Featured Subject: Aaron Copland
With News and Reviews From the Archives of The New York Times


In This Feature
  • Reviews of Aaron Copland's Music
  • Reviews of Aaron Copland's Books
  • Articles About Aaron Copland
  • Articles by Aaron Copland

    Audio

  • Excerpts From the Music of Aaron Copland

    Related Links

  • John Rockwell Reviews Howard Pollack's 'Aaron Copland' (March 14, 1999)
  • First Chapter: 'Aaron Copland'

    Aaron Copland
    The Associated Press
    Aaron Copland in 1956.
    REVIEWS OF AARON COPLAND'S MUSIC:

  • Copland Gives First of 'One-Man' Concerts (October 12, 1935)
    An all-Copland program included an early performance of "El Salon Mexico."
  • Audio Excerpt from 'El Salon Mexico'

  • 'Second Hurricane' in World Premiere (April 22, 1937)
    "Copland's musical efforts were largely confined to choral numbers and these, with their lack of melodic inspiration, their constant repetition of empty, dry phrases, soon grew wearisome, especially as they wanted mood with few exceptions and merely halted the action."

  • Copland 'Short Symphony' Has Premiere Here (January 10, 1944)
    "In more recent years Mr. Copland has chosen to write in a much simpler and more direct manner . . . The symphony, being both abstract and in the less effective early style, cannot be reckoned among its composer's important contributions to the literature."

  • 'Appalachian Spring' by Copland Heard at Concert (April 11, 1946)
    "[T]his is certainly one of the best of Mr. Copland's scores, and of them all the most tender and poetical in character. In it the folk element is strongly present; it is neither disguised nor disfigured by affectation."
  • Audio Excerpt from 'Appalachian Spring'

  • Boston Symphony Plays Copland 3d (January 9, 1947)
    "This is the biggest work of Mr. Copland's that we have heard . . . In our opinion this is the first time that he has emerged as an authentic symphonist . . ."
  • Audio Excerpt from 'Symphony No. 3'

  • Records: 'Lincoln Portrait' (February 16, 1947)
    ". . . comes as close as any orchestral work, and there have been quite a few, to evoking the quality of Lincoln the man and his legend. Mr. Copland has come closer to success because he has not aimed too high and because he has written simply and unpretentiously."

  • Records: Copland's Piano Sonata (February 20, 1949)
    "On first hearing some considered it difficult in form and style and unyielding in content. But if you give yourself a fair chance to become well acquainted with it, the sonata proves to be none of these things. On the contrary, it has simplicity, clarity and a great deal of touching, restrained feeling."

  • Records: Copland's 'Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra' (September 23, 1951)
    ". . . with the composer conducting and Benny Goodman (who commissioned the piece) playing the solo, [the concerto] contains some of Mr. Copland's most credible lyricism."

  • New Friends Open 17th Concert Year With Copland's 'Poems of Emily Dickinson' Song Cycle (November 3, 1952)
    "It is, like all of Mr. Copland's music, intelligent, carefully composed and to the point. He is not working in a folksy way here; these are art songs that attempt to capture the essence of the texts without extra-musical associations."

  • Music: Premiere of One-Act Opera, 'The Tender Land' (April 21, 1954)
    "[The libretto] simply does not convince, or present much that is of character, or motivation, or consequence. The composer often produces interesting music, not because of, but mainly in spite of this flimsy and pseudo-dramatic material."

  • Copland Fantasy for Piano Heard (October 26, 1957)
    ". . . one of Mr. Copland's most significant compositions . . . an intensely serious work, but it is not forbidding. Mr. Copland uses twelve-tone devices, but he does not follow them slavishly."

  • Music: Aaron Copland (February 31, 1958)
    "The Third is surely one of the finest symphonies to the credit of any American. Its design is large, and its command of matter and manner unwavering. . . . Copland conducted not only with an awareness of how his own music should go but also with a businesslike grasp, of a maestro's duties."

  • Records: Copland (March 29, 1959)
    "Now that we are taking our serious composers more seriously, it's time to begin to listen to the serious Copland."

  • Philharmonic Takes On the Avant-Garde (January 5, 1964)
    "You can't ask anyone over 35 about what is or isn't avant-garde," the 63-year-old Copland told an interviewer before his Piano Concerto was performed as part of a New York Philharmonic avant-garde series.
  • Audio Excerpt from 'Concerto for Piano and Orchestra'

  • Music: Copland Plays at Philharmonic (January 10, 1964)
    Copland's 1926 Piano Concerto fit in comfortably with a program devoted to new "third stream" compositions that mix jazz and classical styles.

