Aaron Copland

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Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was an American classical music composer, much of whose music is the most identifiably “American” of twentieth century composers.

Copland, from Brooklyn, NY, studied with Carl Goldmark before traveling to Paris to work for 3 years under Nadia Boulanger. Back in New York and composing, his music into the 1930s showed traces of the contemporary European style interspersed with jazz and bursts of grandness; however his Americanism became suddenly apparent in 1940 with the first of his “cowboy ballets": “Billy the Kid”, followed by “Rodeo” two years later. His “Appalachian Spring”, first performed in 1944, and featuring variations on the Shaker hymn known as “Simple Gifts”, and danced by Martha Graham’s company, showed a mature talent for melody and sensitivity of touch. Other “Americana” works include “Lincoln Portrait” for speaker and orchestra, and two sets of Old American Songs - the delight of every baritone. His “Fanfare for the Common Man”, which he used as part of his Third Symphony, opened the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

He wrote a number of film scores, including “The Red Pony”, two operas, three symphonies, various other works for orchestra, songs, piano music and some highly distinctive chamber music. His Clarinet Concerto, written for the jazz player, Benny Goodman, is a concert favorite.

Copland was also known as a conductor, pianist, teacher and the author of several books.