Connotations For Orchestra - Legacy


Despite its initial reception, Connotations was listed in 1979 by Billboard magazine among Copland works that continued to be programmed by orchestras, with subsequent performances by Pierre Boulez, Edo de Waart and Sixten Ehrling received positively. Reaction to the work itself remains mixed. Ross dismisses Connotations as a "barbaric yawp of a piece" and "by some margin the most dissonant score of Copland's career." Morin calls it a "thorny, riveting patchwork ... perhaps the most difficult the composer ever wrote" and listening to it "like the unrelenting pummeling of a prizefighter at times." Davis comments on the "astringent severity" and "harsh rhetoric" of its "laying-down-the-law serial style." Adams calls its style "very simplistic ... strident" and "generally unpleasant sounding" and adds that "the rigor seemed more to cramp natural spontaneity than to aid it." Composer Kyle Gann calls Connotations "big, unwieldy ... and that good.... Copland’s imagination seemed constrained by the technique.

Performances led by other conductors have helped some critics see the work in a more positive light. In his 1987 review, published in New York magazine, of a performance by the Juilliard Orchestra under Sixten Ehrling, Davis writes that while Connotations remains a "spiky" composition, he observes that Copland "adopts Schoenberg's serial procedures to produce a sequence of typically pungent and exhilarating Coplandesque sonorities." Desmond Shawe-Taylor called the work "beautifully put together: full of energy, variety, thought" after he had heard Boulez conduct the piece. Michael Andrews wrote of Copland's "mammoth, anxious and angry vision" and Barlett Naylor of "a majesty hidden in this dark piece" after both had heard de Waart's performance.

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