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Copland, Aaron

For some, Aaron Copland conjures images of covered wagons and endless frontiers.  For others, he evokes Olympic athletes, astronauts and fallen heroes.  From waves of grain to stars and stripes, Aaron Copland defined the soundtrack to everything all-American.  This week, we’ll trace his trek from the heart of Brooklyn to the heart of a nation.  Featured works include Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Fanfare for the Common Man and Billy the Kid.

Program 1

Born in Brooklyn at the start of the 20th century as the fifth child in the family, Copland wrote his first overture by age 11.  He initally studied with Rubin Goldmark before boarding a ship to Paris, touting his first published piece, "The Cat and the Mouse" and checking his cowboy boots at the door.

Grohg, a libretto and Copland's first orchestra piece, was written after viewing the film Nosferatu about vampires and graveyards.  


Ornstein: A la Chinoise (excerpt)
Lin, p.
BIS 1110

Copland: The Cat and the Mouse
Smit, p.
Sony 66345

Copland: Grohg (excerpts)
London Sinfonietta/Knussen
Argo 443203

Copland: Symphony for Organ and Orchestra
St. Louis/ Slatkin; Preston, or.
RCA 68292

Program 2

Copland came back a new man, famous but not well-received, after his Parisian studies with Nadia Boulanger.  His "Piano Concerto" with its jazz elements likened him to Gershwin, but the press and musicians laughed it off the stage.   

Despite the harsh criticism, Copland continued to create.  "Piano Variations" splices around the piano in dissonance, like "music carved out of granite."  Such complicated and abstract pieces became his identity, and not surprisingly, no one at the time could play or understand his "Short Symphony."

Copland: Piano Concerto (excerpt)
Symphony of the Air/ Copland; Wild, p.
Van SVC 3

Gershwin: Concerto in F (excerpt)
Kostelanetz Orchestra/ Kostelanetz; Previn, p.
CBS 46270

Copland: Piano Variations
Smit, p.
Sony 66345

Copland: Short Symphony, I (excerpt)
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra/ Russell Davies
Pro Arte 140

Copland: El Salon Mexico
NY Phil/ Bernstein
Sony 6057

Copland: Billy the Kid (excerpt)
NY Phil/ Bernstein
Sony 47543

Program 3

Fearing that his music was too complicated for the general public, Copland spent the 1930s trying to communicate with the masses.  He began writing for plays and movies, including Quiet City, Of Mice and Men and Our Town.  

In 1942, Copland wrote the counteractive piece "Fanfare for the Common Man" in response to the war abroad that instead glorified a certain breed of men. 

Copland went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for "Appalachian Spring" written the following year, which is here performed by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in its original orchestration of 13 players.

Copland: Quiet City
New York Phil/ Bernstein
DG 419170

Copland: Our Town (excerpt)
CBS 42429

Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Boston Pops/ Williams
Phil 412627

Copland: Buckaroo Holiday from Rodeo
New York Phil/ Bernstein
Sony 60899

Copland: Appalachian Spring
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra/ Russell Davies
Pro Arte 140


Program 4

Copland spent the "war years" of World War II either writing war effort pieces or writing in a way that made people momentarily forget about the war.  "Sonata for Violin and Piano" was dedicated to Lt. Harry H. Dunham, a close friend, who was killed in action.  

Copland tried to get into the army at 42 years old with poor vision.  Instead, he composed a patriotic work, "Lincoln Portrait."  In 1952, he was the victim of red-baiting, and the work was banned from the inaugural ceremonies of Eisenhower.  

Benny Goodman commissioned Copland's "Clarinet Concerto," who is heard on the clarinet in this recording.  

Copland: Sonata for Violin and Piano, III
Previn, p.; Shaham, v.
DG 453470

Copland: Lincoln Portrait (excerpt)
Philadelphia Orchestra/ Ormandy; A. Stevenson, n.
Sony 62401

Copland: Symphony No. 3, I & II
Everest 9040

Copland: Clarinet Concerto
Columbia Symphony/Copland; Goodman, cl.
CBS 42227

Program 5

Emily Dickinson's poems spoke to Copland and provided inspiration for a set of songs, the first being "Nature, the Gentlest Mother."  Hollywood came calling again, and Copland wrote a piece for "The Heiress," which won an Academy Award.  

Aaron Copland conducts four Old American Songs, as folk tunes always fascinated him.  Bill himself gets behind the piano and plays his first Copland song, "Down a Country Lane."

Copland: “Nature, the Gentlest Mother” from Eight Poems by Emily Dickinson
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra/ Wolff; Upshaw, s.

Copland: Suite from The Heiress
St. Louis Symphony/ Slatkin
RCA 61699

Copland: Old American Songs: “The Boatman’s Dance”, “The Dodger”, “At the River” & “I Bought Me a Cat"
Columbia Symphony/ Copland; Warfield, bar.
CBS 42430

Copland: Music for a Great City, I
St. Louis Symphony/ Slatkin

Copland: Down a Country Lane
McGlaughlin, p.

Copland: Symphony No. 3, III (excerpt)
Everest 9040



The Exploring Music streaming website is supported by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and the Richard P. and Susan Kiphart Family.  
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