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Copland: The Modernist
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Copland: The Modernist

1 Jan 2000 | Format: MP3

6.93 (VAT included if applicable)
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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 15 Oct 1996
  • Release Date: 15 Oct 1996
  • Label: RCA Red Seal
  • Record Company Required Metadata: Music file metadata contains unique purchase identifier. Learn more.
  • Total Length: 1:06:15
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B001GS1YBY
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 332,777 in MP3 Albums (See Top 100 in MP3 Albums)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
my favorite Copland disc 17 Aug 2000
By slightlykooky - Published on
Format: Audio CD
What separates this disc from hundred other Copland discs are the incredible performances of the San Francisco Symphony w/ MTT and the specific programming combination of pieces compiled here. The disc has the rarely heard "Symphonic Ode" as well as tour d'force 2nd Symphony and the "Orchestral Variations." The placement of these latter two pieces is particularly rewarding.
Any follower of Copland must have this disc in their CD collection. Anyone who has heard his "Fanfare for the Common Man" or "Appalachian Spring" ballet will be challenged. The Orchestral Variations are an orchestration of his "Piano Variations" (from 1930/1931, I think). The Piano version became 'in-famous' at Tanglewood when a young pianist named Leonard Bernstein used to play them at receptions and concerts. Today they don't have the harsh edge or bite that they might have had then, but listeners used to "Fanfare for the common man" might be a little fidgety.
The real meaty tour d'force is his 2nd symphony. MTT gets an amazing sound from the SFS on this recording. The 2nd symphony wasn't performed for decades after Copland first wrote it. Koussevitsky said it was 'too difficult' for the orchestra. Disconsoled and uncertain about future performances Copland made a sextet version which also ROCKS (see Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Player recording on Nonesuch/Elektra). Finally at the 21st century orchestras CAN indeed play it and play it with such conviction. The challenging cross meter and multiple beat patterns pose no problem for MTT and the SFS.
If you want to expand your Copland horizon, get this disc!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Copland "the modernist"? Well - relatively to Copland the "populist" maybe, but this remains quite accessible "modernism" 23 Jun 2009
By Discophage - Published on
Format: Audio CD
It would be comfortable to think of Copland as the early modernist turned populist (he would have been neither the first nor the last), but the picture isn't so simple. When, in view of the lack of success of his early compositions, he turned to a more populist style, heralded in 1936 by El Salon Mexico, Copland never abandoned his "modernist" manner, and the two subsequently coexisted.

Copland "the populist" and composer of "cowboy music" is evidently more popular than Copland the "modernist", but I've long been an admirer of tha latter. I consider the Piano Sonata, Piano Fantasy and Piano Variations to belong to the great masterpieces of 20th Century piano literature.

In fact, calling the composer of those and other "serious" compositions a "modernist" is a bit exaggerated. That Copland was considered such in the 1930s says a lot about the state of cultural backwardness of audiences and critics then. Heard today, Copland's "serious" compositions (or "severe" as he himself characterized them) are rarely difficult music. They are serious, yes, but also alternately grandiose and granitic, intensely lyrical, and sweepingly dynamic. Yes, there are dissonances and crashing chords - always at the service of a great dramatic impact. Elements of the musical language that Copland uses in his more popular pieces can easily be recognized even in earlier ones. The difference between the modernist and the populist isn't a case of schizophrenia.

In that respect, it takes really a wide stretch of the imagination tho attribute the Piano Concerto to the "modernist" - or even to the "serious" Copland. It is a short piece (17 minutes here), in two movements, and the second is Copland out-jazzing Gershwin. It may have been viewed as modernist back when it was premiered in 1927 - granted, it is more unruly, rambunctious and angular than anything Gershwin ever wrote, more like "Bartok meets West-Side Story" (I hear striking echoes of Bartok's 2nd Piano Concerto) - but heard today it is as "populist" as it will get. The first movement, alternating grandiose and sweepingly epic fanfares and more pastoral moments (sunset on the prairie after a hard day's work), announces Copland's later style.

The Orchestral Variations are the orchestration, made in 1957 on a commission by the Louisville Orchestra, of the early Piano Variations from 1930. The music is maybe not "modernist" (not compared to Schoenberg or Varèse, not to mention whoever was modern in 1957 - how about Elliott Carter, who, also on a Louisville commission, had written his Variations for Orchestra two years before?) but certainly "severe", and it is a great orchestral piece, entirely convincing and self-sufficient in its orchestral guise. All is clearly announced in the powerful, stark and forbidding statement of its theme - a musical evocation perhaps of the awe and terror inspired to the mortal soul when the Gates of Heaven open for Judgment. It is followed by twenty (short) variations and a coda (not individually cued), each running so smoothly into the next that the seams can hardly be heard. It is imposing and "eloquent" - a character indication that often comes under Copland's pen.

