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Collection Aaron Copland Collection

A Wise and Trusted Friend

Aaron Copland was the first American composer I met on arrival to Boston from Paris in the fall of 1929, and I recall Serge Koussevitzky's words of introduction: "This is Aaron Copland--remember the name: You will hear a great deal of him and of his music. . . ." And, indeed, I have. Memorable are the early years of strong opposition to Copland's music by the older generation of our Boston Symphony subscribers. But stronger still was Koussevitzky's faith in the composer and determination to "fight for a winning cause!…"

[detail] Aaron Copland 70th birthday celebration: Claire Reis, Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Olga Koussevitzky, 1970. Music Division, Library of Congress.

The early '40s marked the beginning of a new "strategy," when Koussevitzky handed to Copland the conducting "baton" (the "baguette" as he then referred to it), urging the composer to "try out" in rehearsal one of his works scheduled for a future performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra--(one wonders if this first conducting experience still lingers in the composer's memory!).

Today, in this his seventy-fifth birthday year, Aaron Copland is internationally honored for his lasting contribution to music as composer, conductor, pianist, lecturer and author of world stature. Personally, through the years, I have learned to know and admire Aaron as a wise and trusted friend. I value his unfailing concern and advice as vice-chairman of the "Koussevitzky Music Foundation"--the "Koussevitzky Legacy," dedicated by the founder to award annual commissions to composers on a wide international basis; gratefully I recall the initial, arduous summers at Copland's chairmanship of the Composition Department at Tanglewood--the Koussevitzky "dream" of long years.

Indeed, these are years to bring to mind the thought expressed in the past century by Robert Schumann: . . . "Music is that wondrous thing that takes you to the point of the infinite and lets you gaze at it. . . ."

Today, we honor an American composer born at the outset of our turbulent century. We gaze at his music and his contribution to the world of music, at large, with a new awareness--wondrous and lasting!

Thus, from the depth of my heart, I join in the birthday tribute to our own Aaron Copland!

By Olga Koussevitzky