Copland: Orchestral Works Volume 4 (SACD)

Current Stock:
BBC Philharmonic, John Wilson

 ‘I hope you will knuckle down to a good symphony’, wrote Samuel Barber in September 1944 to his fellow composer Aaron Copland: ‘We deserve it of you, and your career is all set for it.’ It was a strange thing to say given that Copland had already composed a variety of symphonies, albeit admittedly all more experimental than Barber might have preferred.

The fourth volume in the highly acclaimed Copland series from John Wilson and the BBC Philharmonic opens with the resoundingly successful Symphony No. 3 (1944 – 46). The optimistic spirit of this work resonated perfectly with the euphoria of post-war America, resulting in its becoming an emblem of US nationalism. This lesser-recorded original version comes complete with the twelve bars which Bernstein later suggested cutting from the fourth movement.

Three commissions complement the symphony: Letter from Home (1944) reflects the feelings of receiving a letter from a loved one. Down a Country Lane (originally commissioned by Life magazine as a solo piano work) is here performed in its orchestral version (1964), re-imagined for a series of concerts showcasing youth orchestras.Connotations (1962), a twelve-note serial composition premiered by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic at the inauguration of The Philharmonic Hall, complete this invigorating surround-sound album.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Aaron Copland (1900-1990):

  • Symphony No. 3
  • Letter from Home
  • Down a Country Lane
  • Connotations

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


A great recording, with a major symphony at its heart.



At the end of World War Two, America felt triumphant and looked forward to a period of peace and prosperity. Many American composers aimed to express this in their music, especially in the form of symphonies. The most successful was Aaron Copland (1900-1990); his Symphony No. 3 had all the hallmarks of the era, and is still arguably the greatest symphony written by an American. It is virtually a symphony of fanfares; the final movement uses the composer's uplifting Fanfare for the Common Man as its theme, composed a few years earlier.

The rest of the program brings together the composer's popular "wide open spaces" Americana with his dissonant late style. The late Connotations was written for the opening of Lincoln Centre in New York; Letter from Home and Down a Country Lane are two short orchestral works, both gentle and nostalgic. 

This is the fourth disc in the Copland series featuring John Wilson leading the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (based in Manchester). Although Wilson is English, he specialises in American music. He conducted the Sydney Symphony's brilliant Leonard Bernstein Centenary concert earlier this year. Without doubt, Wilson's is the best Copland on disc since Bernstein's New York recordings of the 1960s, and better played than the composer's own versions. The rhythms are tight and exciting, the woodwind solos are beautiful: everything tells. Wilson even makes Connotations approachable by emphasising the piece's lyrical moments. It goes without saying - but let's say it! - Chandos's sound is light years ahead of any competition, even in regular stereo. A great disc.