Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Celebrate victory with Copland

Even if no one is sleeping, the Charlotte Symphony's audiences will get a wake-up call this weekend.

Most people will go into the concerts thinking they aren't familiar with Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3. They won't quite be right, though. And the orchestra will thunderously clear them up about it.

The symphony, clocking in at about 40 minutes, is Copland's biggest-scale orchestral piece. As it unfolds, listeners will no doubt pick up on a buoyant, balletic streak that links it to works they probably know well, such as "Appalachian Spring." Even in the slow movement, Copland kicks up his heels a bit before settling back down.

That sets up the surprise. The woodwinds spin out a few broad, quiet phrases that will give alert listeners a feeling of deja vu. Then, boom: The brasses and percussion let fly with "Fanfare for the Common Man," Copland's musical version of American exceptionalism.

Copland actually composed the "Fanfare" first, in 1942. He then borrowed it from himself when he wrote the symphony, from 1944 to '46 -- in other words, before and after the end of World War II.

Fans of the "Fanfare" can listen for the ways he tinkered with it. But there's no mistaking it. It doesn't take a leap of the imagination to hear its appearance in the symphony as Copland's way of welcoming the Allied victory. That sets up the finale as a dance of celebration. Who can resist a happy ending?

Photo: Copland in 1956, Associated Press