Copland Symphony No. 3; Appalachian Spring Suite
As an opening salute, the Fanfare for the Common Man makes a good cen-tenary tribute and prepares listeners for its appearance in the finale of the Third Symphony. It also shows off the prowess of the Minnesota brass. The version of Appalachian Spring here is the suite, not the full ballet, and it is well paced under Oue although occasionally lacking attack in the strings, for example at 15'22'', where Copland said he wanted ‘bitten out marcato’.
The Third Symphony (1944-46) followed straight on from Appalachian Spring, with Copland extending that idiom into an epic symphony very much affected by the post-war American mood and providing a vehicle for Koussevitzky. Copland’s Third is surely the finest American symphony after Ives, and has eclipsed that other once-famous Third – by Roy Harris. The Copland used to seem exaggerated, but now, with so much Mahler around, that is no longer the case. The work is spaciously proportioned, which comes over well in this new recording.
Significant earlier versions have been Copland’s rather understated treatment with the New Philharmonia and, of course, Bernstein’s much better projected interpretation on DG, which I have always considered the best (see my Copland Collection last month).
But I find Oue’s approach compelling throughout, falling midway between Copland’s objectivity and Bernstein’s dramatisation. The soft, long lines of the first movement move inexorably towards the first climax, and Copland’s translucent scoring tells in its purely personal way. The scherzo is a controlled riot, again showing off the brass – the orchestra’s best feature – and the finale is convincing. I’ve concentrated on the Third because, although the orchestra is not flawless, I think this is among the best recordings since Bernstein – and the recorded sound is spectacular.'