05 March 2007

Copland: Connotations

Connotation (1962): Portentious, loud, self-important orchestral work commissioned for the opening of Lincoln Center. In Copland's proclamatory style and using twelve-tone technique. Trying to make a big statement, but coming off as a windbag. This sounds like Krenek. When Copland uses the twelve-tone technique he tends to be more contrapuntal, as in the Quintet, or percussive as in the Variations (which while not twelve-tone per se share the microscopic attention to pitch class), here it is no different. One comes out of this work wondering just what is so important that Copland is ranting about for 19 1/2 minutes. In some ways, perhaps he was trying to shock, to bring some attention to himself, given, as biographers note, he was falling out of fashion in the 1960s. Nonetheless, it still sounds like Copland and the harsh dissonance is not that shocking. It strikes me with twelve-tone music, particularly of this sort, that a conductor isn't really sure what to do with it - does the cnductor wrk to bring out the row, as if it were a theme, or to work around it, as if it were an ostinato. The row stands in a difficult balance of these two modes of expression. In some ways, the row itself is completely unnecessary, it is just a scale.

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