Aaron Copland's Third Symphony, commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky and premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1946, stands as the single true achievement of the composer's symphonic career. As befits such a weighty composition invested with personal and professional artistic aspirations, the genesis and evolution of the Third Symphony from sketch to score was unusually complex. The present study relies heavily on archival materials in the Copland Collection at the Library of Congress——including sketches and scores, historical recordings, and personal correspondence——to document the work's compositional history in detail. In sum, the textual history of the symphony involves nearly 20 manuscripts spanning as many years. Copland began composing the symphony earlier than previously thought and found thematic material for the Third in numerous other works dating back to 1940, four years before the actual commission. Variant autograph full scores embody contributions by Serge Koussevitzky and Leonard Bernstein made after the symphony's premiere in 1946 and publication in 1947; Copland's own copy of the 1966 revised edition contains additional changes and corrections. Such insights place the symphony in a new historical and musical context relating to his work during the Great Depression and the Second World War and reveal an unexpected collaborative dimension to Copland's compositional process.
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