Symphony No. 3 (Copland)

Symphony No. 3 was Aaron Copland's final symphony. It was written between 1944 and 1946, and its first performance took place on October 18, 1946 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra performing under Serge Koussevitzky. If the early Dance Symphony is included in the count, it is actually Copland's fourth symphony.[1]

Description edit

Written at the end of World War II, it is known as the essential American symphony that fuses his distinct "Americana" style of the ballets (Rodeo, etc.) with the form of the symphony, which has generally been a European-dominated musical form. The Fanfare for the Common Man, written in 1942, is used as a theme in the fourth movement. Various fragments from Fanfare are also used for primary thematic material in the first three movements.[2]


The first movement (Molto moderato) opens with a simple theme in the woodwinds and strings, which is echoed warmly throughout the orchestra, before quickly heightening into a brassy fanfare (in which we get our first hints of the Fanfare for the Common Man theme.)


The movement ends as peacefully as it started, but we are quickly snapped out of the reverie with the thunderous timpani thump that launches the lively scherzo into action.


The whirling second movement (Allegro molto) features a dashing, boisterous theme, settling into gentler, pastoral segment but ending exuberantly.


The third movement (Andantino quasi allegretto) opens slowly and contemplatively, featuring Copland's typically sparse and almost ambiguous harmonies. It digresses into a frisky dance-like passage, vaguely Latin American in tone, before transitioning uninterrupted into the finale (Molto deliberato – Allegro risoluto), where we hear a pianissimo version of the Fanfare for the Common Man, and then the fanfare in its full glory.


The duration of this movement is spent primarily with the development and recapitulation of the Fanfare melody: Copland gives it a dazzling contrapuntal treatment while at the same time managing to introduce an entirely new theme. The symphony closes majestically with a final reprise of both the Fanfare and the symphony's opening motif.

In 1947 Leonard Bernstein, while performing the work in Israel, removed some 10 bars from the fourth movement without Copland's consent. Later on, the composer agreed to these cuts, which were incorporated in the 1966 edition published by Boosey & Hawkes. However, in June 2015, Boosey & Hawkes published a new performing edition in which the cuts have been restored to conform with the original 1946 manuscript. The overall tone of the work is one of heroism and dignity, and it leaves an appropriately stirring impression.

Note that the Fanfare in the fourth movement is not a direct copy of the stand-alone work Fanfare for the Common Man. There are numerous subtle changes, including a new introduction (a woodwind duet begins the fourth movement), two key changes, and different percussion parts.

Instrumentation edit

The symphony is scored for a large orchestra, comprising piccolo, 3 flutes (3rd doubling 2nd piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd doubling cor anglais), 2 clarinets in B-flat, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, 4 trumpets in B-flat, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals, bass drum, tenor drum, snare drum, triangle, tamtam, glockenspiel, xylophone, anvil, claves, ratchet, whip, tubular bells, wood block, piano, celesta, 2 harps, and strings.

Discography edit

Year Conductor Orchestra Label Notes
1947 George Szell New York Philharmonic Classical Roots Radio broadcast (18 December 1947)
1953 Antal Doráti Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra Mercury Records[3] Premiere recording
1959 Aaron Copland London Symphony Orchestra Everest Records[4]
1966 Leonard Bernstein New York Philharmonic Columbia Masterworks[5]
1970 Aaron Copland Berlin Philharmonic Testament[6] Recorded live in 1970, released on CD in 2017
1978 Aaron Copland Philharmonia Orchestra Columbia Masterworks[7]
1986 Leonard Bernstein New York Philharmonic Deutsche Grammophon[8]
1986 Eduardo Mata Dallas Symphony Orchestra Angel Records (EMI)[9]
1989 Yoel Levi Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Telarc[10]
1990 Leonard Slatkin St. Louis Symphony Orchestra RCA Victor Red Seal[11]
1996 Neeme Järvi Detroit Symphony Orchestra Chandos Records[12]
2000 Eiji Oue Minnesota Orchestra Reference Recordings[13]
2002 James Judd New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Naxos Records[14]
2010 Leon Botstein American Symphony Orchestra Digital release by the ASO[15] Premiere orchestral recording of the original 1946 version
2014 Lt. Col. Jason Fettig United States Marine Band Altissimo Recordings[16] Final movement only; 1946 version as transcription for wind band
2015 Carlos Kalmar Oregon Symphony Pentatone[17] 1966 published version (with finale cuts)
2017 Leonard Slatkin Detroit Symphony Orchestra Naxos Records[18] Second orchestral recording of the original 1946 version
2018 John Wilson BBC Philharmonic Chandos Records [19] Third orchestral recording of the original 1946 version
2019 Carlos Miguel Prieto The Orchestra of the Americas Linn Records[20] Fourth orchestral recording of the original 1946 version
2020 Michael Tilson Thomas San Francisco Symphony SFS Media [21] 1966 published version (with finale cuts)

References edit

  1. ^ Peter Jona Korn, "The Symphony in America", Chapter 32 of The Symphony, edited by Robert Simpson (Penguin Books, 1967).
  2. ^ Anthony Burton (in The BBC Proms Guide to Great Symphonies, edited by Nicholas Kenyon, Faber & Faber, 2003) notes "its intervals ... permeate the thematic material of the entire symphony."
  3. ^ Crist, Elizabeth Bergman (2001). "Aaron Copland's Third Symphony from Sketch to Score". The Journal of Musicology. 18 (3): 399, footnote 63. doi:10.1525/jm.2001.18.3.377. JSTOR 10.1525/jm.2001.18.3.377.
  4. ^ "Aaron Copland – the London Symphony Orchestra – Third Symphony". Discogs.
  5. ^ "Bernstein* Conducts Copland*, New York Philharmonic* – Third Symphony". Discogs.
  6. ^ "Aaron Copland conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker".
  7. ^ "Aaron Copland Conducts Philharmonia Orchestra – Copland Conducts Copland: Symphony No. 3". Discogs.
  8. ^ "Aaron Copland – New York Philharmonic*, Leonard Bernstein – Symphony No. 3, Quiet City". Discogs.
  9. ^ "Copland*, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Eduardo Mata – Symphony No.3 / Danzón Cubano / El Salón México". Discogs.
  10. ^ "Aaron Copland, Yoel Levi, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra – Third Symphony / Music for the Theatre". Discogs.
  11. ^ "Copland*, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin – Symphony No. 3 – Music for a Great City". Discogs.
  12. ^ Achenbach, Andrew (November 1996). "Copland Symphony 3/Harris Symphony 3". Gramophone. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  13. ^ Dickinson, Peter (2000). "Copland Symphony No. 3; Appalachian Spring Suite". Gramophone. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  14. ^ "Aaron Copland, James Judd, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra* – Symphony No. 3 / Billy the Kid (Suite)". Discogs.
  15. ^ "Presto Classical product page".
  16. ^ "Be Glad then America".
  17. ^ "George Antheil, Walter Piston, Aaron Copland – Spirit of the American Range".
  18. ^ "COPLAND, A.: Symphony No. 3 / 3 Latin American Sketches (Detroit Symphony, Slatkin) - 8.559844".
  19. ^ "Copland: Symphonies, Vol.3 Orchestral & Concertos Chandos".
  20. ^ "Amazon Listing". Amazon. 2019.
  21. ^ "SFS Media Page".