Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was one of the leading spirits in American music in the 20th century and few U.S. composers, especially during the 30s, 40s and 50s, were not in some way influenced by his music. While his early works were considered austere and appealed primarily to a musical elite, he developed a more accessible style into which he incorporated the peculiarly American elements of jazz, folk music and spiritual melodies. In the words of the noted music critic Harold Schonberg, he was "the urbane, respected symbol of a half century of American music... Copland made the break that took American music into a powerful, modern, very personal kind of speech." In this program, Copland performs some of his favorite compositions with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman. The program was recorded in 1976.
"Fanfare for the Common Man" is
one of Copland's most familiar pieces. It was one of 18 patriotic fanfares commissioned from American composers during World War II by Eugene Goossens for performance with the Cincinnati Symphony orchestra. Lasting less than three minutes, the piece is a straightforward flourish of brass and percussion. "During World War Two, my friend Eugene Goossens throught it would be a good idea to start each week's concert with a fanfare, and because the common man had been doing a lot to help the war effort, I decided to compose my fanfare for him." (Aaron Copland)
"El Sal6n Mexico", one of Copland's first works tobe immediately acclaimed by critics and public alike, takes its name from a Mexican dance hall the composer visited on his first trip to Mexico in 1932. "In that hat spot, one felt in a very natural and unaffected way a close contact with the Mexican people. It wasn't the music I heard, but the spirit that I felt there, which attracted me. Something of that spirit is what I hope to have put into my music." (Aaron Copland) The colorful orchestral fantasy incorporates many elements of popular Mexican songs and traditional folk melodies.
Copland's "Clarinet Concerto" has become one of the composer's most frequently performed works. And Benny Goodman, who commissioned it, proudly stated that it has become part of the standard literature. Copland began working on the Concerto while in Brazil on a good-will tour, and the finished piece contains elements related to both North- and South-American popular music. The jazz elements make their entrance in the course of an extended cadenza that connects the two movements, and they dominate the fast, second part of the work. "The work gave me a chance to make use of some of the jazz idioms that I had grown up with as a boy and that I had already used in some other works." (Aaron Copland)
"Hoe Down" is the last of four movements which comprise the orchestral suite from the exuberant ballet "Rodeo". As in another of his ballet scores, "Billy the Kid", Copland included freely adapted American folksongs into this spirited work, originally created for Agnes de Mille and the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Depicting a romance between a cowgirl and a champion roper, the ballet culminates in the recreation of a rousing evening dance following the traditional western Saturday afternoon exhibition of riding, roping and wrangling.
Aaron Copland's opera "The Tender land tells a simple story of farm life and love in the American Midwest of the 1930s. The suite is a medley of many of its most lyric and tuneful passages, reflecting the composer's description of the opera: "It's very plain," he said in an interview prior to the opera's premiere, "stylistically plain. It has a colloquial flavor, even, and in some spots is quite folkish." The opera was premiered by the New York City Opera Company in April, 1954.