For the Copland Centennial in 2000, members of NPR's Performance Today staff compiled a list of their top ten choices for the music of Aaron Copland on CD.
Aaron Copland: The Young Pioneers, the Complete Music for Solo Piano (Sony SM2K 66345)
Leo Smit, Copland's long-time friend and regular keyboard collaborator, offers these knowing performances of the central core of his piano works, along with many delightful diversions.
Copland: Orchestral Works (Sony SBK 62401)
The best Lincoln Portrait coupled with Previn's exuberant recording of The Red Pony (Copland's classical conducting debut on disc). Narration by Adlai Stevenson. Performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy, Cleveland Pops conducted by Louis Lane and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn.
Clarinet Concerto/Quiet City/Dance Panels (EMI CDC 7 49095 2)
The rarely heard Dance Panels from 1962 is the standout here. Clarinetist Davis Shifrin does a fine job with the Benny Goodman-commissioned Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, though he is out-jazzed by a Richard Stoltzman performance not available on any all-Copland collections.
The Tender Land Suite/Three Latin-American Sketches/The Red Pony Suite (Koch International Classics 3-7092-2 H1)
A warmly winning performance of the sweetest music from Copland's heartfelt opera, spiced with the tart brevity of Copland's late-in-life Latin sketches propels the "minor league" Phoenix Symphony recording into the major leagues. Conducted by James Sedares.
Fanfare for the Common Man/Appalachian Spring Suite/Rodeo/Billy the Kid Suite (Sony MK 42265)
Nobody did Copland with more authority than New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein and these zest-filled recordings, made at the height of Bernstein's tenure in New York, are simply the best.
Grohg/Prelude for Chamber Orchestra/Hear Ye! Hear Ye! (Argo 443 203-2)
Superb readings of Copland with an edge; none are major works in his catalogue but all are revealing of a serious side of the man too rarely heard. Recorded by The Cleveland Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta conducted by Oliver Knussen.
Symphony for Organ and Orchestra/Dance Symphony/Short Symphony/Orchestral Variations (RCA/BMG 09026-68292)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra/Orchestral Variations/Short Symphony/Symphonic Ode (RCA/BMG 09026-68541-2)
Two wonderfully conducted and expertly played collections of Copland's "modern" music, the first from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin, the next from the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas with pianist Garrick Ohlsson. Each conductor has a personal vision of Copland and is perfectly in sync with his orchestra.
Symphony for Organ and Orchestra/Symphony No. 3 (Sony SMK 63155)
Copland's consciously epic Third Symphony requires a true believer to work on every level and yet again, Bernstein and the New York Philharmoic, accompanied by organist E. Power Biggs, supply the necessary devotion.
Old American Songs/Canticle of Freedom/Four Motets (Sony MK 42140)
A fine collection of Copland's writing for voices that offers a real voyage of discovery for those who known Copland only through his splashy orchestral pieces. Recorded by the Utah Symphony and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.