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Copland Conducts Copland [20 CDs]

Copland Conducts Copland [20 CDs]

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The “Dean of American Composers” was a formidable interpreter of his music. Gramophone called Aaron Copland “a splendid advocate of his own scores”, and shortly after his death in 1990 the New York Times wrote: “Composers’ performances are not always definitive, but Copland was a fine, communicative conductor and pianist, and Columbia recorded him with first-rate orchestras and soloists. … In every way, these recordings must be regarded as the heart of the composer’s discography.”

As a gifted pianist, Copland took part in the earliest recordings of his music back in the 1930s, as well as in many others that followed over nearly three decades. Although it wasn’t until 1950 that he first conducted in a studio, he later took up the baton with increasing frequency. He once said to the choreographer Agnes de Mille: “I don’t think I’m ever going to compose anything else. I’m having such a good time conducting.”

Although Sony Classical has issued many of his CBS/Columbia recordings on CD before, including a major 5-disc set in 2013, this new 20-disc collection marks the first all-inclusive compilation of Aaron Copland’s authoritative interpretations with the composer’s six early recordings for the first time on Sony Classical.

Columbia recorded the oldest items here in 1935: Copland playing the thorny Piano Variations of 1930, one of his most challenging masterpieces, and joined by the Russian-born soloist and quartet leader Jacques Gordon in two pieces for violin and piano. “Gordon plays the tangy Americana of the Ukulele Serenade, the second of the pieces … with unbridled brio,” wrote MusicWeb International. And for this “evocative, powerfully declamatory reading” (MusicWeb International) of his piano trio Vitebsk, he teamed up with violinist Ivor Karman, who played in the première, and cellist David Freed.

Flash forward to the 1960s. Now with the Juilliard Quartet, Copland recorded Vitebsk again, along with his Piano Quartet and Sextet. He partnered Isaac Stern in the Violin Sonata and, with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, recorded “a wonderful and certainly historically important performance” of his Piano Concerto. Thus wrote Copland’s definitive biographer Howard Pollack, who goes on to say: “Copland plays the solo part with unmatched elan, and Bernstein communicates the music’s big-city edge – which may have provided no small foundation for his own cityscapes – with inimitable gusto.”

Copland’s first recording as a conductor was of the Clarinet Concerto in 1950, with its dedicatee Benny Goodman and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. This is its first appearance on CD. In the new set you’ll be able to compare it with their well-known stereo remake from 1963. Another classic interpretation from the early 60s is the Old American Songs with baritone William Warfield and Copland at the piano. There are also mono and stereo versions of the 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson, with Copland accompanying mezzo Martha Lipton in 1950 and soprano Adele Addison in 1964.

In the case of Copland’s best-loved work, the ballet Appalachian Spring he composed in 1944 for Martha Graham, there are even more versions to enjoy and compare. In 1959, he conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in what is still considered by many to be the definitive recording of the concert suite for full orchestra: “The performance has an appealing breadth and warmth of humanity, helped by the Symphony Hall resonance: the Shaker climax is wonderfully expressive” (Penguin Guide). RCA Victor coupled it with the suite from The Tender Land, Copland’s only opera, which he later recorded more fully (in an hour-long abridged version) with the New York Philharmonic. That 1966 release, also included here, won him a Grammy.

Then in 1973, with the Columbia Chamber Orchestra, Copland recorded the complete original ballet score of Appalachian Spring for chamber ensemble. It is followed here by a bonus track: the rehearsal that also accompanied it on LP. Three years earlier he had re-recorded the suite in its full concert scoring with the London Symphony Orchestra, with which he enjoyed a happy and productive association on the concert platform as well as in the studio.

His other recordings with the LSO include the atmospheric Quiet City as well as such important but less familiar works as the neo-classical Short Symphony – a “remarkable synthesis of the learned and the vernacular. … A singularly ‘complete’ representation of its inventor” (critic Michael Steinberg) – as well as the Dance Symphony, Orchestral Variations, Statements for Orchestra and Symphonic Ode. Copland clearly liked conducting English orchestras. He chose the Philharmonia to record his Third Symphony and suites from his celebrated film scores.

Aaron Copland not only created some of the most original, influential, and appealing compositions in the history of American music. He also left posterity a body of recordings that illustrate exactly how he wanted these pieces to go – a priceless, new 20-CD legacy of authentic performances, the “heart of the composer’s discography”.


  • Clarinet Concerto
  • Piano Quartet
  • Piano Variations
  • Two Pieces for Violin and Piano - Nocturne
  • Vitebsk - study on a Jewish theme for violin, cello & piano
  • Ukelele Serenade
  • Old American Songs, Sets 1 & 2
  • Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • Appalachian Spring
  • The Tender Land (Suite)
  • Piano Concerto
  • Music for the Theater
  • The Tender Land
  • Music for a Great City
  • Statements for Orchestra
  • Las Agachadas (The Shake-Down Song)
  • In the Beginning
  • Lark
  • Sextet for string quartet, clarinet & piano
  • Symphony No. 2 'Short Symphony'
  • Dance Symphony
  • An Outdoor Overture
  • Our Town
  • Two Pieces for string quartet
  • Quiet City
  • Billy the Kid - Suite
  • Rodeo (Four Dance Episodes)
  • Fanfare for the Common Man
  • Lincoln Portrait
  • Appalachian Spring
  • Symphonic Ode
  • Preamble (For a Solemn Occasion)
  • Variations for orchestra
  • Appalachian Spring
  • Violin Sonata
  • Duo for Flute & Piano
  • Nonet for strings
  • Danzon Cubano
  • Three Latin-American Sketches
  • El Salón México
  • Dance Panels
  • The Red Pony – Film Music (Suite)
  • John Henry
  • Music for the Movies
  • Letter from Home
  • Down a Country Lane
  • Symphony No. 3
  • Inscape
  • Connotations
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Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 01, 2024

  • UPC: 194399774625

  • Catalog Number: 19439977462

  • Label: Sony Music Entertainment

  • Number of Discs: 20

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Aaron Copland

  • Conductor: Aaron Copland

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Columbia String Ensemble, London Symphony Orchestra, Columbia Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Aaron Copland, Benny Goodman, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Alexander Schneider, Milton Katims, William Warfield, Martha Lipton, Adele Addison, Isaac Stern, Leonard Bernstein