Copland: Symphony for Organ and Orchestra; Orchestral Variations; Short Symphony; Symphonic Ode

Reviewed on Tue 04 Oct, 2016

Through the rhythmically volatile, Stravinsky- and Schoenberg-accented Short (Second) Symphony can be heard early sketches of the mature Copland’s familiar signature.

This darkly ravishing second volume in John Wilson’s welcome Copland survey for Chandos delves into the nooks and crannies of his orchestral work to find riches aplenty. Technically and rhythmically complex (qualities shared by all of the works here) 1924’s Organ Symphony (the earliest piece) situates orchestra and solo instrument – played with persuasive, agile conviction by Jonathan Scott – within a satisfyingly multi-faceted relationship in which Wilson makes much of telling orchestral detail. The high standard is maintained by the BBC Philharmonic throughout, evidenced in the richly textured and concentrated Orchestral Variations (from 1957, the most recent work). Through the rhythmically volatile, Stravinsky- and Schoenberg-accented Short (Second) Symphony can be heard early sketches of the mature Copland’s familiar signature, the single-movement Symphonic Ode (1929, revised in 1955) is a thing of bold, bracing beauty played with spirited brio. Superb sound (especially in SACD) and excellent notes add to the considerable pleasure.
–Michael Quinn