Incredible how much the "Short Symphony" from 1933 sounds like Stravinsky - but the Stravinsky of The Rakes Progress (1951) or even Agon (1957). It is sprightly, spirited, almost abstract in its staccato jauntiness, while its second movement develops to great lyrical intensity in a way that also evokes Honegger. After its world premiere in Mexico City in 1934 under Carlos Chavez, it didn't get a US premiere until 1944, as Stokowski and Koussevitzky, while admiring it, considered it too complex rythmically for their respective orchestra (no less than Philadelphia and Boston) to master it in the alloted rehearsal time. It is is a marvelous composition.

And so is the Symphonic Ode. Its first version, writtten for a Mahler-sized orchestra, was completed in 1929 and it got its first performance in 1932 under Koussevitzky, but Copland withdrew it and re-orchestrated it for smaller forces in 1955. It exudes tremendous rhythmic energy, and like the Short Sypmphony it is filled with a spirit of dance, while its slow, middle section (it has five, playing without break) develops to great lyrical intensity and stark eloquence. It is the most dissonant of the compositions featured here.

MTT and SFSO deliver good to outstanding interpretations, that come against the strong competition represented by the composer's own recordings - in the Piano Concerto both as conductor, in 1961 with Earl Wild (Copland, Menotti: Piano Concertos, Copland: Piano Concerto And Orchestra/Menotti: Concerto In F For Piano And Orchestra), and pianist, in 1964 with Bernstein (The Copland Collection: Early Orchestral Works, 1922-1935). Ohlsson is more subtle of touch than Copland, but Copland's biting accents and cruder sonics, as well as Wild's greater muscularity and bigger tone, are more appropriate in the Jazzy 2nd movement. But overall all three conductors and orchestras have the required verve, dynamism and rambuctiousness (see my reviews of the two other recordings for more details).

In the Orchestral Variations comparisons with the composer himself (The Copland Collection: Orchestral Works, 1948-1971), Bernstein live in 1958 (New York Philharmonic - An American Celebration vol. 2) and Robert Whitney in the 1958 premiere recording with the Louisville Orchestra (Variations) - the two latter in mono - show that the piece can be conducted with marginally more tautness (Copland), urgency and violence (Bernstein), rawness and uncompromissing starkness and bite than MTT. Still MTT's is a fine reading, imposing in the theme and first variations, suitably urgent in the final ones (14 to 20), and the Sanfranciscans play with peerless ensemble.

In the Symphony and the Ode, when there is an interpretive difference with Copland (more in the Ode than the Symphony), it is MTT's favor: in the Symphony, he is slightly more driven, muscular and snappy in the finale. Likewise in the Ode TT is swifter and more urgent than Copland's more solemn approach. There are spots where Copland's LSO in 1965 and 67 seems to struggle with the notes, the Sanfranciscan have them in their stride.

But where Copland's recordings have a surprising edge is in the area of sonics: they have much more presence, vividness and instrumental color than MTT's digital recording (I was bothered more in the PC and Variations), making them, still today, a first choice, and TT a welcome complement.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
...lesser known works 1 Mar 2004
By David Brooks - Published on
Format: Audio CD
For anyone wanting to go beyond the popular works of "Fanfare For The Common Man", "Appalachian Spring", "Rodeo Suites" and "Billy The Kid"...this disc is a good introduction to neglected works that had a bit of a shaky history. "The Short Symphony" was viewed as being to difficult to perform and ended up resurfacing in small scale works. The piece is represented by three movements fast-slow-fast that are played without a pause in the music with the extraordinary beauty of the slow movement.
"The Concerto For Piano And Orchestra" makes full use of jazz material with the piano conversing with the rest of the instruments. Michael Tilson Thomas has a good feel for Copland, as he does for any other American composer and the performance of the San Francisco Symphony is brisk and clear. This disc is most certainly a welcomed addition to any Copland collection, although there are no signs of any patriotic hymns or overtures that you can expect elsewhere.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Amazingly good. 19 Feb 2007
By P. Wood - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I must confess I've never given much chance to classical music, despite being a huge music fanatic. After seeing a special on PBS about Copland, I was intrigued at how some of his later era stuff seemed to have a jazz influence in it. I ran across this album early into my search for some of his more adventurous stuff, and I'd say I hit the nail right on the head. Nothing on here is predictable and dull in any way--it's very exciting and interesting stuff that has totally changed my view of classical/orchestra music. I've heard some of his other stuff, and I think everything I've heard is very good, but this one takes the gold as being not only the best I've heard from Copland, but some of the very best music I've ever heard.
Beautiful recordings of exquisite music. 15 Dec 2013
By Sam Millstein - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Copland could deftly sport many musical hats and they all seem to fit Michael Tilson Thomas quite comfortably. Great album, wonderfully modern in a totally accessible way. The orchestra plays like a single character who feels totally at home within these scores.
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