Wednesday, December 12, 2012


new links!
Although it's played and recorded frequently, there is a genuine difference between a decent performance of Rodeo and a really excellent one such as we have here. This difference can be summed up in two words: rhythm and tempo. When it comes to rhythm, it's not merely a question of hitting the syncopations in the opening movement and concluding Hoedown, but of being both accurate and relaxed enough to let the music swing. This is a quality that Bernstein's performances always had, and JoAnn Falletta understands it too. This gives the music both the necessary verve in the outer sections and real balletic grace in the two inner ones, reminding us that we are, after all, hearing a story told through physical movement.

When it comes to tempo, the issue is at once simpler and less impressionistic. In Buckaroo Holiday, speeds have to be quick enough to prevent the music from breaking up into discrete, detached bits. Once again, Falletta & Co. come through with flying colors. The music never sounds mechanical, disconnected, or excessively "Stravinskian". Copland disliked excessive sentimentality, but his music is never dry (the rich, warm, but clear sonics also help in this department). And what turns out to be a successful recipe for Rodeo works just as well in all of the other pieces here. Prairie Journal (a.k.a. Music for Radio) is one of the least known of Copland's "Westerns", but it's every bit as enjoyable as the three great ballets, and this is as fine a performance as you will hear anywhere. Letter from Home is an exercise in nostalgia that never turns overly sweet.

Best of all, perhaps, is The Red Pony, one of the great film scores of all time, and a glorious work that for some reason seldom gets played live. Copland's invention is of exceptionally high quality throughout, and once again you can hear from the unusual freshness of the opening bars how effortlessly Falletta and the Buffalo players get into the spirit of the music. There are so many delightful moments, from the raucous Circus Music to the unforgettable Walk to the Bunkhouse, a piece that has become the very essence of musical Americana. Finally, it's great to see one of the very popular pieces, like Rodeo, coupled with some less ubiquitous examples of Copland's genius. A wonderful disc! David Hurwitz

1. Prairie Journal (1937) 10:55

Rodeo - Four Dance Episodes (1942)
2. Buckeroo Holiday 7:20
3. Corral Nocturne 3:41
4. Saturday Night Waltz 4:26
5. Hoe Down 3:26

6. Letter from Home (1944) 6:23

The Red Pony Suite (orchestral version) 1948
7. I. Morning on the Ranch 4:27
8. II. The Gift 4:35
9. IIIa. Dream March 2:29
10. IIIb Circus March 2:29
11. IV. Walk to the Bunkhouse 2:58
12. V. Grandfather's Story 4:15
13. VI. Happy Ending 3:11

Recorded at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY USA on January 31 and February 1, 2005

Monday, September 24, 2012


This DVD is a very enjoyable way to spend an hour. The first issue I must address, however, may prove a stumbling block for many viewers. The narration of this documentary is in German, with English subtitles. Nowhere is this mentioned on the package, which to me seems deceptive. The explanation is that the film was made by Frankfurt Radio in 2001. If you can get around the incongruity of a film about an American composer in German, I think you’ll find much to enjoy. The interviews in the film, thankfully, are conducted in English. Musically, the film offers fine performances of highlights from Copland’s works, with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony conducted by its then music director, the American Hugh Wolff. I heard Wolff lead a lovely performance of the Clarinet Concerto with Karl Herman and the New Jersey Symphony, so his excellence here doesn’t surprise me. Not all the works included are the usual suspects. There’s the 1925 Music for Theater, the 12-tone Connotations, and the original 13-instrument version of Appalachian Spring. Wolff says that this last, as chamber music, possesses the feeling of settlers in an isolated area. Stella Doufexis also gives a lovely rendition of three of the orchestrated Emily Dickinson songs. One of Wolff’s trenchant observations about Copland is that he did not have a big ego. He did not, as an artist, have to believe that he was right and everyone else was wrong. Copland, claims Wolff, would say that he was doing things one way one day, and maybe another way the next. Excerpts from an interview with Copland put you in the presence of the man, who is absolutely charming. He even discusses his victimization for his leftist views during the McCarthy era without any sign of bitterness. The film does not mention Copland’s homosexuality, although biographer Howard Pollack does say that he lived a temperate life and with restraint. One of my favorite stories about Copland involves his friend Leonard Bernstein urging him to come out of the closet. Copland replied, “I’ll leave that to you, my boy.” On a personal note, Copland studied piano with Clarence Adler, who was my mother’s teacher. Other highlights of the film include an excerpt from Martha Graham and her company dancing Appalachian Spring, and an all too short portion of the Clarinet Concerto with Benny Goodman and the composer conducting. Leonard Bernstein is shown directing A Lincoln Portrait, but no other information is given about this concert. I recall it as a telecast with William Warfield narrating and the New York Philharmonic, from the Royal Albert Hall in London. Director Andreas Skipis has devised some trick camerawork for the performances of Fanfare for the Common Man and Music for Theater that I find very engaging. In sum, this is a good biography with a healthy dollop of beautiful music. It adds to my appreciation of Copland. Perhaps we should ask why there is a film from Germany like this and not one from America. I can’t resist adding one more story about Copland that’s not in the film. Early in his conducting career, Copland was leading a rehearsal, with Serge Koussevitzky in the hall. Afterwards, Copland asked Koussevitzky what he thought of his conducting. Koussevitzky replied, “What do you think of my Double Bass Concerto?” FANFARE: Dave Saeman 

 Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 60 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 5)
1:1 using DVD Dycrypter

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


“Hollywood is an extraordinary place. You must come here some time. It's like nothing else in the world. Thank heavens!”
Aaron Copland to Serge Koussevitzky, 18 October 1939

Copland’s interest in film music dates back years before his first cinematic score. He had programmed film music as the next to last of the Copland-Sessions Concerts in 1931. Auspiciously, that concert featured two short films by Ralph Steiner, who eventually provided Copland with the opportunity to compose music for his documentary The City in 1939. One of Copland’s finest scores, documentary or otherwise, it became his calling-card to studio work.

Copland had visited the west coast in the late 1930s, at the urging of his friend and cousin Harold Clurman, who was advocating for him with studio music executives looking to attract new talent from the concert world. Though early meetings failed to produce any engagements, it does point up a larger campaign by Copland at this time to expand his audience by producing works for theater and radio. Compositionally, Copland’s music shifting more and more into that quintessential “American sound” we associate with him to this very day.

Accounts differ on how exactly Lewis Milestone, the director for the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, encountered Copland’s music to The City. Whether it was at the urging of Milestone’s violinist brother Nathan, or Copland’s agent, Abe Meyer, the result was his arrival in Hollywood in October 1939.

Copland struck rare artistic gold with his engagement to score Of Mice and Men. Milestone had won a lawsuit against producer Hal Roach that included a cash payment and a contractual agreement to fund the movie—this, and the absence of any studio Musical Director, meant a hands-off approach rarely afforded a new composer on the lot. Copland composed at the piano, screening the movie using a portable editing device called a moviola. This allowed him great precision in placing the beats of each cue to the picture and dialogue. The score was written in about six weeks and recorded with a 45–52 piece studio orchestra under the direction of Irvin Talbot on 11 to 12 December 1939. Copland’s score is a remarkable work, avoiding many of the musical devices already commonplace by 1939. Copland did not write leitmotifs and pin them to all the characters, instead he wrote music to correspond with the broader ideas of the work. The main theme for Of Mice and Men is a folk-like melody, something Copland described as likely to have been whistled by the main characters George and Lennie, and it expresses the idea of the better life they are reaching toward. This theme, by extension, becomes the hopes of all the marginalized characters depicted in the film. Copland was unafraid to experiment in modernistic expression in the score. Most notably, the 26 second clashing chord that climaxes The Fight cue offered unheard of modernism for the time, and is likely some of the most dissonant music Copland ever created. The critical scene of Lennie accidentally killing Mae (Curly’s wife) in the film allowed Copland to create new themes late in the score which he interwove masterfully with the dream theme in the final dramatic cues. The scene where George shoots Lennie certainly was one of the most heartrending scenes filmed in the 1930s (much less today) and demonstrates a high point in the marriage of music and picture. The poignancy of loneliness, the tragedy of the outcast, and the ultimately ennobling spirit of the common, struggling American, are themes Copland connected to over and over again in his career. In this score he charts them out with incredible sensitivity to the film’s narrative.

