CD REVIEW – COPLAND : ORCHESTRAL WORKS 4 – SYMPHONIES
BBC Philharmonic /John Wilson
 
Chandos CHSA 5222 (66:09)

Aaron Copland (1900-90) devotees will no doubt have been waiting for this release – the last in a series – recorded in March this year at MediaCityUK, Salford. I favourably reviewed the first here in January 2016, devoted as it was to the composer's popular ballet music.

There have subsequently been two further albums of his lesser-known symphonies and shorter works, with this being the third. His most imposing orchestral work, the Third Symphony, [written in 1944-46 and dedicated to the memory of the famous conductor Serge Koussevitzky's second wife], was described by the Russian maestro as the greatest of all American symphonies. It is certainly the best-known, particularly for Copland's inclusion of a reworked version of his Fanfare for the Common Man in the finale. It was backed by Bernstein and is performed here in its original form.

There are three shorter works. The pastoral Letter from Home (5:40) was written in 1944 for a radio dance orchestra fronted by the legendary Paul Whiteman. Down A Country Lane (2:17) from 20 years later is an arrangement for school orchestra of an original piano piece, and received its first performance at London's Royal Festival Hall directed by the noted music educator Ernest Read.

The album opens with Connotations (18:42) dedicated in 1962 to members of the New York Philharmonic and their MD, Leonard Bernstein. Unlike Copland's earlier music, it is not recognised for its tunefulness.

The highly regarded John Wilson has obvious feeling for this composer's music and, as ever, the Northern-based orchestra play very well for him. If you are not into Copland, this album is a fine all-round production with splendid sound that deserves being given a hearing.

2018 Peter Burt

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