Leonard Slatkin / Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra

Copland: Organ Symphony; Dance Symphony; Short Symphony; Orchestral Variations

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There came a time when Aaron Copland got to be what you might call ornery. He wasn't always. Even at his prickliest in the '20s and early '30s, Copland was still a tune-smith at heart. And when he went populist in the late '30s and '40s, he let the good tunes roll. But when the well began to dry up for Copland in the '50s and the winds of fashion shifted to the brittle geometry of the ascendant serialists, Copland got tough, hard, and sometimes downright mean. On this recording with Leonard Slatkin conducting the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, you can hear Copland when he was young and bright in the three symphonies from the '20s and early '30s, and when he was older and meaner in the Orchestral Variations from 1957. The Organ Symphony has panache, the Dance Symphony has pizzazz and the Short Symphony proves brevity is the soul of wit. And when Copland turned ornery in his bare-knuckles Orchestral Variations, Slatkin and the St. Louis are right there with him, drinking TNT, smoking dynamite, and hoping some serialists would start a fight. RCA's early-'90s digital sound is rich and warm and loamy.