Sunday, June 6, 2010


All of these works predate Aaron Copland's populist American ballets, but they reveal perhaps even more tellingly just what a talented and individual voice he had right from the start. The most important piece here is the Short Symphony (a.k.a. Symphony No. 2), a stunning essay in rhythmic lyricism that was considered all but unplayable when written in 1933--so much so that Copland rewrote it as a sextet. This performance hasn't quite the sharpness and sizzle of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra recording for DG, but the Bournemouth Symphony under Marin Alsop shows itself more than capable of mastering the music's intricacies.

The other two performances are even finer. Alsop catches the bittersweet lyricism of the First Symphony's outer movements very affectingly, while the whirlwind central scherzo is dazzling. The same observation holds true of the Dance Symphony, which works its way to a fine frenzy in a finale that strikingly anticipates the mature composer of the 1940s. Copland's bright, open textures come across well in the problematic acoustic of the Poole concert hall; this is one of Naxos' better recordings from this locale, graced with some really impressive bass sonorities. This is an intelligently planned and impressively executed disc. David Hurwitz

An altogether convincing and worthy disc of the OTHER Copland symphonies -- the ones that are not his large-scale masterpiece, the Symphony No. 3, certainly one of the greatest symphonies ever written by an American. There are Spartan modern music partisans who will, in fact, insist that Copland's first symphony from his 1924 Symphony for Organ and Orchestra is the great Copland Symphony. Or choose his Short Symphony from 1933. While it's true that Copland's musical personality was fully formed by the late '20s, the later populist masterworks -- and the wartime seriousness of the Third Symphony -- take his work to another level entirely. Alsop and the Bournemouth Orchestra's performances here on this budget-priced Naxos disc are predictably first rate, if not exactly inspired. Jeff Simon

Symphony No. 1 (1924)
1. I. Prelude: Andante 6:51
2. II. Scherzo: Molto allegro 8:01
3. III. Finale: Lento 10:27

Short Symphony, "Symphony No. 2" (1932-33)
4. I. quarter note = 144 4:21
5. II. half note = 44 5:08
6. III. quarter note = 144 00:06:02

Dance Symphony (1929)
7. I. Dance of the Adolescent: Lento - Molto allegro 6:56
8. II. Dance of the Girl Who Moves as if in a Dream: Andante moderato 5:12
9. III. Dance of Mockery: Allegro vivo 5:17

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop, Conductor
Recorded in The Concert Hall, Lighthouse, Poole, UK on March 30-31, 2007

Total Playing Time: 00:58:15