Magazine article Gramophone

The Complete Copland

Magazine article Gramophone

The Complete Copland

Article excerpt

The Complete Copland

By Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis

Pendragon Press, HB, 360pp, 60.50 [pounds sterling]

ISBN 978-1-576-47190-6

The widow of the composer Irving Fine, in an interview with Vivian Perlis, claimed: 'Aaron [Copland] was not only a great composer; he was a great human being.' Anyone fortunate enough to have known Copland can confirm this--and he knew his worth. When I told him about a new book on American music, he said he had seen it at the bookstore: 'It had two sentences about me. I put it right back on the shelf!' When somebody told Stravinsky that Copland was 'a very good American composer', the great man came straight back and said: 'Why American? He is a very good composer.' Copland said: 'I would like to be remembered through my music.' He will be.

Copland's versatility was astounding. He contributed to the work of many musical organisations; he regularly played the piano in exemplary style in his own music; and he taught at the New School in New York--where his lectures were transcribed as What to Listen for in Music--and also at Tanglewood for over 20 years. Although he was offered a position at Juilliard, Copland stayed freelance and made it. He stopped composing in the 1970s but continued his international conducting career into the 1980s, until the onset of dementia.

Copland is regarded as the quintessentially American composer but, in spite of his years in Paris, he was in many ways pan-American. From El Salon Mexico onwards he used Latin American sources; he spoke Spanish; Carlos Chavez was a good friend, who conducted the difficult Short Symphony in Mexico City 10 years before it was premiered in the US; and Copland spent time in Mexico and made goodwill visits to South American countries, generously bringing back scores of the leading composers, mostly unknown in the north. …

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