Featured Subject: Aaron Copland
With News and Reviews From the Archives of The New York Times
In This Feature
An all-Copland program included an early performance of "El Salon Mexico."
"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."
"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."
"[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."
"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 . . ."
". . . 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."
"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."
". . . 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."
"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."
"[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."
". . . 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."
"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."
"Now that we are taking our serious composers more seriously, it's time to begin to listen to the serious Copland."
"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.
Copland's 1926 Piano Concerto fit in comfortably with a program devoted to new "third stream" compositions that mix jazz and classical styles.
"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."
"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 . . ."
"Copland is hardly a virtuoso conductor, but he led admirably clear performances of his [compositions]."
"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."
"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."
"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."
In this exchange, Olin Downes and Aaron Copland debate the responsibility of critics to promote new American music.
Copland's score for "Appalachian Spring" won the 1944 Pulitzer Prize for music.
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."
Based on Copland's own words, this article describes the composition of one of his most popular pieces, "A Lincoln Portrait."
"I never have been and am not now a Communist," Copland told Joseph McCarthy's Senate Investigations committee.
"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."
"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."
Paul Hume considers Copland's accessibility, his continuing development and his apprenticeship with Nadia Boulanger.
In this interview, Copland defends his experiments with 12-tone music.
Leonard Bernstein composed "Aaron's Canon," a two-minute tribute, as part of the celebration of Copland's 70th birthday.
Harold C. Schonberg examines how Copland's compositional style and knack for public relations helped him appeal to a wide audience.
Copland, always eager to popularize new music, worked with Ronald Zalkind's Empire Sinfonietta on a TV special.
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, 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.
In this interview at his Peekskill residence, Copland talks about reaching 80, his decision to become a professional musician and his favorite composition.
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."
Ned Rorem, a composer and friend of Copland, argues that the conventional wisdom about Copland's music is oversimplified.
As part of the birthday festivities, Copland was praised by his colleagues. "American music," said Elliott Carter, "is different because of Aaron."
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."
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."
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."
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.
"[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."
Written for the musical layperson, Copland tries to dispel myths about the coldness and difficulty of the work of contemporary composers.
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.
". . . 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."
"Professional musicians will find the sober and erudite analyses of musical textures highly interesting; others will have to await a more Boswellian biographer."
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."
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.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1926)
Symphonic Ode (1929)
El Salón Móxico (1936)
Billy the Kid (1938)
Appalachian Spring (1944)
Symphony No. 3 (1946)