WorldView Episode 09: Aaron Copland

Celebrated for his portrayal of “American music”, Aaron Copland was heavily influenced by the sights and sounds of America during the Great Depression, both World Wars, and the tumultuous second half of the 20th century. His most famous pieces are those which he called “accessible”; these works feature simpler melodies, folk music roots, and relatable themes and styles. By the time of his death in 1990, he had written over 100 opus works. 

Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1900, the fifth child of a Jewish family originally from Lithuania. He definitively decided that he wanted to be a composer at age fifteen after viewing a live performance of composer and pianist Ignaz jan Paderewski. A year later Copland began studying with Rubin Goldmark, followed shortly by French masters Isidor Philip and Nadia Boulanger. The latter was particularly influential to his style, and he decided to triple the length of his stay in Paris to further experience Boulanger’s eclectic teachings. Upon his return to the United States, Copland encountered considerable difficulty supporting himself financially as a modernist composer, especially during the Great Depression. He slowly began shifting his style to incorporate American folk themes and influences, becoming wildly popular in the 1930s and 40s with works such as Appalachian Spring and Rodeo

In his later years, Copland shifted towards conducting, as he felt he had run out of ideas for new compositions. He began crafting mass recordings of his works for Columbia Records and toured internationally as a guest conductor. He died from Alzheimer’s complications and respiratory disease at the age of 90, leaving much of his money to the creation of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music (which gives around half a million dollars annually to performing groups). 

Copland’s work featured in this episode of WorldView is his “Sonata for Violin and Piano”, written in 1943. It is performed by Paul Posnak (piano) and Peter Zazofsky (violin). 

WorldView Episode Nine Playlist:

Aaron COPLAND, “Sonata for Violin and Piano”, {Paul Posnak (pf), Peter Zazofsky (vn)} – Naxos 

Anton DVORAK, “Scherzo Capriccioso”, {Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop (cond)} – Naxos 

Sheila SILVER, “Six Preludes pour Piano, d’Après Poèmes de Baudelaire”, {Lithuania State Symphony Orchestra, Gintaras Rinkevičius (cond), Alexander Paley (pf)} – Naxos 

WorldView is a classical music radio show featuring composers from everywhere in the world – except Western Europe. Tune in to hear works by lesser-known artists such as Gabriela Montero  and Bright Sheng, and widen your knowledge of classical music. Hinke Younger hosts each week’s episode of WorldView on Mondays at 9AM and again at 6PM on Charlottesvilleclassical.org.

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