After the West Coast première for Of Mice and Men, Copland headed back to New York. He had been offered an immediate follow-up film, but declined because, as he wrote to Virgil Thompson, “the picture stank.” His agent may have been scandalized, but it was a relief to his friends who feared he might be consumed entirely into the motion picture business. The desire for greater exposure may have led Copland to Hollywood, but it was really the War which kept him there. The violence in Europe was unsettling the nation, and Copland was no exception. He found it difficult to write as if nothing was going on. Part of his decision to score the film version of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town only three months after finishing Of Mice and Men was, in a measure, the desire to do something which could lend comfort to the country in a time of increasing anxiety. He also saw it as a personal challenge: to demonstrate that a composer could create two wholly different musical scores within a brief window of time.

Director Sam Wood, afforded Copland nearly as much freedom as Milestone did in creating the score. Copland eschewed using any popular tunes, deciding instead to create an original score that once again had folk-like qualities while adding cues of an almost quasi-religious feel which served to emphasize the universal themes of the work, detailing the life of a town against the life of the universe. Irvin Talbot (Copland would not conduct his own film scores until The Red Pony in 1948) once again conducted a studio orchestra of about fifty players. The well-known Grover’s Corner theme gets the most play, but the love theme, which does double duty as a motif for Emily and George, the young couple in the drama, is featured nearly as much. The more expansive “music of the stars” is quoted prominently in the main titles, the beginning of the third act on the hilltop cemetary overlooking the town, and in the epilogue. Smaller thematic material includes the narrator’s theme, which often bookmarks cues, and the children’s theme. Perhaps some of the most striking, unheard music from the score is the cemetery music, which is quietly celestial, functioning almost like a kind of American Fantasia. The climactic cue Emily’s Dream where Emily re-visits her sixteenth birthday is at turns reflective, dissonant and plaintive. It features the use of musical saw, which Copland used as a way to tamp down on the sentimentality of the moment.

Elements of these two film scores were adapted to concert suites by Copland. Much of the music from Of Mice and Men used in his Music for Movies suite was scaled down and re-arranged for a more chamber-sized orchestra, often using friendlier keys. The Our Town Suite has become a mainstay for many orchestras. The published suite dated 1945 and dedicated to Leonard Bernstein originally given its première in June 1940 on the radio to promote the film by Howard Barlow and the Columbia Broadcasting Symphony. It incorporated more music from the original score.

Copland garnered a total of four Academy Award Nominations in 1940 and 1941 for these two scores. One for best original scoring, and one for best music score (regardless of author or genre). The only nominee to do so in both categories. Their impact on the ears of audiences and composers, both for film and concert stage, was deeply felt and lasts with us today. The uniquely American institution of Hollywood finally found a uniquely American voice. Mark Leneker

Click HERE for an interesting interview with the producer of these recordings

Of Mice and Men (1939)
1 Prelude and Titles 3:12
2 The Wood Scene 2:06
3 The Wood at Night 1:13
4 On the Ranch 1:53
5 Threshing Machine No. 1 0:42
6 Threshing Machine No. 2 1:10
7 Threshing Machine No. 3 1:11
8 Barley Wagons 1:42
9 Mae at Home 2:34
10 Death of Candy's Dog 3:08
11 Mae in the Barn 1:36
12 In the Bunkhouse 5:51
13 Preliminaries to Fight 1:19
14 The Fight 1:18
15 Death of Mae 2:54
16 George Determined 1:14
17 Near the Brush 3:40
18 Lennie's Death 2:17
19 End Title 0:30

Our Town (1940)
20 Main Title 2:12
21 Story of Our Town 2:06
22 Off to School 1:22
23 Introducing the Professor 0:54
24 Grover's Corners 0:56
25 Emily in Love 1:01
26 The Town at Night 5:00
27 The Letter 1:16
28 Grover's Corners Again 1:00
29 George and Emily 3:51
30 The Drugstore Scene 0:55
31 The Hill Top 5:29
32 The Crisis 1:30
33 Scene in the Cemetery 7:28
34 Emily's Dream 5:06
35 The Epilogue 1:53
36 Cast of Characters 0:39

Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Andrew Mogrelia

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Salvatore presents an unusually complete stylistic survey: the high Romanticism of the Sonata in G Major, Copland's early flirtations with French impressionism and jazz, the classic Americana for which he's best known, and his bold modernism. Cedille's includes only original piano works (no transcriptions), performed with clarity and imagination by a leading exponent of American piano music. Composed at the behest of his traditionalist teacher Rubin Goldmark, Copland's Sonata in G Major is his most ambitious early work. "It demonstrates a familiarity with and mastery of traditional form and harmony that is impressive," writes composer Philip Ramey in his notes for the CD booklet. Ramey was a close friend and associate of Copland.

Sonnet II (1919), a 27-bar miniature, is a sonorous, post-Impressionistic piece performed for the first time in 1985. The Cat and the Mouse (1920) caused a falling out between Copland and Goldmark over the "modernism" of its erratic rhythms and French impressionist veneer. The witty little piece became Copland's first published work. Three Moods (1921) marks the first appearance of jazz in Copland's work. Serious, abstract, carefully articulated -- yet emotionally stirring -- Copland's Passacaglia (1922) shows the influence of composition teacher Nada Boulanger, who stressed control and clarity. Copland insisted that the sweetly pastoral miniature Down a Country Lane (1962), commissioned by Life magazine, had nothing to do with a country lane. "I didn't think up the title until the piece was written," he said. Ramey discovered Copland's exquisite bagatelle Midsummer Nocturne (1947) while foraging through his friend's files in 1977. It premiered in Cleveland in 1978. The sternly challenging Proclamation (1973/82) and soothing Midday Thoughts (1944/82) are Copland's last works in any genre. Both are based on sketches for never-completed works. Proclamation was originally intended as a large-scale piano piece. Midday Thoughts dates back to Copland's Appalachian Spring period and shares the ballet's sweet temperament.

The generous survey concludes with the fascinating Piano Fantasy (1957), Copland's most complex and virtuosic work for solo piano. He wanted it to suggest "a spontaneous and unpremeditated sequence of 'events' that would carry the listener irresistibly (if possible) from first note to last."

Ramon Salvatore (piano)

Sonata in G Major (1921)
1. I. Allegro Maestoso
2. II. Andante Cantabile
3. III. Allegro Vivace

4. Sonnet II (1919)

Three Moods (1921)
5. I. Embittered
6. II. Wistful
7. III. Jazzy

8. The Cat And The Mouse (1920)
9. Passacaglia (1922)
10. Down A Country Lane (1962)
11. Midsummer Nocturne (1947)
12. Proclamation (1973/82)
13. Midday Thoughts (1944/82)

Piano Fantasy (1957)
14. I. Slow
15. II. Rubato
16. III. Beginning A Little Slowly
17. IV. Quite Fast And Rhythmic
18. V. Suddenly Fast
19. VI. As At First

Recorded at WFMT Chicago, IL from December 1994 thru February 1995

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The Legacy of Aaron Copland is an eclectic collection of works written by the great American composer Aaron Copland. Regarded as the "dean of American music", Copland's works are said to evoke the limitless American landscape as they achieve a difficult balance between modern music and American Folk styles.

Copland's goal was to fill "musical needs created by historical events". The United States Army Field Band Soldiers' Chorus, led on this album by Col. Finley R. Hamilton, has made it a point to present musical excellence and inspire patriotism. The versatility of the members helps make the Chorus one of the most prestigious music organizations in the world.

The Legacy of Aaron Copland features some of Copland's greatest works including "Stomp Your Foot" and "Simple Gifts". This recording is a beautifully educational and entertaining compilation of some of Aaron Copland's work performed by the United States Army Field Band Soldiers' Chorus.

