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