Composers from Amazon.com's Get Started in Classical:
This is from Amazon.com's Get Started in Classical.
List of Composers
The direct appeal and irresistible imagination of Aaron Copland's
works make him one of the defining voices of American music
With his large, craggy countenance, Aaron Copland
(1900-1990) was once described as possessing "a kind
of Old Testament grandeur." And indeed his music
conveys an almost prophetic majesty and confidence.
Though Copland went abroad to study his craft as a
young man, his best-known works from the 1930s and
'40s came to define, like the music of George Gershwin,
an authentic American voice. Copland was interested
above all in communicating with a wide audience rather
than speaking only to an elite. Listen to the selections on this disc--most of
them drawn from his pioneering ballet music written for Agnes de Mille
and Martha Graham--and you will hear a kind of directness and generosity
of spirit that might call to mind the poetry of Walt Whitman.
In the idyllic, dreamy opening of Appalachian Spring, for example,
Copland immediately sets the pastoral scene for you with a simple
three-note idea (notice how this theme is used more assertively in
Fanfare for the Common Man) that layers into bright, warm chords, like a dawn mist that slowly
evaporates. It's the essence of simplicity. The promise here of a fresh beginning is as bright and
enveloping as the sunny textures of a Georgia O'Keefe painting. In this and the other ballet suites on
the disc, Copland uses a collage technique that creates exciting variety, moving back and forth from
episodes of nostalgia and reflection to fast sections that crackle with jagged rhythms. One key to how
he creates a recognizable American voice is actually based on the time-honored technique among
classical composers of using folk music as a source of material. There is the Shaker melody that
ripples forth in the variations of the second-to-last section of Appalachian Spring, as well as
cowboy ballads and square-dance tunes (in Billy the Kid and Rodeo). But Copland's personal stamp
is everywhere obvious in how he decks out such materials in vibrant colors and rhythms.
The performances here are from Leonard Bernstein's prime with the New York Philharmonic and
involve a true marriage of minds. Bernstein was a lifelong friend and proponent of Copland and his
music. Listen, for example, to the split-second timing as Rodeo crashes to its opening, and you're
instantly in touch with the brash exuberance and optimism that pervades Copland's best-loved pieces.
Whether this is the first or the hundredth time you hear them, they never lose their power to
engage--the surest sign of music that lasts.
Thomas May, Classical Editor
More Copland can be found in Musical Information and the Listening Center
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