COPLAND Symphony No 3; Billy the Kid Suite
This time there’s no question about Naxos claiming these two works as American Classics. The first of Copland’s three popular ballets is coupled with what I have called ‘arguably the greatest American symphony’ (in a forthcoming symposium entitled Copland Connotations).
I was enthusiastic about Oue’s interpretation of the expansive Third Symphony with the Minnesota Orchestra and found the coupling with the Fanfare for the Common Man and Appalachian Spring appropriate for the centenary. The enhanced sound of a modern recording was also a bonus. Now there’s another view of Copland’s largest instrumental work emanating from those heady years at the end of the Second World War.
Judd’s first movement has more dynamic range than Oue’s performance and the long lines feel better paced. There’s an oddity in the glockenspiel part at 9'36" that ought to have been picked up in editing but the ending is impressive and the movement has not felt too long.
The second movement is the rumbustious Scherzo in Copland’s most extrovert manner. Judd’s interpretation works‚ and makes Oue seem a trifle pedestrian‚ closer to Copland’s own performances than the dazzle that Bernstein brought to this kind of texture. Ever economical‚ Copland bases the main theme of his slow movement on the trombone melody from the first movement. The New Zealand strings are not as precise in the taxing high opening as the Minnesota players but‚ when it eventually comes‚ the fanfare and the subtle textures surrounding it are completely convincing.
The verdict on this efficient and sympathetic performance of the symphony will be affected by its being the best buy around now. The suite from Billy the Kid gets thoroughly idiomatic treatment too and I hope that the coupling will encourage lovers of the most folksy Copland to recognise and enjoy the same composer in the big symphony.