  • Copland Conducts 'The Tender Land' (July 29, 1965)
    "The music is simple -- simple and sweet. . . . closer to 'Oklahoma' than it is to 'Wozzeck' . . . But the drama is static. . . . And while Mr. Copland's ear is keenly melodic, it is not vocal."

  • Composers Can Be Their Own Best Conductors (November 6, 1966)
    "Copland seems, in our day of electronic music and avant-garde serialism, to be a comfortable and comforting figure of past American productivity. . . . And even his recent serial works which seem to attempt to keep astride current trends . . . are tolerated rather than liked or hated because of Copland's importance to American music . . ."

  • Aaron Copland as Conductor (December 8, 1975)
    "Copland is hardly a virtuoso conductor, but he led admirably clear performances of his [compositions]."

  • Free 13-Hour Marathon Celebrates American Music (November 21, 1980)
    "There are good reasons for Mr. Copland to serve as the focus for such a celebration. . . . [B]efore Mr. Copland came along, serious American music was the purview of a few isolated eccentrics like Charles Ives."

    REVIEWS OF AARON COPLAND'S BOOKS:

  • 'Copland on Music' (November 13, 1960)
    "Copland writes about music in the same way that he composes. The qualities of clarity, liveliness, elegance, precision and directness which distinguish his music make him a fine essayist. And, beneath the clear the simple surface of both lies a wealth of ideas."

  • 'Copland' (December 25, 1989)
    "Anyone who loves Mr. Copland and his music . . . will want to read this book. . . . But one must voice reservations . . . He is not an expansive storyteller, let alone a probing self-analyst on either the personal or the professional level."

    ARTICLES ABOUT AARON COPLAND:

  • American Composers and Critics (May 8, 1932)
    In this exchange, Olin Downes and Aaron Copland debate the responsibility of critics to promote new American music.

  • Pulitzer Prizes Announced (May 8, 1945)
    Copland's score for "Appalachian Spring" won the 1944 Pulitzer Prize for music.

  • Talk With Aaron Copland (October 19, 1952)
    In this interview, Copland characteristically plugs modern music: "Both contemporary music and that by Americans are ignored out of all proportion. In art, for example, there is the Metropolitan Museum and the Modern Museum. In music we should have something like this last."

  • Copland on Lincoln (February 1, 1953)
    Based on Copland's own words, this article describes the composition of one of his most popular pieces, "A Lincoln Portrait."

  • All Red Ties Denied by Aaron Copland (May 27, 1953)
    "I never have been and am not now a Communist," Copland told Joseph McCarthy's Senate Investigations committee.

  • Dean of Our Composers at 60 (November 13, 1960)
    "When he started out, the words 'American' and 'composer' hardly seemed to belong together. Musicians were either dead or foreign . . . Copland helped to change all this by the simple device of being a first-rate composer who is also a living American."

  • Birthday Party for Copland (November 15, 1960)
    "As composer, conductor, pianist, lecturer, writer, reviewer, teacher and chief musical proselytizer for the American composer, he has left a strong imprint on the scene."

  • Looking Back at Copland's Remarkable Career (November 1, 1970)
    Paul Hume considers Copland's accessibility, his continuing development and his apprenticeship with Nadia Boulanger.

  • He Made Composing Respectable Here (November 8, 1970)
    In this interview, Copland defends his experiments with 12-tone music.

  • MacDowell Gala Adds to Birthday Tributes for Copland (November 26, 1970)
    Leonard Bernstein composed "Aaron's Canon," a two-minute tribute, as part of the celebration of Copland's 70th birthday.

  • He Wanted to Reach Us (February 28, 1971)
    Harold C. Schonberg examines how Copland's compositional style and knack for public relations helped him appeal to a wide audience.

  • Strike up the Band (and the Chamber Group) (April 25, 1971)
    Copland, always eager to popularize new music, worked with Ronald Zalkind's Empire Sinfonietta on a TV special.

  • This Aaron is a Musical Moses (November 9, 1975)
    In this assessment of the career of Copland, Times music critic Donal Henahan says that even if Copland's music is not immortal, his efforts on behalf of popularizing modern music are.

  • Copland on 'Appalachian' Beginnings (December 8, 1975)
    Copland, who was reunited with Martha Graham for a performance of "Appalachian Spring," which she commissioned in 1944, recalls for Anna Kisselgoff the circumstances of its composition.

