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Latin America meets Classical:Themes and variations

5 June 2018: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon

  • Aaron Copland – Three Latin American Sketches
  • Lucía Caruso – ‘Light and Wind’ piano concerto (world premiere)
  • Pedro H. da Silva – ‘Snow’, for Portuguese guitar and orchestra (world premiere)
  • Lucía Caruso and Pedro H. da Silva (orchestrated by Pedro H. da Silva) – ‘Folía’, for Portuguese guitar, piano, and orchestra
  • Aaron Copland – Appalachian Spring

In 1959 the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, asked me to write a short work for orchestra. The ‘Paisaje Mexicano’ and ‘Danza de Jalisco’ were completed in time for performance in July of that year…. Both pieces were first performed in the United States under [my] baton at a private invitation concert given by the Pan American Union in 1965…. [However, I] decided not to release the two movements for general performance before adding a third section. This was accomplished in 1971 with the completion of ‘Estribillo’, based on Venezuelan popular materials…. In 1968, a two-piano arrangement of the ‘Danza de Jalisco’ was published, with some revisions of the original orchestral version. These changes were later incorporated in the completed three-movement work, and the whole given the title ‘Three Latin American Sketches’.

Thus Aaron Copland introduced the first performance of his last composition for orchestra, by Andre Kostelanetz and the New York Philharmonic, on 7 June 1972. Lighter in nature than much of his earlier output – although he counselled that the Sketches are “not so light as to be pop-concert material” – they contain no hint of such finality.

As with many new works (even one with such a long gestation period), the handwritten, spiral-bound score used by Kostelanetz for the premiere (held online in the NY Phil archives) is brimming with last-minute amends and annotations; as well as details of what should appear in Boosey & Hawkes’ final printed version. Fascinating to follow for the purpose of penning a programme note; but – although it is apparent Kostelanetz knew Copland’s composition thoroughly – I would not have wished to conduct from it!

Leonard Bernstein’s marks on his score of Appalachian Spring are a little less dense. They reinforce, though, the almost incomprehensible amount of work that conductors must complete before they first stand in front of the orchestra: their understanding of what is now open before them on the podium exhaustive, but lacking one key ingredient: the similarly in-depth input and feedback which the other performers bring – and not just in rehearsal. One of the joys of live music is that no performance is ever fixed: a figurative hummingbird flapping its wings in the opening bars can bring happy innovation several pages later – and perhaps colour all that follows. So when you applaud Bruce, tonight: please do so with a little more awareness, perhaps; and even greater admiration!

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