The Tender Land, first given at the New York City Center, in 1954, was Copland's first opera (apart from The Second Hurricane mentioned above). The orchestral suite appeared three years later (a miniature score is obtainable from Boosey and Hawkes). The plot is a Middle-West pastorale. The suite consists of three numbers: the Introduction and Love Duet from Act 3; the Party Music from the second act, leading into the Quintet (Thanksgiving Song: "The Promise of Living") which closes the first act. In orchestral form I find the music very pleasant, but somewhat dull and repetitive —sort of vaguely "atmospheric" in a familiar way. Probably with the story and the singers it makes a more positive impression. A.P.
Ormandy secures wonderful playing from the Philadelphia Orchestra, highlighting the subtleties of tonal contrast. The delicacy of the string pianissimos has one catching the breath, and those hushed passages are sharply set against the brilliant, brittle passages based on jazz rhythms. Characteristically Ormandy is more literal in his reading of jazz rhythms than the composer or Bernstein. Instead of nudging the rhythms he sharpens their edge, and I could not illustrate the difference more clearly than with the cakewalk of triumph which follows the shooting scene in Billy the Kid. With the composer's version I drew a parallel with the Façade parodies or even with Satie. With Ormandy a far closer parallel is with the spiky music of Kurt Weill at his darkest and most bitter. It is apt that with Ormandy the brutality of the shooting sequence is conveyed at the fullest possible force. One really does experience it as a shooting. E.G.
1. Appalachian Spring (1944) 25:20
The Tender Land (orchestral suite from the opera) (1956) 20:40
2. Introduction and Love Music 10:15
3. Party Scene 4:53
4. Finale: The Promise of Living 5:28
Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Aaron Copland
Recorded April 23, 1959
5. Billy The Kid (ballet suite) (1939) 19:50
The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded May 28, 1969