  • Copland, at 80, Looks to the Future (November 9, 1980)
    In this interview at his Peekskill residence, Copland talks about reaching 80, his decision to become a professional musician and his favorite composition.

  • Fanfares for Aaron Copland at 80 (November 9, 1980)
    Looking back over Copland's career, Edward Rothstein tries to discover how Copland became known as "not just an American composer, but the American composer."

  • Aaron Copland: 'He Is Like a Song-Filled Rock of Gibraltar' (November 10, 1985)
    Ned Rorem, a composer and friend of Copland, argues that the conventional wisdom about Copland's music is oversimplified.

  • Copland at 85: Fanfare For an Uncommon Man (November 15, 1985)
    As part of the birthday festivities, Copland was praised by his colleagues. "American music," said Elliott Carter, "is different because of Aaron."

  • Copland, Dean of American Music, Dies at 90 (December 3, 1990)
    Copland's obituary quotes Virgil Thomson: "His stance is that not only of a professional but also of an artist -- responsible, prepared, giving of his best."

    ARTICLES BY AARON COPLAND:

  • Mexican Composer (May 9, 1937)
    In this appreciation of the Mexican composers Carlos Chavez and Sylvestre Revueltas, Copland argues that "there is a new musical movement in Mexico comparable in importance to the movement in painting."

  • The Aims of Music for Films (March 10, 1940)
    Copland, who had just completed scoring the film "Of Mice and Men," took exception to the"old tradition that the better a motion picture score is, the less attention it attracts."

  • Composer's Report on Music in South America (December 21, 1947)
    Copland writes enthusiastically about a cultural exchange he took part in, organized by the State Department, in which he visited provincial capitals in Latin America to talk with local musicians.

  • Aaron Copland Reviews Rene Leibowitz's 'Schoenberg and His School' (November 27, 1949)
    "[T]o arrive at a conclusive judgment as to the merits of Schoenberg's most characteristic compositions . . . is hardly possible as yet . . . Leibowitz is the born disciple, with a proselytizing fervor seldom encountered in musical treatises."

  • A Modernist Defends Modern Music (December 25, 1949)
    Written for the musical layperson, Copland tries to dispel myths about the coldness and difficulty of the work of contemporary composers.

  • An Indictment of the Fourth B (September 21, 1952)
    Copland argues that symphony orchestras, striving to attract an audience, are relying too much on standard repertory and not doing enough to promote a new generation of composers.

  • Aaron Copland Reviews Darius Milhaud's 'Notes Without Music' (February 22, 1953)
    ". . . an engaging self-portrait by Darius Milhaud, one of the world's most gifted composers. . . . What seems to me to set his individual pattern apart from that of other composers is the fact that his music so often takes its raison d'etre from his family, social or religious life."

  • Aaron Copland Reviews Halsey Stevens's 'The Life and Music of Bela Bartok' (May 3, 1953)
    "Professional musicians will find the sober and erudite analyses of musical textures highly interesting; others will have to await a more Boswellian biographer."

  • Fantasy for Piano (October 20, 1957)
    Describing his Fantasy for Piano, Copland explains his application of the 12-tone technique: "[T]welve-tonism is nothing more than an angle of vision. . . . It is a method, not a style; and therefore it solves no problems of musical expressivity."

  • When Private and Public Worlds Meet (June 9, 1968)
    Responding to Stravinsky's recommendation that composers should conduct their own work, Copland contrasts the qualities that make a good conductor to those of a good composer.

    EXCERPTS FROM THE MUSIC OF AARON COPLAND:

    Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1926)
    San Francisco Symphony
    Conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, Garrick Ohlsson, piano
    From the album "Copland the Modernist," Copyright 1996 BMG Music

    Symphonic Ode (1929)
    San Francisco Symphony
    Conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas
    From the album "Copland the Modernist," Copyright 1996 BMG Music

    El Salón Móxico (1936)
    New York Philharmonic
    Conducted by Leonard Bernstein
    Copyright 1991 Deutsche Grammophon

    Billy the Kid (1938)
    The London Symphony Orchestra
    Conducted by Aaron Copland
    From the album "Copland Conducts Copland," 1970 CBS Records

    Appalachian Spring (1944)
    Conducted by Aaron Copland
    From the album "Copland Conducts Copland," 1970 CBS Records

    Symphony No. 3 (1946)
    Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
    Conducted by Leonard Slatkin
    Copyright 1990 BMG Music

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