Selections from The Tender Land (trans. Thomas Duffy)
1 Stomp Your Foot 3:06
2 The Promise of Living 5:09
3 Lark 4:07

Old American Songs: Set One (trans. William Silvester)
4 The Boatmen's Dance 2:43
5 The Dodger 2:06
6 Long Time Ago 2:46
7 Simple Gifts 1:17
8 I Bought Me a Cat 2:22

Four Motets
9 Help Us, O Lord 3:05
10 Thou, O Jehovah, Abideth Forever 2:04
11 Have Mercy on Us, O My Lord 4:14
12 Sing Ye Praises to Our King 1:33

13 Las Agachadas 3:26

Old American Songs: Set Two (trans. William Silvester)
14 The Little Horses 2:44
15 Zion's Walls 1:49
16 The Golden Willow Tree 3:37
17 At the River 2:42
18 Ching-a-Ring Chaw 1:37

19 Canticle of Freedom (trans. Thomas Duffy) 13:32

United States Army Field Band Soldiers’ Chorus
Finley R. Hamilton, conductor; Robert A. McCormick, director
Recorded August, 1999 at Devers Hall. Fort George G. Meade, Maryland

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I couldn't locate any review of this CD so the annotation is a bit skimpy. However, the booklet that accompanies the disc is quite extensive and is included as part of this post in PDF format. Hearing these familiar pieces played by wind band is an interesting experience. I hope you will enjoy this disc, the second of two done by the U.S. Army Field Band. I have the first one coming up next. Scoredaddy

The Legacy of Aaron Copland: Emblems
is the second album featured in the series of concert band recordings honoring the lives and music of individuals who have made significant contributions to the band repertoire and to music education.

The Legacy of Aaron Copland: Emblems
features some of his greatest compositions. Special guest, Charles Osgood, anchor and writer of CBS Sunday Mornings, appears as a narrator on "Preamble for a Solemn Occasion" and "Lincoln Portrait." This album also features Copland's famous "Variations on a Shaker Hymn," and "An Outdoor Adventure," among many other Copland classics.

1 Variations on a Shaker Melody 3:29
2 Down a Country Lane (arr. M. Patterson) 3:03
3 Ceremonial Fanfare 3:59
4 Preamble for a Solemn Occasion (version for wind ensemble) 3:15

Billy the Kid: Waltz and Celebration (arr. P. Lang)
5 Waltz 4:02
6 Celebration 2:32
7 An Outdoor Overture (version for band) 9:10

8 Emblems 10:52

9 Lincoln Portrait (arr. W. Beeler), narrated by Charles Osgood 15:54

The Red Pony Suite (version for wind ensemble)
10 IIIa. Dream March 2:47
11 IIIb. Circus Music 1:52
12 IV. Walk to the Bunkhouse 2:40
13 V. Grandfather's Story 4:33
14 VI. Happy Ending 3:13

Recorded August, 1999 at Devers Hall. Fort George G. Meade, Maryland
United States Army Field Band
Finley R. Hamilton Conductor

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Among Aaron Copland's least-known compositions are his chamber pieces, seldom performed and recorded in spite of the composer's long tenure as the "Dean of American Music." This neglect has been attributed to the supposed difficulty of Copland's modernist style -- often featured in his chamber music -- which some have found less appealing than the robust Americana mode Copland cultivated from the late '30s onward. Yet even the works that anticipate his populist interests -- such as Ukulele Serenade (1926) and the Sextet for string quartet, clarinet, and piano (1928), and a masterpiece that is fully part of Copland's "homespun musical idiom," the Violin Sonata (1943) -- have languished in relative obscurity.

Thankfully, the musicians at Copland House and the Borromeo String Quartet have devoted themselves to the promotion of Copland's chamber works, and have assembled a comprehensive and enjoyable program, which Arabesque has recorded with clarity and resonance. Arranged chronologically, from the Movement for string quartet (1923) to the Threnodies (2) for flute and string trio (1971), the selections reveal both Copland's willingness to experiment and his undogmatic approach to styles, methods, and material. After hearing this double-disc, listeners will find much to like in this overlooked oeuvre -- even among the haunting serial works -- and gain a greater appreciation of Copland's versatility and depth. Blair Sanderson

