WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Copland: Dance Symphony, Short Symphony, Etc / Slatkin


Release Date: 12/29/2009 
Label:  Rca Victor Red Seal Catalog #: 68292   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Aaron Copland
Performer:  Simon Preston
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is Copland outreaching himself, theoretical ingenuity allied to vision, and like this sharp, smart, punchy performance, the overriding impression is of evolution — onwards and upwards.

It was immediately after the premiere of Copland's Organ Symphony (later revamped sans organ as Symphony No. 1) that the conductor Walter Damrosch made his famous remark: "Ladies and gentlemen ... if a gifted young man can write a symphony like this at 23, within five years he will be ready to commit murder!". He should have added — premeditated with special circumstances. It arrives by stealth, this timely roar from the roaring twenties. A short, reflective cello and flute-led prelude promises springtime (with or without
Read more the attendant rites). Nadia Boulanger and Igor Stravinsky look on. The organ's phantom presence suggests a kind of crystal cathedral: ethereal, sensuous, lavish and very French. But then the American in Paris (and suddenly he's not hiding his identity) is kicking open the door on a scherzo whose bright, snappy rhythmic displacements are pure jazz-age fancy. The first big tutti raises hell — a bronco bucking rowdy which Leonard Slatkin brings on with a rude lick of his Saint Louis trombones.

There are plenty more surprises where that one came from: the quiet distraction of the trio, for one — strangely removed from its raucous context. And the finale, too inquisitive, too searching (how curious that fleeting reverie with its elfin fanfares), too rebellious to be grandly conclusive. It's an oddly eclectic mix born of oddly eclectic elements. Russian immigrant parents, a French teacher, jazz — the new national identity: all have a hand in the composition. But still the voice which emerges most strongly is American. Something stirs in the great outdoors but, as yet, it's untamed and more than a little unpredictable. Which brings us back to Walter Damrosch.

I suppose you could say that the Dance Symphony fulfilled a murderous promise, despite its innocuous title. It wasn't always thus: Grohg, Copland's unpublished and never-performed ballet, was the basis for it. You may recall the Svengali-meets-Petruslika scenario: Grohg, the vampire magician with a choreographic bloodlust. Not that it's important. The spirit of the dance rules, and through it young Copland taps once more into his French connections, to indulge himself, to bring on the cornets and two harps, to lend a Berlioz-like enchantment to the solo bassoon; the second movement's shadowy waltz is the one that never made it into the Symphonic fantastique. There is an intoxicating climax which might (in this context) be described as BartOk's Mandarin having got his second wind. The fact is that the real Copland, the Copland we instantly recognize and love, only fully emerges with the Short Symphony (No. 2) of 1932-3. The Stravinsky factor is strong, of course (wiry, angular, busy neo-classical tone and a folkloric homespun quality), but the true grit is entirely Copland's. The shrill, chiselled colours with the distinctive solo piano presence are here established as key features of his musical DNA. The rhythmic bounce, the sometimes belligerent syncopations, are all his, too. Slatkin and his band are as spry as can be on that score.

The most exciting item on the disc, however, comes last in the chronology. Nearly three decades after Copland famously got tough with his Piano Variations (1930), he laid them out for orchestra. And they came up sounding like a brand-new piece — a born orchestral piece. This is Copland outreaching himself, theoretical ingenuity allied to vision. It's the spirit of resource that built downtown America. And rather like this sharp, smart, punchy performance, the overriding impression is of evolution — onwards and upwards.

-- Gramophone [6/1996]
Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Symphony for Organ and Orchestra "Organ Symphony" by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Simon Preston (Organ)
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 09/21/1993 
Venue:  Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis 
Length: 23 Minutes 38 Secs. 
2. Dance Symphony by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; USA 
Date of Recording: 02/1995 
Venue:  Powell Symphony Hall, St. Louis 
Length: 16 Minutes 6 Secs. 
3. Symphony no 2 "Short Symphony" by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932-1933; USA 
Date of Recording: 02/1995 
Venue:  Powell Symphony Hall, St. Louis 
Length: 14 Minutes 19 Secs. 
4. Orchestral Variations by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/09/1995 
Venue:  Powell Symphony Hall, St. Louis 
Length: 12 Minutes 36 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook