perceived might have been Bernstein's, not Copland's. On the contrary, Donal Henahan, who thought that the work's "formulaic commonplaces" ground on "relentlessly," asserted that Bernstein played the Copland pieces on the concert "for all they were worth," and Bill Zakariasen guessed that Bernstein programmed the "boring" Connotations "out of a sense of duty to his old friend."
One can only conclude that Bernstein, for all his brilliance as a Copland interpreter, could not persuasively put over this score. What made this especially regrettable was the fact that for nearly thirty years the only available recording of Connotations was the inelegant world premiere. A recording by the Juilliard Orchestra under Ehrling (1988), which incorporated a few revisions made prior to the score's publication, consequently offered a welcome alternative.
The celebrated and controversial American-born choreographer John Neumeier, famous for his portentous ballets on literary themes, used Connotations, along with the Piano Variations and portions of the Piano Fantasy, for a Hamlet ballet for the American Ballet Theatre. Premiered on 6 January 1976, the production, which explored the play's principal characters rather than the drama per se, featured an international all-star cast, including Mikhail Baryshnikov as Hamlet, Gelsey Kirkland as Ophelia, Marcia Haydee as Gertrude, and Erik Bruhn as Claudius.

Preamble for a Solemn Occasion
NBC commissioned Copland's Preamble for a Solemn Occasion (1949) for orchestra and narrator for a 10 December 1949 concert commemorating the first anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which had been approved by the General Assembly the previous year. For his text, Copland adapted about half of the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations (1945): "We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to i mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women of all nations large and small, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims." Such sentiments recalled those "four freedoms" of President Roosevelt that had earlier inspired Copland and can be seen, like the creation of the United Nations itself, as an extension of the New Deal.
The six-minute Preamble comprises four small sections. The first./ section-declamatory, dissonant, sad-evokes the "scourge of war" and: "untold sorrow" later mentioned in the narration; this music, which rep:'~ resents as direct a response to the horrors of the Second World War al.~ Copland may ever have made, could accompany newsreel footage ' Auschwitz or Hiroshima. The trumpets, supported by brass, woodwind and timpani, introduce a contrasting section whose noble, hymnlike, m more diatonic music reflects "faith in fundamental human rights." The narration follows, quietly underlined by the opening music, after which the affirmative hymn brings the work to a close on a brilliant C-major triad. At the premiere, Sir Laurence Olivier delivered the narration, accompanied by Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Copland privately dismissed the Preamble as a "pot boiler," but in a review of the piece, Ingolf Dahl praised its tone as "one of great elevation, breadth, and power." For comparable sweep, one needs to look to the likes of Beethoven or Shostakovich, both, significantly, represented on the same commemorative concert at which the Preamble premiered. The form and rhetoric of the Preamble also recalls Lincoln Portrait, but as Copland himself pointed out, "the musical style is quite different." For one thing, as a tribute to the United Nations, it naturally avoids any overt Americanisms; in this respect, it strikes a note closer to the Fanfare. But the Preamble does not have the same morale-boosting qualities of either of the two earlier, wartime works; rather, it reflects more solemnly on the sorrows of the past and the challenges of the future.
The Preamble enjoyed a few performances over the years, including one with Duke Ellington as narrator. But for all its effectiveness, Americans never took to it as they did to Lincoln Portrait or Fanfare; on the contrary, it remains one of Copland's most obscure works. One imagines that skepticism about the United Nations-emanating from all sides of the political spectrum-deprived the work of the attention it deserved. Copland attempted to salvage it by omitting the narration and arranging it, in various guises (for orchestra, for band, for organ), as Preamble for a Special Occasion. He also approved substituted narrations-as in a performance during the 1976 bicentennial celebration with Jimmy Stewart reading from the Preamble to the United States Constitution. But considering how well the music embodies the spirit of its original text, Preamble for a Solemn Occasion warrants, at the least, a premiere recording and the occasional revival.

