Update: Air and Simple Gifts by John Williams
Here is the premiere of Air and Simple Gifts, composed by John Williams for the President Obama's Inauguration. Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun says:
The "air" at the start of the roughly four-minute piece strikes a sober note, as if to recall the many challenges facing the country. The soft, slow, rather bittersweet theme, begun by the violin and soon picked up cello and piano, gives way to another, very familiar melody from the clarinet -- the gently uplifting Shaker hymn, "Simple Gifts," which was used so indelibly by Aaron Copland in his 1944 ballet score Appalachian Spring. Williams quotes that passage almost verbatim, and goes on to put the hymn tune through a very Coplandesque treatment before bringing the mood back down to earth with the opening material.
I agree with one of the comments on Tim's article:
I guess wish they had just played the Copland, a much better piece and one that makes the Williams not only a little trite but also unnecessary.What Williams wrote is a lovely piece, but as it quotes Copland almost exactly, it's rather a variation of rather than something new. There are so many wonderful hymns that could have been arranged in a Coplandesque way and achieved the same effect.
Note: If you watched the inauguration on BBC (as I did) you didn't get to hear the first minute of the musician's performance for the commentary droning on.