Copland – The City

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Copland
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: The City
PERFORMER: Francis Guinan, Morris Carnovsky (narrator); Post-Classical Ensemble/Angel Gil-Ordóñez; Orchestra/Max Goberman
CATALOGUE NO: 2.110231 (NTSC system; dts 5.0; 4:3 picture format)

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The City is a documentary film presented by the American Institute of Planners at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. With an earnest but sparse narration written by the influential Lewis Mumford, it contrasts the harmony between man and nature of the New England countryside with the grimness of the industrial city, casts an eye on contemporary big-city life and ends amidst the idyll of the New Deal garden city of Greenbelt, Maryland.

The score is by the quintessential New Deal composer, Aaron Copland – his first film commission, and the first stage in his carefully planned assault on Hollywood.

He later included two short segments in his suite Music for Movies, but the whole score plays for most of the film’s 44 minutes, sympathetically supporting the pictures and maintaining musical interest throughout.

In the absence of any dialogue and location sound, the entire soundtrack has been re-recorded here, with crisp playing by the Post-Classical Ensemble.

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Extras consist of the film with its original soundtrack, a documentary about Greenbelt including memories of the making of The City, and a conversation between the veteran film-maker George Stoney and Joseph Horowitz, the prime mover in this musically (and socially) fascinating revival. Anthony Burton