Writers, understandably enough, often mention Copland's last major work for orchestra, Inscape (1967), in the same breath as Connotations (1962). Both are in one movement, of similar duration, and the composer's only orchestral scores to employ the twelve-tone method. In addition, he wrote both for Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Inscape for the orchestra's 125th anniversary season-and Bernstein issued recordings of both on the same disc.
Less recognized is the fact that Inscape is quite literally the flip side of Connotations, as intimate and reflective a work as Connotations is public and tragic. If Connotations recalls the Ode, Inscape looks back to Quiet City, though this mostly slow twelve-minute movement has no real precedent among Copland's oeuvre. Although it traces the characteristic outlines of a dramatic opening, a bustling scherzo, and a dirgelike finale, followed by a coda that reprises the opening, such schematic contrast is softened by the brevity of the individual episodes as well as by nearly constant fluctuations of tempo, so that the work communicates greater stream-of-consciousness than perhaps any other piece by Copland-at least until Night Thoughts (1972), its pianistic equivalent.
The title Inscape derived from the writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), the Victorian poet-priest whose life and work bore a striking resemblance to those of his American contemporary Emily Dickinson. Copland had long admired Hopkins, an enthusiasm possibly explained by his friendship with Britten, who was working on some Hopkins settings when he and Copland spent the summer together in 1939. Copland even considered writing a work for reciter and accompaniment, Readings from Hopkins, at about the same time he composed the Dickinson Songs. "Hopkins interested me because of his originality and his experiments with prosody and meter, language and structure," wrote Copland, who was also intrigued by the poet's musical interests and aspirations.
Hopkins coined the word inscape to describe the essential qualities of things, which he contrasted with instress, meaning one's perceptions of things. In his flyleaf to the score, Copland quoted W. H. Gardner's explanation of instress (or the "sensation of inscape") as "a quasimystical illumination, a sudden perception of that deeper pattern, order and unity which give meaning to external forms." Hopkins himself used the words pattern and design interchangeably with inscape. Copland thought music particularly well matched to such ideas, in that the composer uses sounds as an "instress" that communicates a deeper inner essence, an "inscape." "What appealed to me was Hopkins' ability to see beyond the outward appearance of things to their innermost being and his genius in making the outer appearance itself reflect the inner reality," he wrote. "My idea was to write music that would attempt to do just that, music that seemed to be moving inward upon itself." He further recognized a connection between such aesthetics and Nadia Boulanger's emphasis on "order, unity, discipline," though he acknowledged that Inscape "set out to find a different way of expressing these principles."
By a "different way," Copland alluded to the fact that Inscape employed the twelve-tone method, toward which Boulanger had a well-known antipathy. Here, in Copland's fourth and essentially last twelve-tone work, he used the row (or, rather, two rows) largely as in Connotations-that is, as a harmonic resource; the piece even opens with an eleven-note chord (to which he would "always jolt jokingly," recalled the composer David Conte, when the two of them listened to various recordings of the work together). But for the most part Copland extracted from the work's rows simple two-note harmonies, as opposed to the dense chords so characteristic of the earlier work, its leaner texture helping to make it more accessible. In addition, the prominence of harmonic thirds provides the work with a less dissonant, more tonal countenance; the music even poignantly settles, from time to time, into simple triads
Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic gave the world premiere in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on 13 September 1967 as part of the University of Michigan's sesquicentennial celebration. The first-night audience responded with a standing ovation; William Wolf wrote two days later of the work's "emotional intensity which is disturbing yet uncannily beautiful." However, in the ensuing months and years, as Bernstein and Copland conducted the work in New York and London, critics largely dismissed it as expert but unexciting and dry.
In his memoirs, Copland turned a blind eye to the work's poor reception, selectively excerpting positive reviews by Irving Kolodin and Allen Hughes, and writing, "For once, the critics seemed to understand right off : that my intention was to make a piece of music in my own way, with my own sound, using the twelve-tone method, instead of creating an example of a perfect serial composition." In fact, Hughes was unusual in arguing how well the twelve-tone method suited the composer, "as though it had been invented to create the Copland sound." More typically, Winthrop Sargeant (in the New Yorker) and Harold Schonberg (in the New York Times) criticized his adoption of the technique in ways that even exceeded the response to Connotations. "What impels composers to write this kind of thing is beyond me," wrote Sargeant of the New York premiere. "The method is fifty years old. The work makes no statement of any sort, except that Mr. Copland can turn out twenty minutes or so of twelve-tone composition with the greatest skill." "His serial works, of which 'Inscape' is an example, are unconvincing, " opined Schonberg after a performance by Copland in 1970. "He sounds unnatural here, and one suspects that he himself has no great confidence in this style." Inscape became a victim of shifting cultural winds.
More recent reviews of performances by Larry Newland and Oliver Knussen saw no noticeable improvement in this regard; indeed, few were as harsh as one by Gavin Thomas (1993) that described "the late and distinctly dry Inscape" as containing "chunky chromatic chords, horribly orchestrated, and some pedantic atonal counterpoint.
Inscape remains the enthusiasm of a small group of friends, who regard it as one of his crowning achievements. Further performances are needed to allow us to more fully gauge its stature and viability, but as a lovely if elusive distillation of some of the composer's most characteristic and touching moods and gestures, it may in time endear itself to a larger audience. Meanwhile, Copland's own "live" recording with the Orchestre National de France makes, for the most part, a more compelling case for the work than that by Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

