Hyperion Records

In the beginning
In the beginning is a substantial setting for mixed voices composed in 1947 for performance at the Harvard Symposium on Music Criticism. The university’s department of music had suggested a Hebrew text, but Copland opted ultimately for the version of the story as told in the King James Bible. It was first performed on 2 May 1947 by the by Collegiate Choir of Massachusetts, conducted by the composer.

Beautifully simple in outline and texture, its inoffensive modal flavour and lilting Britten-like polytonality sit easily with infectious jazz rhythms and soft hints of blues. Recitative and antiphonal writing dominates in a work the composer suggested be sung ‘in a gentle manner, like reading a familiar, oft-told story’. Before a performance in 1980 at Brown University, however, Copland told the student singers: ‘Creation was quite a stunt, so make it grand. Don’t be pathetic about it. What happened after creation is an entirely different story!’

from notes by Ken Walton 2000

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