This latest release from Naxos brings together Copland's other purely orchestral `symphonies': Whilst it is the Third symphony which is probably the best known of his symphonic output, and which undoubtedly fulfils the concept of the symphony most powerfully and cogently, these three other works are engaging and distinctive in their own right.
The Symphony No.1 is an arrangement of Copland's symphony for Organ and Orchestra from 1924. As the booklet notes point out, the arrangement was primarily made so that the work could attract a greater number of performances through employing a conventional sized orchestra, yet the irony is that the original version has generally received more outings than the arrangement (comparison between the two shows how Copland has revoiced the organ part to integrate it into the orchestral palette, yet the works can be enjoyed as separate entities, each a different `take' on the same material).
The symphony as recorded on this disc is muscular and compelling, with a typical no-nonsense clear-water orchestration, and a Stravinskian construction.
The Symphony No.2- otherwise known as the `Short symphony- is, at 15 minutes long, about the same length as Prokofiev's classical symphony. It employs an even more concentrated neo-classical Stravinskian sound world, and there are distinct echoes of the `wide-open prairie' sound of Copland's ballets.
With its complicated rhythms, this is not a work for anything less than a virtuoso orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony do not disappoint. Alsop gives the piece a continuous onward momentum, as vital here as with Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks. Without such intensity, the piece would soon unravel. Instead it unfolds with a satisfying lyrical logic.
The last work on the CD- the Dance Symphony- betrays its balletic origins (especially in the central movement) in a Debussy-like sound world, though the overall shape and feel of the piece follows the normal symphonic pattern. The three movements follow one another without a break, and it is easy to see how Copland's original inspiration (the 1921 film Nosferatu) engendered a kaleidoscopic pictorial feel, edged with a primitive syncopated colouring.
This is an impressive release highlighting the passion and precision which this orchestra can generate: Marin Alsop bows out in style.