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A Brief Introduction to the Music of Aaron Copland

  • Early Years and "An American Music"

    Aaron Copland in Paris, early 1920s, Music Division, Library of Congress. When Aaron Copland boarded a ship for Paris in June 1921, a few months short of his twenty-first birthday, he already had a good musical training thanks to his conservative but thorough American teacher, Rubin Goldmark. He carried in his luggage the manuscript of what was to be his first published piece, the ...

  • Major Works for Orchestra and for the Voice

    Aaron Copland with Marian Anderson, rehearsing "Lincoln Portrait", Music Division, Library of Congress. Copland also continued to write works for the concert hall, often using the somewhat simplified musical language he had developed for his ballet and film scores and for a series of works for young performers, including the school opera The Second Hurricane, of 1937 and An Outdoor Overture from 1938, the ...

  • Modernism, Mexico and Beyond

    Aaron Copland and Serge Koussevitzky, Tanglewood, Music Division, Library of Congress. Copland's music of the late 1920s drives towards two of his key works, both uncompromising in their modernism: the Symphonic Ode of 1929 and the Piano Variations of 1930. The fate of these compositions contrasts sharply. While the Piano Variations is not often performed in concert, it is well known to pianists because ...

  • Music for Dance and Film

    Billy the Kid: production shot, 1938, Music Division, Library of Congress. In the mid-1930s Copland began to receive commissions from dance companies. The first, from the Chicago choreographer Ruth Page, resulted in the 1935 score Hear Ye! Hear Ye!, a ballet with a Rashomon-like plot set in a court of law. Hear Ye! Hear Ye! was a local success but did not make the ...

  • 1950's and 1960's: Opera and Stylistic Diversity

    Aaron Copland sorting his mail, Music Division, Library of Congress. In 1950 it seemed that another of Copland's ambitions was about to be fulfilled: Sir Rudolf Bing approached him with the suggestion that he and Thornton Wilder write an operatic version of Our Town for the Metropolitan Opera. But Wilder declined ("I'm convinced that I write a-musical plays . . . that in them ...

  • The Achievements of an American Composer

    Aaron Copland under umbrella, University of Kansas, 1973, Music Division, Library of Congress. When people talk about the American aspects of Copland's music, they often emphasize the Western flavor of some of his works. This is perhaps understandable, for the three major ballets (Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, and Billy the Kid), his three most often performed works in the concert hall as well as on ...

  • Final Accomplishments

    During the 1970s Copland put his musical house in order, producing works based on earlier sketches, of which the most extensive is the Duo for Flute and Piano of 1971. A second career, that of conductor, opened up for him as he conducted not only his own compositions but those of other Americans and works from the standard repertory. He also recorded much of ...