1. Movement for String Quartet (1923)
2. Prelude for Piano Trio (1924)

Two Pieces for Violin and Piano (1926)
3. Nocturne
4. Ukulele Serenade

5. Vocalise for Flute and Piano (1928)

Two Pieces for String Quartet
6. Lento molto (1923)
7. Rondino (1928)

8. Vitebsk for Piano Trio (1928): Sextet for String Quartet, Clarinet and Piano (1933, rev. 1937)
9. Allegro vivace
10. Lento
11. Finale: precise and rhythmic

Sonata for Violin and Piano (1943)
1. Andante semplice
2. Lento
3. Allegretto giusto

Quartet for Piano and Strings (1950)
4. Adagio serio
5. Allegro giusto
6. Non troppo lento

Duo for Flute and Piano (1967-71)
7. Flowing
8. Poetic, somewhat mournful
9. Lively, with bounce

Two Threnodies for Flute and String Trio (1971)
10. In Memoriam: Igor Stravinsky
11. In Memoriam: Beatrice Cunningham

Derek Bermel: clarinet
Michael Boriskin: piano
Paul Lustig Dunkel: flute
Nicholas Kitchen: violin
Wilhelmina Smith: cello

Friday, January 27, 2012


re-up by request, new link in comments
This is another "donation" by the very generous Miguel. My sincere thanks... Scoredaddy

Though Aaron Copland is probably best known for his more accessible music (like his ballet scores Rodeo and Appalachian Spring), this CD presents, alongside selections from these pieces, some earlier and more intricate works of this great American composer. Of course, Appalachian Spring is very well known to many, though here it is performed in the original setting for thirteen instruments. For those who only know the full-orchestra version, this may present some surprising new sounds and it's certainly a nice diversion. Since Appalachian Spring is one of my favorite pieces, I enjoyed this greatly.

The second work on this CD is the Sextet for clarinet, piano and string quartet. In fact this piece is a transcription of Copland's second symphony (the "short symphony"). Due to the difficulties that this symphony presented to many professional orchestras (mainly the intricate rhythmical structure of the work), it was rarely played. Copland, to make this work accessible to the public, made this arrangement for a smaller ensemble. Characteristic for Copland's work in this period (the nineteenthirties), its idiom is much more difficult than works like Appalachian Spring. So, it may take some getting used to, although it's already extremely Copland-like (you can already hear traces of what later will become for example rodeo or Appalachian Spring). The first movement is a jumpy, dance-like Allegro vivace, much like the Hoe-down also on this CD. The second movement, Lento, is intense and quiet, much like the quieter moments in Appalachian Spring. Without pause, the Lento passes into the Finale, introduced by some sudden piano chords. This finale is a very rhythmic, fast, bur humorous piece. At the end, thematic material from the first movement is recapitulated. Though it is, as I said, no Appalachian Springs, I find this a great piece. It's very interesting to hear that a lot of elements of Copland's later works are already present here, albeit in a different form and stage of development.

Quiet City, for English Horn, Trumpet and Strings was written in 1941 (two years before Appalachian Spring). It's a dialogue between the two solo instruments with string accompaniment. Though it is a intimate work, focussing more on harmony than on rhythm, I find myself getting bored towards the end, it's quite a lot of the same really.

The two pieces for string orchestra are arrangements of the two pieces for string quartet that Copland wrote between 1923 and 1928. The Lento molto is a melodramatic piece with dense harmonical writing. It's a silently flowing piece with now and then some dramatic crescendo's. The second piece, a rondino, opens similar to the first movement of the sextet. Although it is not as complicated as the sextet, it's has the same character, albeit more lyrical (as can be expected with a string orchestra). But, even when there is more lyrical writing there is always the driving force of the opening rhythm, even pizzicato in the violins under a beautiful cello-melody.
The last work on this CD is the exuberant Hoe Down from Rodeo. This is Copland on his most humorous and most enthusiastic. The violins even produce some dubious tones in this semblance of a drunken feast.

