Academic journal article Notes

Aaron Copland: Fanfare for America

Academic journal article Notes

Aaron Copland: Fanfare for America

Article excerpt

Aaron Copland: Fanfare for America. DVD. A film by Andreas Skipis. [Halle/Saale, Germany]: Arthaus Musik, 2011, 2001. 101 573. $28.98.

This 2001 production by Hessischer Rundfunk for Arthaus Musik presents an interesting overview of the career of Aaron Copland. By no means an exhaustive account, it gives what is a generally good cross section of his life and works, with many archival television clips and photographs, as well as a present-day tour through the Brooklyn of his early years. With a running time of only an hour, this film leaps from peak to peak, concentrating on the years from Copland's study in Paris in the 1920's to his serial pieces Twelve Poems of Emily Dickenson (1951) and Connotations, commissioned for the opening of Lincoln Center in 1962.

The narration of the film is in German, although the menu presents an option of subtitles in English as well as several other languages, but the interviews (with conductor Hugh Wolff, biographer Howard Pollack and Copland himself) are in English. By limiting the talking heads, director Andreas Skipis actually achieves more unity and structural coherence than might be expected from such a short film. Copland is presented in interviews done towards the end of his professional life (presumably in the 1970's and early 80's, although information for this is not given) and is compelling in his discussion of his music and life--especially his Zen-like acceptance of the difficulties he encountered in the McCarthy era congressional hearings. Wolff is lucid and engaging in his discussions of the music he conducts, although the sometimes bizarre film style gets in the way. Initially, I thought I was watching some very modestly gifted actors imitating symphonic musicians playing Copland's music, but they are indeed Wolff leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (shortly to change its name to Hessischer Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester). Why filmmakers and television directors feel these community theater histrionics make Classical music more accessible is a question for future generations. Once one gets by, for example, the oddity of the rapidly appearing and disappearing soloists in Music for the Theater (1925) in front of a single music stand in an all-white room, one can appreciate the beautiful performance. …

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