Three Latin-American Sketches and Smaller Works
Although Inscape has all the earmarks of a swan song, Copland's final work for orchestra was the youthful Three Latin-American Sketches (1971). He actually wrote the second and third movements-"Paisaje Mexicano" and "Danza de ]alisco"-while in Acapulco in 1959, on a commission by Gian Carlo Menotti for the Spoleto Festival, but only the latter was performed on that occasion. After Copland conducted both as Two Mexican Pieces in 1965, he withdrew them on account of their brevity. At the request of Andre Kostelanetz, he composed in 1971 an additional movement, "Estribillo," based on a melodic fragment heard in Venezuela. Kostelanetz and the New York Philharmonic premiered the newly titled Three Latin-American Sketches on 7 June 1972.12
Three Latin-American Sketches uses a small orchestra of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, two pianos, percussion, and strings; the percussion battery forgoes the traditional timpani, snare drum, and bass drum in favor of claves, wood block, xylophone, ratchet, slap-stick, triangle, suspended cymbal, and conga drum, an instrument prominently featured in Copland's later scores. Both instrumentation and orchestration accentuate the music's relation to authentic folk practices.
Copland based all three movements on traditional melodies, fragmenting and developing them as was his wont. In "Estribillo" he repeats an ardently syncopated phrase through the different sections of the orchestra, thus reflecting the sort of responsorial volleying between soloist and chorus characteristic of the traditional estribillo, a refrainlike section associated with types of salsa and calypso music. A more carefree tune offers contrast. The movement's remarkably spiky sonorities throughout throw the lyrical warmth of "Paisaje Mexicano" ("Mexican Landscape") into relief. Very analogous to his rural American landscapes, this latter movement has, for all its serenity, a vaguely melancholy undertone; "soft and sad," states the opening directive. The work's vigorous finale, "Danza de Jalisco" ("Dance from Jalisco," a province in northern Mexico), features some optional hand-clapping for the pianists along with the alternating 6/8 and 3/4 meters characteristic of Mexican dance.
Even in the context of his more popular pieces, Three Latin-American Sketches is a light work, though "not so light," Copland once advised, "as to be pop-concert material." Indeed, at each turn one finds complex polyrhythms, biting dissonances, and intriguing colors. Yet in spite of its potential appeal to both a general and sophisticated audience, the work remains obscure. The chamber instrumentation-including the need for two pianos-has possibly discouraged its wider dissemination; but one imagines that it will eventually find the ever-growing audience for the similarly scored Music for the Theatre.
Far from a deterrent, the work's chamber scoring recommended itself to dance companies, who quickly took the kind of interest in Three LatinAmerican Sketches that they had long shown Music for the Theatre. In 1991, a distinguished choreographer in the tradition of de Mille and Robbins, David McKayle, used the piece, with Danzon Cubano as an introductory movement, for a four-scene ballet, Sombra y Sol, inspired br,' four paintings of Frida Kahlo: Viva la Vida, Wounded Flesh, Tree of' Hope, and Embrace of Love. In associating the music with Kahlo McKayle showed a rare sensitivity. As in decades past, choreographer: generally remained refreshingly attuned to Copland's latest scores whether it be John Neumeier's ballet to Connotations or Bella Lewitzsky's dance to the Duo-at a time when such music sometimes struggled to make inroads into the musical community.