I find this CD a very nice compilation of some of Copland's well-known and less well-known works, with very nice ensemble playing. It's definitely a CD that will never lose its charm. JJM Peters

1. Appalachian Spring, concert suite for full orchestra 26:30 (1945)

Sextet, for clarinet, piano & string quartet (arr. of Symphony No. 2) 15:38 (1937)
2. Allegro Vivace 4:40
3. Lento 4:54
4. Finale 6:00
Violins: Robert Gibbs, Amanda Smith
Ian Rathbone (viola), Ferenc Szucs (cello), Michael Freyhan (piano), Anthony Pike (clarinet)

5. Quiet City, for English horn, trumpet & strings (from the incidental music) 10:07 (1940)
John Wilbraham (trumpet), Alison Alty (English Horn)

Two Pieces for string orchestra (arr. from 2 Pieces for string quartet) 9:19 (1923, 1928)
6. Lento Molto 5:20
7. Rondino 3:58

8. “Hoe down” from Rodeo, ballet 3:01 (1942)

Performed by: London Festival Orchestra conducted by Ross Pople
Recorded January 24&25, 1996 at The Warehouse, London UK

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Simply put, Aaron Copland is one of the most important composers of the twentieth century. He codified a concert music sound that was distinctly "American," and single-handedly created a generous path for composers in his native land, bringing to "the new world" what was mostly, up until that point, an imported and exclusively European art form. He lived a long and productive life, one that spanned almost the entire century, and worked not only as a composer, but as a conductor, pianist, teacher, author, concert promoter and generous friend to music.

His parents immigrated from Poland and Lithuania to New York City in their adolescence; Aaron was their fifth child, born in 1900. He was gifted at the piano, studying with Victor Wittgenstein and Clarence Adler. He took lessons in harmony and counterpoint with Goldmark, an old-fashioned teacher who was dedicated to Beethoven and Fux, and against whom Copland rebelled, as children do, becoming enamoured of Scriabin, Debussy and Ives (whom Goldmark called "dangerous"). Eventually, when he was twenty, the young composer-to-be set sail for Paris and the tutelage of Nadia Boulanger.

Under Boulanger Copland began to write his first full-fledged pieces, as well as keeping an involved notebook of musical ideas, an example of his legendary parsimonious nature, always thrifty with everything, especially notes. Using the new knowledge his teacher had imparted to him about Stravinsky, he also cultivated an interest in Jazz, mostly as seen through the eyes of the French, though he did have some knowledge of it from his time in New York. When he returned to America, it was with the score to a ballet called Grohg, along with sketches that would become the Symphonic Ode and Music for the Theatre in his satchel. He had begun to find his voice.

Copland’s legendary compositional output changed it all; Americans no longer had to seek Teutonic refuge, trying to be Brahms. Works like the Third Symphony, with its Fanfare for the Common Man, Rodeo, Billy the Kid, Appalachian Spring, the Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson and El Salon Mexico showed American composers that it was possible to create a sound that was both nationalistic and musically sophisticated. He taught generations to draw influence from what was around, whether that happened to be Gershwin, Debussy, jazz, folk-tunes or hoedowns.

Yet Copland was more than a creator of wistful American nostalgia; he was a deeply sophisticated musician, aware of aesthetic trends of his time. Some of his works, like the early Piano Variations or the later Inscape, are truly modernist creations, not ignoring the influence of the Second Viennese School. His output was diverse, and even eclectic. He also wrote a great deal of chamber music, much of which is included here.

Copland seemed to have two separate sides, the populist and the aesthete. The Sonata for Violin and Piano seems to fall in between the two, being jaunty and full of good tunes, but also based on sophisticated harmonies and unorthodox musical schemes. The piece is dedicated to Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham, a close friend of Copland’s who died in battle, and the date of its première (17th January 1944, with violinist Ruth Posselt and the composer at the piano) shows that war was probably very much on the pacifist Copland’s mind. Cast in three movements with traditional titles (Andante, Lento and Allegretto giusto) this is truly a neo-classical work, but it is also pure Copland; as with everything, he took what he needed of the theoretical conceits, but ultimately composed to his instincts.

