COPLAND Symphony No 3; Quiet City – Bernstein
Copland intended this symphony as a 'grand gesture' and there is no doubt at any point in Bernstein's performance that a big statement is being made: there is passionate earnestness in the opening movement and tremendous impact to the brass and drums at the beginning of the scherzo, the central mood of the andantino is one of vibrant intensity, while the finale is a public address of great splendour. Even the innocent simplicity, rather Appalachian Spring-like with which the trio section opens soon gives way to heartfelt rather than intimately confiding strings, and full-voiced vehemence follows hard upon the bright glitter of the scherzo's return. All the more effective, then, the chill pallor of the violins ushering in the slow movement and the lovely, quiet solemnity of the finale's long-delayed 'third subject', but I could have done with more such moments, and suspect that they could readily be found in a symphony that is not all confidence and majestic optimism.
It is not that Bernstein ignores ambiguities, shadows and uncertainties, but that he projects them, too, as public, slightly histrionic gestures.
However, it is undoubtedly the 'positive' aspects of the work that have made its reputation, and they could hardly be more eloquently stated: the dance-like rhythms are crisp and springy, the Fanfare for the common man, quoted in its entirety as an earnest of the grandeur of the finale's gestures, is magnificently sonorous and the noble conclusion of the work is vastly impressive. Quiet City is given a no less deeply felt reading; again, the vibrato of the solo trumpet and the soft richness of the strings in their fuller pages struck me as very slightly over-acted.
The symphony was recorded at a public concert (before an exceptionally well-trained or uncommonly healthy audience: not a cough is to be heard) and the sound has plenty of power and edge but not quite enough richness to the bass; high strings sometimes take on a dazzling glare. The much more reticently scored Quiet City, made in the studio, has no such problems.'