Dance Panels
Jerome Robbins (1918-98) commissioned Copland's Dance Panels (1959) for his short-lived company Ballets: U.S.A. (1958-59). He had wanted to collaborate with Copland since 1944, when, fresh from the success of Fancy Free, he proposed a "ballet-play" about a Brooklyn boy who joins the Navy, Bye-Bye Jackie. But not until 1958 did it appear that he and Copland would finally produce a ballet together. "I enjoy all his work," Copland said about Robbins. "It has a certain authenticity about it .... It might be a little too long, or too short-you know you could make the usual objection of one kind or another-but it's basically the work of an enormously gifted man."!
Robbins proposed either a nonprogrammatic ballet or one based on The Dybbuk; after Copland expressed a preference for the former, Robbins outlined something tentatively entitled Theatre Waltzes. The originating idea is to do a ballet which presents the style, youth, technical competence, theatrical qualities and personalities of the company [Ballets: U.S.A.] in pure dance terms. The technique is essentially classic ballet (in the way that Americans employ it) and to make the whole ballet a declarative statement-open, positive, inventive, joyous (rather than introspective)-a parade; a presentation; perhaps elegant, witty, tender and with a sure technique.
The ballet should be a chamber work in effect, both on stage as well as in the pit: the form, number of people and the quality of the atmosphere intimate and clear. It should say, this is Dance; it's the way we use our European heritage (classic technique) in America. Robbins went on to suggest over twenty different types of waltzes, including "circus waltz" and "tea room waltz"; at the same time, he recognized the advantages of working with "more abstract and evocative" forms. He envisioned a simple opening with "basic 3/4 rhythm and waltz steps," and, in the light of Copland's "terribly unfounded" resistance to "a finale waltz," an ending that would mirror the work's opening.
Copland composed the ballet in early 1959 with the expectation that it might be premiered at that summer's Spoleto Festival in Florence. In deference to Robbins's request for an intimate chamber work, he scored it for a small orchestra requiring only six woodwinds and five brass. Entitled at various times Music for J.R., Music for a Ballet, Ballet in Seven Movements, Dance Panels in Seven Movements, and, finally, Dance Panels: Ballet in Seven Sections, the piece contains seven contiguous movements-"like the panels of a screen," Copland once remarkedlasting just under a half hour. Although these individual panels tend toward some waltz type or other, enough so that the work can be seen as a kind of "Valses Nobles et Sentimentales," Copland's highly stylized approach rarely evokes traditional waltzing, in part because syncopations and fermatas often obscure and halt the music's flow. William Austin also points to fluctuations of tempo within the individual panels, "where a waltz is more a lingering memory or shy hope than a whirling dance.
The enigmatic preludial movement explores a characteristic waltz rhythm, one favored by Brahms, that unifies the entire piece. At first, individual brass players in various locations backstage put forth, barely articulated, this elemental idea, which seems to emerge from the void. Other voices subsequently enter with the same motive in jarring counterpoint, eventually reaching a dissonant climax before subsiding back into pristine simplicity. After a long pause, a trumpet heralds a noble motto theme (incorporating the elemental idea) that functions like a refrain in the Course of the work; it reappears at the end of the second, third, and seventh movements. In all cases, it dissolves back into the elemental rhythm, which in turn serves, in the first three panels, as a transition to the next movement and, in the final panel, as the last word. This unusual structure recalls the recurring "Promenade" in Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition; given their similar titles, this might well have been intentional.
