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Classical Composers A-Z: Aaron Copland

Peter Wintersgill summarises the life of Aaron Copland, one of the best-known American composers.

14th November, 1900, in New York of Russian parents.

Studied theory with Goldmark in New York, later with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

Adult Life
His early music shows jazz elements, e.g. the Piano Concerto (1927), the premiere being conducted by Koussevitsky with Nadia Boulanger as soloist. He showed a more austere style from 1930 onwards with ballets Billy the Kid (1938), Rodeo (1942), The Appalachian Spring (1944) and his only opera The Tender Land (1954).

He visited Mexico in the 1930's, producing a Mexican folk style, e.g. El Salon Mexico (1936) and the Clarinet
Concerto (1948).

He also wrote film scores, e.g. Our Town (1940) and The Red Pony (1948). His later works were more serious, like his cantata In the Beginning (1947) for mezzo-soprano
solo and unaccompanied choir, also 12 poems of Emily Dickinson (1950) for voice and piano.

His later life was more administrative with conducting. Thus he founded a series of New York concerts for new American works and was made Head of Composition at the Faculty of Berkshire Music Centre.

Honours included the Congressional Medal of Honour, the Gold Medal of the American Academy and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He died 2nd December 1980 in New York aged 80.


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