A large and appreciative crowd came to Wolf Trap Saturday night to hear Aaron Copland lead the National Symphony in a concert devoted entirely to his work.
Not just another de rigueur offering of "Appalachian Spring" and "Fanfare for the Common Man," this concert included a couple of rarities - "Dance Symphony" and the eight "Emily Dickinson Songs," orchestrated by Copland in 1970 from his original set of 12 written two decades earlier.
Copland said of them, "The poems center about no single theme, but they treat of subject matter particularly close to Miss Dickinson: Nature, death, life, eternity."
Sometimes the set of 12 are sung by a tenor, for whom they may be better suited because of the particular tonal flexibility in the tenor voice. Copland's settings often call for something closer to speech than to an even instrumental line. Even so, it is more appropriate that they be sung by a woman.
And they were sung excellently by soprano Linda Wall, whose warmth of feeling and touching simplicity were unique, especially in "Heart! We will forget him." Her voice, while not thrilling at this first encounter, is perfectly suited to Copland's sensitive expression of Dickinson's bewitching despair.
The 1925 "Dance Symphony," a piece of immediate appeal and colorful scoring, drew some very fine and poised wind playing from the NSO. The popular "El Salon Mexico," however, was read rather deliberately and lacked fire and excitment. The suite arrangement from "The Tender Land" excitement. from a want of rusticity in the "party music."
The "Ceremonial Fanfare," smartly performed, opened the concert, which included the suite from the film, "Our Town."