Leonard Slatkin/DSO: Copland: Symphony No. 3 (Naxos)
When I talked with Leonard Slatkin recently, he was really fired up about the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's historic tour to Asia, "You know, the orchestra has never been to Asia before and this is the first big tour we've embarked on during the entirety of my tenure as music director mostly because we said we would not go on a tour unless we had all the money in hand to go."
A month earlier, he served as chair for the jury at the Van Cliburn International Competition, another first for Slatkin, who's conducted virtually every leading orchestra in the world, and produced more than 100 recordings throughout his career.
As he prepares for his 10th and final season as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Slatkin is excited to release another recording in their Copland cycle, "So now we finished the ballets. And I wanted to do the Third Symphony," he explains.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra first recorded Copland's Third symphony with Neeme Jarvi in 1995. Leonard Slatkin has also recorded it with the St. Louis Symphony, "The reason I wanted to rerecord that, not that I was unhappy with the old recording although I don't really listen to them once I've made them. But I would say for the last 20 years or so, I've reinstated music that was excised after its first performances but the excisions came at the suggestion not of Copland but of Leonard Bernstein.
I felt that the cuts were just not necessary. They're short - there's a seven bar one near the end and another one little bit before that. There are some differences in dynamics, there are some note changes, dynamics that change all the time...but the ending is the big difference and it creates a much fuller picture of what Copland had in mind.
Now, yes, it's bombastic but you have to remember we're talking about near the end of World War Two. We're talking about a work that was supposed to represent the symphonic picture of the optimism that might be felt at the conclusion of the conflagration, much the same way that the Shostakovich fifth or the Prokofiev symphonies were intended to do."
That final movement includes a familiar section - the Fanfare for the Common Man, That's where we gravitate toward...but there are three other movements. What can you tell us about those other three movements that'll help us listen with a closer ear?
"Ok, I think it's important to understand that the Copland that most people know, the one from Appalachian Spring and Billy the Kid and Rodeo and Lincoln Portrait, those works come after the third symphony. That's very important and it's important because when you look at earlier Copland pieces, they tend to be more severe, not quite as connected to the outright "American-ness" and shall we even say nationalism that the later ballets encompass - his piano variations, statements for orchestra, other pieces like that were really much more harsh. Some of the early pieces are jazz inspired. His teacher, Nadia Boulanger, said when you go back to America after finishing your studies here in France you and your colleagues are to go and create a real repertoire that is American. And so they delved into many sources, folk music, popular culture, all kinds of things.
In this piece, Copland starts us kind of in the world that will be the one that is more reflective of the countryside almost rural sounding peaceful when it starts and the way it ends. Only when we get to the second movement do we begin to hear the kind of raw edged Copland. It's a scherzo.
The third movement, though, moves us now into a much more dissonant language, at least as it starts, for its time in the 1940s. And that leads us into the Fanfare for the Common Man. The first question is which came first. And the answer is that the fanfare came first. Then why did it to have that title. Because it was originally part of a group of I believe 18 fanfares that the Cincinnati Symphony commissioned during the war. But they were all supposed to be themed around American ideals.
Copland forgot he was supposed to write it and he asked the conductor Eugene Goossens when the premiere was supposed to be and Goossens said it's going to be on March 15th. But the time when it was written, March 15th was the day Americans paid their taxes. That's when Copland came up with the title Fanfare for the common man.
He took the Fanfare, changed the key, shortened it up a bit and used it as the main motif for the final movement where he also brings in the music of pastoral quality that comes in the first movement so listen especially towards the end when these two themes come back.
And finally, at the very end, with this boisterous music that we haven't heard in 60 years we hear the full culmination of what the fanfare really means and it's very striking and with these additional bars it becomes even more so. Copland's message of we go through every adversity we possibly can but eventually we need to come out triumphant."
That's New Classical Tracks from APM. To hear my full conversation with Leonard Slatkin about his tenure with the DSO, and their Copland cycle download the extended podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.