Two Pieces for violin and piano, which Copland wrote in the mid 1920s for himself and violinist Samuel Dushkin to play in a Boulanger-sponsored concert in Paris, is a chance to see Copland playing with new ideas, including a new fascination with jazz (this is also the period he was writing his heavily jazz-influenced Piano Concerto). Much of this music would be mined for later scores, but they do hold interest on their own. This is music that is bitonal (in more than one key at once), undoubtedly influenced by Darius Milhaud, whom Copland esteemed highly. In the Ukelele Serenade Copland is having a good time trying to make the fiddle sound like something it is not.

Copland’s piano trio Vitebsk, one of his few "Jewish" works, is here arranged for violin and piano. It is a startling piece, full of wailing dissonances, even using microtones, notes which fall in between the cracks of piano keys, not of the "Western" well-tempered system. It is based on The Dybuk, a Jewish folk-tale, which also fascinated George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein, about spirits and doomed love in a small Hasidic community, and Copland hoped the music would, in his own words, "...reflect the harshness and drama of Jewish life in White Russia." It is, therefore, a lean, almost angry work, with many moods contained in its taut single movement.

Dipping even further into the well of Copland’s juvenilia, Two Preludes for Violin and Piano are attempts to translate poetry into music, as Liszt had done in his tone poems. The poets in whom Copland found inspiration were Witter Bynner and Wallace Stevens, both contemporaneous and American. Here we see the seed of the Copland yet to come, the off-kilter rhythms, the stark harmonies, and the sparseness of texture. The titles offer their own explanations; these are musical moment pieces, composed to a single-focused and specific idea of mood.

Originally scored for flute and piano, Copland’s Duo was re-scored by the composer in 1977 at the request of Robert Mann, the violinist for the Juilliard Quartet and Copland enthusiast. The "all-but" sonata was therefore transcribed into this version, which took a good deal less time than the composition - Copland worked for three years on the Duo, commissioned by William Kinkcaid. The famous flautist wanted something that would work " a sonata," and Copland certainly delivered the goods, offering a tightly formed work in three movements. The second movement in particular, the composition of which took most of the three years, evokes, in the composer’s own words "a certain mood that I connect with myself - a rather sad and wistful one, I suppose."

The ballet Rodeo was a divisive moment in Copland’s career, a complete smash hit, and yet the piece that managed to alienate him from much of his community. Copland, they thought, had sold out. Copland even incorporates some memorable American folk-tunes. It is a cowboy romance, full of wranglers and cowgirls, and culminating in a hoedown. The choreography and scenario were by Agnes de Mille, who, on the strength of her work on Rodeo, was hired to choreograph a new musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein called Oklahoma!, and Copland composed dutifully to her vision, though he preferred his idea for a ballet about Ellis Island. The 1942 première at the Metropolitan Opera was an enormous success, with a standing ovation. The suite from the work is one of Copland’s most recognizable achievements, with hundreds of performances and countless wonderful recordings. Daniel Felsenfeld

Paul Posnak (piano)
Peter Zazofsky (violin

Sonata for Violin and Piano (1943)
1. I. Andante semplice 7:41
2. II. Lento 4:56
3. III. Allegretto giusto 6:55

Two Pieces for Violin and Piano (1926)
4. Nocturne (Lento moderato) 00:05:40
5. Ukelele Serenade (Allegro vivo) 00:04:26

6. Vitebsk (Study on a Jewish Theme for Piano, Violin and Cello) (1929) 12:03
Harbaugh, Ross, cello

7. Prelude No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1917) 3:41
8. Prelude No. 2 for Violin and Piano (1917) 4:54

Duo for Violin and Piano (1978)
9. I. Flowing 5:44
10. II. Poetic, somewhat mournful 4:50
11. III. Lively, with bounce 3:22

Rodeo: Hoe Down 1942 (arr.1945)
12. Rodeo: Hoe Down 3:14

Billy the Kid: Waltz and Celebration (1938)
Arr. For violin and piano
13. Waltz (Molto moderato) 3:56
14. Celebration (Allegro) 2:24

Total Playing Time: 1:13:46

Recorded: at Gusman Hall, University of Miami, School of Music, Coral Gables, Florida on May 9 and June 14, 15 and 16, 2000