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Celluloid Copland - Film Music / Sheffer, EOS Orchestra

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 9, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

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Telarc has come up with a real novelty--four Copland scores new to CD. All date from his populist period of accessible Americana tinged with modernism and all make for fascinating listening. From Sorcery to Science accompanied a puppet show plugging the history of drugs for the 1939 World's Fair. Its often witty score begins with a fanfare, segues to chinoiserie, and winds up with a flag-waving march. The City, written for a World's Fair film extolling social engineering, includes some of Copland's finest music in the simple vein, from bucolic rural portraiture to urban bustle complete with blaring auto horns. Copland's music for The Cummington Story, a government documentary about refugee resettlement, is austerely moving; he later used it in his Clarinet Concerto's slow movement. The North Star, a Hollywood World War II epic about Nazis devastating a Russian village, drew an effective score from Copland, huge chunks of which sound like leftovers from Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky. Topnotch sound and performances make this essential for Copland fans. --Dan Davis

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. From Sorcery To Science: Opening Fanfare
  2. From Sorcery To Science: The Chinese Medicine Man
  3. From Sorcery To Science: The Witch's Cauldron
  4. From Sorcery To Science: The Alchemist
  5. From Sorcery To Science: African Voodoo
  6. From Sorcery To Science: The Modern Pharmacy
  7. From Sorcery To Science: Finale: March Of The Americas
  8. The City (Ste): Main Title: New England Countryside
  9. The City (Ste): The Steel Mill
  10. The City (Ste): The Sorrow Of The City
  11. The City (Ste): Fire Engines At Lunch Hour
  12. The City (Ste): Taxi Jam
  13. The City (Ste): Sunday Traffic
  14. The City (Ste): The New City
  15. The City (Ste): End Title: The Children
  16. The Cummington Story (Ste)
  17. The North Star (Ste): Main Title
  18. The North Star (Ste): Death Of The Little Boy
  19. The North Star (Ste): Going To School
  20. The North Star (Ste): Damian Is Blind
  21. The North Star (Ste): Song Of The Guerillas (The Collegiate Chorale)
  22. The North Star (Ste): North Star Battle
  23. The North Star (Ste): The Children's Return
  24. The North Star (Ste): Guerilla's Return
  25. The North Star (Ste): Leaving The Village


Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 9, 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B0000584Y7
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,918 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Mark Kolakowski on February 26, 2001
If you enjoyed the excellent "Copland: Music for Films" by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony on RCA, toss this one in your shopping cart. Besides pure enjoyment of the music for its own sake, you'll get a deeper appreciation of how pervasive and influential his musical voice has become in American culture. On this disc, only the score for "The North Star" was attached to a Hollywood release. The other selections are from what you might call specialty films, two produced for exhibits at the 1939 New York World's Fair and one by the federal government during World War II. These selections are simultaneously unfamiliar yet familiar. You've probably never seen the films, so these specific scores may be entirely new to you in that sense. Still, the Copland style is recognizable.
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Aaron Copland's ballet music and some cinema soundtracks are well known. The compositions of late 1930s and early 1940s on this album are also film soundtracks but are of commercial and other propagandist purposes. Musically, they afforded Copland a practical means for developing his popular style. The various films are in essence sketchbooks, some of whose music were soon adapted and expanded into his ballets. The first accompanied a drug manufacturer's World's Fair promotion piece, a puppet show. Its allusions to historical healing systems and its musical stereotypes are a curiosity. The vignettes, nonetheless, have the distinct, identifiable Copland Americana style. The City Suite is his first soundtrack. Its aim was optimistically sociologic and futuristic, a portrait of a forthcoming urban environment. The music here is more emotionally metaphoric, abstract, and symphonic. The third work, suite to The Cummington Story, is merely 10 minutes long. It was produced for the Office of War Information and concerns the settlement of European immigrants. As the liner notes remind us, the film expected that the immigrants would return to Europe after the war, making the theme about refuge and liberty rather than adoption. The final piece, North Star (1943), was about the cruelty of Nazis as they capture a Russian town and the resistance of Partisan soldiers. Copland's heroic themes and suggestions of battles are akin to another wartime composer, Prokofiev and his historical but similarly storied Alexander Nevsky. Lyrics of the track, Songs of the Guerrillas, came from the pen of Ira Gershwin. As for the performance, New York's Eos Orchestra led by Jonathan Sheffer give a good, noble account, emphasizing the composition rather than the context. They and Telarc are commended for resurrecting these ignored compositions and giving us a better grasp of the young Copland.
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Sheffer and Eos are masterful. Several of these fascinating pieces cannot be found elsewhere and considering that there is of necessity, no performance practice of them per se, the interpretations here are solid and convincing. I was particularly taken with the maturity of the ensemble, as well as the individual virtuosity of the soloists. Eos is a free lance orchestra and as such, one would not expect such refined, seasoned playing. But, there it is, in all of its blazing glory. Truly outstanding orchestral playing of some amazing hidden works by a great American master. Three thumbs way up!!!
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Copland wrote music for several movies, jumping from entertainment to documentaries and back. This CD contains music from both, some pieces recorded for the first time.

From Sorcery to Science is a light, almost frivilous, piece that does to various forms of "medicine" what Saint-Saens did to zoo animals. A witch's cauldron being stirred by dancing strings, the percussion-heavy medicine man, and so on so forth. The music is short, but so was the documentary.

The City is perhaps the most well-known of this collection of movie music, thanks especially to the Music for Movies compilation. I saw this movie in a course I took on Planning Theory; one of my classmates described it as "Fantasia for Planners." The movie was music-heavy with little narration, and, as is typical of these suites based on movie music, contained additional material to the base pieces presented here; but not much is missed in terms of new material. The documentary was long, drawn out, and repetitive, but nevertheless had its elements of humor. The movie promoted New Urbanist type communities opposed to conventional suburbs and inner-city density, this being a somewhat revolutary idea for its time.

The Cummington Suite: if any of this music sounds familar, don't be surprised. Copland borrowed themes from Down A Country Lane and Sunday Afternoon Music (or was it vice versa?), both solo piano works. It does have a smattering of new material, though. Simple, populous style Copland.

The North Star is a war-like piece, with increasing tensity as the piece prograsses. Reminds me a bit of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, but not nerely to the level of depth and drama. Interestingly, Ira Gerswin wrote the lyrics to the Song of the Guerillas.
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