The second movement suggests, in Copland's words, "charm and delicacy, involvements, hesitations and swirlings"; a stream of quarter notes produces the "swirlings," when not interrupted by fermatas, which create "hesitations." The delightful, scherzolike third movement shares its basic material with an episode from The Heiress in which the heroine giddily tries on a new red party dress. The slow, romantic fourth movement, a pas de trois marked "somewhat hesitant, melancholy and naive," is more ballet adagio than waltz per se; an alto flute, two muted trumpets, and a trio of flute and two clarinets-representing one, two, and three dancers, respectively-successively state the tune, described by the composer as having "the plainness and directness of a song without words, evoking a somewhat 'lost' and nostalgic mood." Vaguely reminiscent of Copland's cowboy waltzes, it has a sweetly tentative quality all its own.
The fifth movement, another scherzo like section, is cast largely in jazzy duple meter, though the periodic appearance of the elemental idea retains the connection with the waltz. Copland described this panel,. ", which highlights the percussion battery and concludes with an extended snare drum solo that softly fades out, as "carefree, snappy, sharp, 'knowing'''; some of its ideas resemble-and possibly derive from Falstaff's music from The Five Kings (1939).
The brief sixth panel, a tense and somewhat sorrowful interlude marked "menacing," and later "eloquent," leads into a finale that begins, writes Copland, "by suggesting flight and hectic emotions." The music, alternately violent and joyful, becomes increasingly frenetic until, after a sudden pause, the motto theme returns, says Copland, in "triumphant songfulness"; this refrain subsides into the vaguely articulated rhythm heard at the very start of the work. Like the ending of Music for the Theater, the final note for French horn is a jazzy added sixth, except that h ' no major triad enters to contextualize it; rather, the lone dissonance simply dies away, suggesting the continuing dance.
One of the more accessible scores of his later years, Dance Pa recalls some of Copland's earlier pieces for stage and screen, sometimes, as we have seen, literally so. At the same time, the work's nonprogromatic framework distinguishes it from his earlier ballets. Moreover, thicker and more dissonant moments bespeak some connection with later twelve-tone scores. Similarly, the music contains rhythmic novelties, though they tend not so much toward irregular and changing meters as toward flux and fluidity within regular meters. Finally, with its evocative backstage brass, glassy string harmonics, and vibrant percussion writing, the ballet features its own sound world. Although Bayan Northcott thought the work represented "the exhaustion of that side of his musical personality," Dance Panels seems at least a valiant acclimation of the composer's ballet idiom to changing times.
A good comparison in this respect might be made with Stravinsky's Agon (1957), which similarly accommodated new trends to a personal dance style. However, unlike Agon, which but for Balanchine's choreography might have met the same dismal reception as did most late Stravinsky, Dance Panels suffered a major setback when Robbins decided not to stage it-a lost opportunity, for the music's wistfulness and verve were tailor-made for the choreographer.
By way of explanation, Robbins claimed that he could not remember the music after hearing Copland play it at the piano and decided, instead, to use its "counts," independent of its notes, for a dance without music, Moves. That Dance Panels provided, in Robbins's words, the "accidental genesis" of Moves was surely cold comfort for Copland, who typically showed no dismay but rather puzzlement and impatience as Robbins equivocated.
