Connotations; Symphony No. 3; Letter from Home; Down a Country Lane
BBC Philharmonic/John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5222 (hybrid CD/SACD) 66:09 mins
The booklet contains an engaging photo of Aaron Copland sitting on grass, a large score spread before him, left leg awkwardly thrust out, bent at the knee. Not a comfortable position at all; though it’s nothing compared to the position adopted by the composer in his 1962 Connotations, the jaggedly serial, conflicted piece that launches this fourth volume in John Wilson’s Copland series. Written to mark the opening of the concert hall at Lincoln Center, its hammering percussion effects sometimes suggest that the hall’s builders haven’t yet left. But here and throughout this splendid, beautifully recorded album Wilson and the BBC Philharmonic are equally attuned to the bristling kaleidoscope’s more pensive moments. In Wilson’s hands, Connotations emerges as a fascinating and rewarding piece, one with more bark than bite.
He serves the post-war flag-waving of the Third Symphony equally well, especially in the last movement, where the light, racing speed of the toccata section happily balances the monumental gestures elsewhere. The conductor includes the eight bars cut on Leonard Bernstein’s suggestion from the Symphony’s already elongated, triumphalist coda. In for a penny, in for a pound seems to be Wilson’s motto, and his relish for outsize orchestral effects is catching. His attention to detail is another boon: time and again inner textures, lively with percussion, dance with new clarity, helping the music take wing. Two small items conclude the album, the best being the orchestrated piano piece Down a Country Lane: simple, touching, quiet. No construction workers in sight.