Copland, Aaron - The Third Symphony
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Symphony No. 3 was Aaron Copland's final symphony. It was written between 1944 and 1946, and its first performance took place on October 18, 1946, the Boston Symphony Orchestra performing under Serge Koussevitzky. If the early Dance Symphony is included in the count, it is actually Copland's fourth symphony. The Fanfare for the Common Man, written in 1942, is used as a theme in the fourth movement. Various fragments from Fanfare are also used for primary thematic material in the first three movements.
- 1/3 - Molto Moderato - The first movement (Molto moderato) opens with a simple theme in the woodwinds and strings, which is echoed warmly throughout the orchestra, before quickly heightening into a brassy fanfare (in which we get our first hints of the Fanfare for the Common Man theme.) The movement ends as peacefully as it started, but we are quickly snapped out of the reverie with the thunderous timpani thump that launches the lively scherzo into action.
- 2/3 - Allegro Molto - The whirling second movement (Allegro molto) features a dashing, boisterous theme, settling into gentler, pastoral segment but ending exuberantly.
- 3/3 - III Andantino quasi allegretto - The third movement (Andantino quasi allegretto) opens slowly and contemplatively, featuring Copland's typically sparse and almost ambiguous harmonies. It digresses into a frisky dance-like passage, vaguely Latin American in tone, before transitioning uninterrupted into the finale (Molto deliberato - Allegro risoluto), where we hear a pianissimo version of the Fanfare for the Common Man, and then the fanfare in its full glory.
The duration of this movement is spent primarily with the development and recapitulation of the Fanfare melody: Copland gives it a dazzling contrapuntal treatment while at the same time managing to introduce an entirely new theme. The symphony closes majestically with a final reprise of both the Fanfare and the symphony's opening motif.
Note that the Fanfare in the Fourth Movement is not a direct copy of the stand-alone work Fanfare for the Common Man. There are numerous subtle changes, including a new introduction (a woodwind duet begins the Fourth Movement,) two key changes, and different percussion parts.