When in 1962 the Bavarian State Opera offered to mount Dance Panels in Seven Movements (as it was then called), Copland revised the score (a mere cut of four measures, it seems), still hoping, as did the opera management, that Robbins could be induced to choreograph it. But when Robbins once again declined, Heinz Rosen, music director of the Opera House, decided to stage it himself, with guest dancers Arthur Mitchell of the New York City Ballet and Liane Dayde of the Paris Opera. The ballet premiered on 3 December 1963, sandwiched between ballets by Orff and Hartmann. "Up until recently," Copland told the press, "the United States imported art and music-now we export it. I am proud to be performed at the Munich Opera Festival together with Strauss, Beethoven, Wagner, and the local composers Orff, Hartmann, and Egk." He himself conducted the premiere, which, reported Thea Dispeker, "was greeted with great applause," the capacity audience bringing back the composer for eight solo bows. Copland was disappointed, however, with Rosen's choreography, made all the more faltering by an injured Mitchell, who needed, at the premiere, a last-minute replacement for the ballet's first half. Rosen did not have, he remembered, "too much feeling for the American quality of the music."
The ballet still awaited an American premiere. Balanchine considered choreographing it himself, but the task fell to his assistant, John Taras, a former New York City Ballet dancer. Aware that Copland was willing to have the work produced either with or without a story, Taras used a scenario devised by Scott Burton: Two lovers meet in a cemetery, their dancing interrupted by episodes depicting the lives of those buried therein, including a devoted couple, a boating party in which all drowned, a grieving widow who found another love, and soldiers killed during the First World War; at the end, the lovers entomb themselves in the cemetery's mausoleum. Mounted as Shadow'd Ground (1965) in the company's brand-new home at Lincoln Center, the production featured multiple-screen slide projections designed by John Braden.
Although Lincoln Kirstein liked it, the ballet was neither a critical nor a popular success. The production seemed overblown; the slides (which regularly malfunctioned) overwhelmed the dancers; and the poetic epitaphs printed in the program struck many as gratuitous. Taras's choreography was taken to task as well. "Listening to the wonderfully danceable music," wrote Walter Terry, "one wished for choreography which would capture folk energies, and dramatic actions which would reveal the very hearts of those who had lived and were now at rest beneath the stones." Taras himself added, "There was a great deal of opposition to Copland at the time-it was fashionable not to like him. I think the audience was interested in the ballet visually, but the idea that it was set in a cemetery and full of dead people was not appealing. Giselle is the only cemetery ballet that works." If Copland saw the ballet, it failed to make much of an impression; he could not remember it in 1975.
As a concise, plotless, beautifully crafted ballet, however, Dance Pane. easily accommodated itself to concert format. The composer-conductor Ingolf Dahl and the Ojai Festival Orchestra premiered it as such on 24 May 1966. In this way it enjoyed, in spite of Copland's own concern, considerably more success than it had on the stage. Copland recorded the work, as have, more recently, Leonard Slatkin and Dennis Russell Davies . For his own recording, Copland took two tiny cuts amounting to hardly minute's worth of music, whereas Slatkin and Davies rendered the score in its entirety.


Orchestral Variations and Down A Country Lane are adaptions of compositions for solo piano, postings and descriptions of which are forthcoming. Music For A Great City and The Red Pony are adaptions of music composed for motion picture scores. Descriptions of these peices can be found at the following links:

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much <3

mike from maine said...

Many, many thanks again!

Great blog!

Alex said...

Dear manager,
I'm fond of Hollywood gold cinema soundtracks.
I'm looking for:
- Of Mice And Men (2 LPs; USA, 1973) [label: Mark 56 606];
- Copland Conducts Copland (LP; includes “Our Town”) [label: Columbia Masterworks MS 7375];
- Copland Conducts Copland (LP 1975) [label: Columbia Masterworks M 33586];
- Copland Film Scores LP 1975 [label: CBS Classics S 61672].
Thanks in advance!