Leonard Slatkin can always be counted on to offer a new take on familiar classics. He recorded an excellent Copland Third for RCA back in his St. Louis days, and this performance is almost identical in terms of tempo and expression–but not quite. Copland’s publishers, Boosey and Hawkes, in their infinite wisdom and desire to make a buck or two, have republished the composer’s Third Symphony with its original ending. If you have an older score, you might still find it there. Later printings removed the bits that Copland cut at Leonard Bernstein’s suggestion.
Now we can all hear definitively that those cuts were a good idea. The finale is already one of the most earsplitting essays in populist pomposity in the entire symphonicRead more literature. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a blast as it stands and I wouldn’t change a note. The original, in comparison, sounds gratuitously, unconvincingly prolonged (sound clip), and before we start blathering about the revision not representing Copland’s intentions, let’s note that both of the composer’s own recordings of the symphony–made decades apart–observe the cuts (there are two, actually, one very tiny).
That said, this is in every respect a terrific performance, excitingly played and conducted, powerfully recorded, and with a nice bonus in the form of the Three Latin American Sketches. As a collector, I am happy to have the opportunity to hear Copland’s first thoughts, but one fine recording of them is enough.