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While there is some genuinely lovely writing in the second movement (1:27 for example) [listen -- track 2, 1:24-2:51], and at points like 2:36 and 7:05 we get a glimpse of the heart, this does seem cool and detached overall. 10:30 marks the point where Copland veers toward Mahler -- it's been a long time coming and twelve minutes does seem to overstretch the material.

The short (4:45) Scherzo is surprisingly gentle for all its activity and supposed danciness, and misses having a solid core to work from, although at 3:50 the brass and at 4:13 the low strings and horns prick up the ears [listen -- track 3, 3:10-4:40], the effect dissolves all too rapidly.

The opening of the Finale gets perilously close to John Williams territory, but at 3:22 a violin duet suddenly puts one in mind of Steve Reich, alas this is not explored either. The attention-grabbing string flurries at 5:27 are likewise all over by 5:51, and the long quiet section which follows seems uncalled for after the long second movement. The writing in this movement is such that the return of first movement material doesn't have the impact one might expect. If the symphony is supposed to be a musical journey, I have to say I came away feeling like I had been walking around the same neighbourhood for a while.

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Copyright © 8 March 2007 Paul Sarcich, London UK


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