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Variations - Copland, Carter, Ives, Dallapiccola

Release Date: 05/13/2003 
Label:  First Edition   Catalog #: 1   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Aaron CoplandElliott CarterCharles IvesLuigi Dallapiccola
Conductor:  Robert Whitney
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Louisville Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

All tracks have been digitally mastered using HDCD technology.

Among the extraordinary gems in the Louisville Orchestra’s commissioning legacy and the First Edition Records archive are three vital works of variations for orchestra, composed in a short span in the 1950s by three of the most important composers of the Twentieth Century: Elliot Carter, Aaron Copland, and Luigi Dallapiccola. The variation form provided these composers with the structure to create an orchestral essay at a time when the genre of the symphony was widely considered obsolete as a vehicle of expression. What links these works is not only their remarkable origin, commissioned by, composed for, and given their world premiere performance and recording by
Read more the Louisville Orchestra less than six years apart; but also that each work is among the strongest orchestral works in the catalog of each composer.

These works emanate from an intellectually fervent decade, and from minds deeply involved in the debates of their day. “Variations” was a fertile concept that, as Elliot Carter alludes to in the enclosed notes, provided the construct for more than musical machinations. Collectively, these pieces are varia-tions of modernist postures, uniting classical construct with serialist technique, and utilizing high degrees of formalist process while not sacrificing expression in any way. Perhaps the variation form, divorced from programmatic intent, provided the space for these composers to exercise their considerable musi-cality and assert their formidable personalities – with what Luigi Dallapiccola referred to as liberation.

Aaron Copland’s Orchestral Variations, which is an orchestration of his masterful Piano Variations of 1930 and is from his unpopular “severe” style, employs a quasi-serialist five-note row. Yet this is unmistakably Copland, with wide open intervals (albeit diminished or dissonant) and dance-like rhythmic motives which bear remarkable similarity to his Americanist works. The sensibility of his musical personality transcending and even mocking the vagaries of outside opinion, is in this work strongly reminiscent of Shostakovich.

Luigi Dallapiccola’s ability to create serene musical moments is widely admired, and in his Variazioni per Orchestra, an orchestration of Dallapiccola piano variations entitled Analibera’s Notebook, that serenity is brilliantly juxtaposed with moments that are strange and disorienting. In a February 20, 1957 letter to Louisville Orchestra manager Richard Wangerin, Aaron Copland cited Variazioni, commissioned and recorded by the Louisville Orchestra just three years earlier, as encouragement for Copland to orchestrate his own Piano Variations of 1930 to fulfill his Louisville commission.

How enervating is Elliot Carter’s Variations for Orchestra, which uses themes like dramatic characters, rushing them through profound sweeps of emotional contrast and scenarios of unpredictable variety! Variations thoroughly expresses the complexity of its time, with wonderfully twisting lines moving at different speeds and with intersections forever changing.

With its polytonality and sense of collision and audacious proclamation, Charles Ives’ Variations on “America” is a prescient cultural artifact. Ives transforms an ubiquitous national hymn into a reflective, congenial metaphor for the often paradoxical countercurrents of things American. Composed for organ in 1891, with interludes added shortly thereafter, the work was expertly orchestrated by William Schuman in 1963 on a commission from BMI. For Ives, there was more than one “America,” a notion that Robert Whitney and the Louisville Orchestra later embraced with their dedicated commitment to communicating the variations heard on this vital recording.

—John Kennedy
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Works on This Recording

Orchestral Variations by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Robert Whitney
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Louisville Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/21/1958 
Venue:  Columbia Auditorium, Louisville, KY 
Length: 12 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Variations for Orchestra by Elliott Carter
Conductor:  Robert Whitney
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Louisville Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954-1955; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/20/1956 
Venue:  Columbia Auditorium, Louisville, KY 
Length: 23 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Variations for Organ on "America" by Charles Ives
Conductor:  Robert Whitney
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Louisville Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1891; USA 
Date of Recording: 11/24/1964 
Venue:  Macauley Theater, Louisville, Kentucky 
Length: 6 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Notes: Orchestrated: William Schuman 
Variazioni for Orchestra by Luigi Dallapiccola
Conductor:  Robert Whitney
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Louisville Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954; Italy 
Date of Recording: 10/1954 
Venue:  Columbia Auditorium, Louisville, KY 
Length: 13 Minutes 37 Secs. 

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