Friday, March 27, 2009


This is an excellent collection of Aaron Copland’s early orchestral works, written when the composer was in his twenties and mid-thirties. These pieces have not achieved the notoriety of Mr. Copland’s later “populist” compositions and contain more modernist devices. Some of these feature jazz elements (such as the Piano Concerto, Music for the Theater and the Dance Symphony, which was drawn from materials composed for the “Grogh” ballet). Despite the complexity of these selections, the music is both exhilarating and interesting, albeit challenging. Repeat listenings are required if one wishes to fully appreciate these compositions.

Of the eight works, three are conducted by Leonard Bernstein, who is often considered the definitive interpreter of Copland’s music. The rest are under the direction of the composer himself. Below find various reviews of the original issues culled from the archives at Gramophone Magazine. Scoredaddy

At some time in the 1920s, after returning from Europe and his studies with Nadia Boulanger, Copland seems to have discovered in himself an excessive dependence on European models, and to have made a conscious decision to 'Americanize' his music. One can almost hear him making that decision—with a snap of the fingers and a cry of 'Eureka!'—half-way through the finale of the Dance Symphony that he wrote when he and the twentieth century were 25 years old. After a portentous slow introduction, a brisk and rhythmically alert allegro and a sort of sarabande with bonily lyrical woodwind solos (all these sounding post-Roussel, if anything, and not in the least transatlantic), he finds the logical conclusion of a drivingly energetic presto in a passage of jazz-derived syncopation. The slithery mockromantic waltz and the brashly noisy coda that follow sound like gestures of exuberance from a man who has found a voice and knows what he can say with it. The Short Symphony of eight years later is recognizably Copland in every bar: two lithely athletic toccatas, the first of them incorporating music of earnest endeavour by way of contrast, are placed on either side of an andante full of his characteristic sense of open spaces beneath broad skies—it is almost a sketch for the "Corral Nocturne" in his ballet Rodeo, still at this date nine years in the future. That it is an 'early' work is . occasionally betrayed by a tendency to the raucous, on the one hand, and by a few pages of over-blown rhetoric on the other. It could also be objected that neither work, sternly considered, is truly a symphony: both could be more accurately described by the title of a later Copland work, Dance Panels. But both have ample vigour and freshness to make such a reservation seem irrelevant. It is good to welcome them back to the catalogue. Performances and recordings alike are crisp., clean and efficient. M.E.O.

The Two Pieces for String Orchestra date from the twenties. Both originally written for string quartet, the first piece dates from 1928, the Rondino from Copland's Paris period five years earlier with the name Gabriel Faure providing the main theme for a chattering neo-classic piece that suggests Hindemith rather than any French composer. E.G.

Statements is not quite such a clear case: there are six of them (militant, cryptic, dogmatic, subjective, jingo, and prophetic respectively), and six orchestral movements to expound them. But the statement of a single mood lends itself less well than that of two or more contrasted or interwoven moods to large-scale music (this was why sonata form was invented); and in these pieces Copland's ends and means do not seem altogether well-matched. M.M.

Symphonic Ode, which as Copland says himself, is in essence a one movement symphony: It was written for the same fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which inspired among other works Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, and was revised 25 years later for the same orchestra's seventy-fifth anniversary. The later version reduces the extravagance of the earlier scoring, and transposes the outer sections a tone lower to make the brass parts more convenient to play.

The bare harmonies and wide intervals in the opening section at once link this music with Copland’s Orchestral Variations, a degree more severe in style than one expects with Copland, but the purpose is more obviously rhetorical, and when the music subsides to mezzo-piano there is a hint of the more approachable Copland of Quiet City and the like. Not that any of this music is unapproachable, and the scherzo section with its quaver triplets and duplets in irregular patterns has (as Copland is the first to admit) its association with jazz. The slow section keeps the manner rugged, and I am reminded of another one-movement symphony from America, Roy Harris's Third. If only the Symphonic Ode had been called a symphony, it might have been better known. Both the Harris and the Copland works in fact betray clear influence from Sibelius's Seventh. E.G.

The Copland exploration — often a rewarding one—extends now back to the earlier days of the 1920s. In 1925 Music for the Theatre made friends and enemies, in 1927 the Piano Concerto. Both friends and enemies seized on the jazz inflections shared by both works : these made the concerto "music of impressive austerity, of true character" on the one hand, and the product of "a jazz dance hall next door to a poultry yard" on the other. Perhaps indeed it is both at once: the jazz inflections have not, history has since decided, become part of standard symphonic language, and they do seem now a period excrescence on what could otherwise he heard as a serious, if not exactly as a solemn work. There are some lyrical passages of great beauty (the soloist's first entry, for example) ; but these passages do tend to be interrupted by jazzy excursions seemingly intruding not so much from a different work as from a different world: one from which we are remoter now than we were then. The Music for the Theatre, too: this is smallerscale music, yet also has many very happy lyrical passages indeed, along with those borrowed from the other side of the fence.

Both works have at times been rated the pinnacles of symphonic jazz. This is a view I cannot quite share; but listeners who do hold that view, or who do wish to give it a chance, will find that this record expounds the music as convincingly as could ever be hoped. It is well recorded, in both mono and stereo, and the pieces are played in excellent style, whether in their symphonic strength or in the ease and fluency with which the orchestral soloists concerned (especially the clarinet) play those passages stemming most clearly from the dance hall. Copland obviously plays his own piano part definitively (and very well), and it seems reasonable to suppose that his special authority was also available for making the Music for the Theatre as well into something like a definitive version. Copland collectors must obviously not miss this record. M.M.

Disc: 1
Dance Symphony (1922-1925)
1. I. Introduction: Lento; Molto allegro; Adagio molto 7:02
2. II. Andante moderato 6:03
3. III. Allegro vivo 4:56
London Symphony Orchestra Conducted by Aaron Copland
Recorded at Walthamstow Town Hall, London UK on October 2&3, 1967

Two Pieces For String Orchestra (1923, 1928)
4. Lento molto 5:42
5. Rondino 4:23
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Aaron Copland
Recorded at Walthamstow Town Hall, London UK on November 6, 1965

Symphony For Organ & Orchestra (1924)
6.: I. Prelude: Andante 6/8 5:54
7. II. Scherzo: Allegro molto 3/4; Moderato 4- 7:30
8. III. Finale: Lento; Allegro moderato 4/4 11:00
New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein
E. Power Biggs, organ
Recorded at Philharmonic Hall (Avery Fisher Hall), New York City, NY USA on January 3, 1967

Music For The Theatre (1925)
9.: I. Prologue 5:46
10. II. Dance 3:13
11. III. Interlude 5:19
12. IV. Burlesque 3:13
13. V. Epilogue 3:51
New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein
Recorded at the St. George Hotel, Brooklyn, New York USA on December 15, 1958

Disc: 2
Concerto For Piano & Orchestra (1926)
1. I. Andante sostenuto 6:50
2. II. Molto moderato (molto rubato) 9:18
New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein
Aaron Copland, piano
Recorded at Philharmonic Hall (Avery Fisher Hall), New York City, NY USA on January 13, 1964

Symphonic Ode (1927-1929)
3. Symphonic Ode 19:47
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Aaron Copland
Recorded at Walthamstow Town Hall, London UK on October 2&3, 1967

Short Symphony (Symphony No. 2) (1931-1933)
4. Short Symphony (Symphony No. 2) 15:30

Statements (1934-1935)
5 I. Militant 2:44
6. II. Cryptic 3:21
7. III. Dogmatic 1:47
8. IV. Subjective 3:31
9. V. Jingo 2:33
10. VI. Prophetic 3:34
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Aaron Copland
Recorded at Walthamstow Town Hall, London UK on November 5, 1965


Scoredaddy said...


If you download this album and appreciate my efforts sharing it with you, please make a comment below.

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Pippo said...

Thank you Scoredaddy, this recordings are preciously rare.

jzentgraf said...

Thank you, Scoredaddy, for upgrading the Copland offerings to FLAC files. These are marvelous recordings! Your efforts are much appreciated!

Kwork said...

This is marvelous and appreciated. Thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You do a great job! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful, thanks. Unfortunately, I haven't found a program that can play flac files. Any suggestions?