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CD Review

Aaron Copland

  • Dance Panels
  • Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • Short Symphony
Helene Schneiderhan, soprano
Orchestra of St. Luke's/Dennis Russell Davies
Nimbus NI2545 67m DDD
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Although Aaron Copland is regarded as one of America's most important composers of the 20th century, a sizeable amount of his works are still waiting to be discovered. The programme on this issue, includes such pieces, although the Short Symphony is slowly starting to find a more frequent place in the concert hall.

Written in 1959, "Dance Panels" is the last of the three works presented here to be composed and is probably the least familiar with orchestras. Written at the suggestion of Jerome Robbins, it is not a narrative work but is a series of seven abstract dances and a relatively more complex texture.

In the composer's own words, he was attracted and touched by Dickinson's loneliness and vulnerability, so it was natural for him that at some point he would compose music to some of her poetry. The eight poemsin this recording were written between 1948 and 1950, but ten years later they were orchestrated, and it is in this version that they are here recorded. The songs were a surprise to many due to their rather formal discourse, but this collection of concentrated utterances can be regarded as a genuine contribution towards the creation of an American "Lieder" style.

The "Short" Symphony dates from 1933 and it was premièred by the composer's friend Carlos Chavez in November 1934. At 15 minutes it is short but it packs a considerable technical punch and thus performances have been rather infrequent but it is quite well played here.

Schneiderhan sings the songs with exquisite tenderness whilst the Orchestra of St. Luke's perform with considerable aplomb throughout. A fine disc for those who wish to get to know this American composer better.

Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech