WRTI's Essential Classical Composer No. 8: Aaron Copland

Feb 2, 2017

Appalachian Spring. Billy the Kid. Rodeo. Fanfare for the Common Man. “I Bought Me a Cat.” Aaron Copland’s music cries out “America.” The kid from Brooklyn learned from a teacher in Paris, and became America’s leading composer during his lifetime and more. You voted him your No. 8 Most Essential Classical Composer.

Watch Leonard Bernstein introduce Aaron Copland, who leads the New York Philharmonic in a performance of "Fanfare for the Common Man."

  • He grew up over a store in Brooklyn, which his father owned: H. M. Copland’s
  • Studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the early 1920s, Copland was introduced to an elderly gentleman attending a recital. It was Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921).
  • In Paris, Copland began incorporating American jazz and popular music into his own compositions
  • He gave detailed notes about the bar he visited that inspired El Salón México. It may all be a joke: No one’s ever been able to find it.
  • Composer Ned Rorem on Copland’s legacy, "Aaron stressed simplicity: Remove, remove, remove what isn't needed... American music came into its own."
  • He spent the summer of  1922 in Berlin, and the summer of 1923 in Vienna.
  • His family's name was originally Kaplan, but he didn't know that fact until he visited his grandfather in Russia.

Copland was a powerful force in 20th-century American music. Kile Smith thinks there’s one simple thing that makes him stand out as America’s composer.

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