Monday, November 14, 2011

Aaron Copland: Complete Chronological Catalogue

"You compose because you want to somehow summarize in some permanent form your most basic feelings about being alive, to set down... some sort of permanent statement about the way it feels to live now, today." - Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland (November 14, 1900 – December 2, 1990) was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor of his own and other American music. He was instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, and is often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers". He is best known to the public for the works he wrote in the 1930s and 40s in a deliberately more accessible style than his earlier pieces, including the ballets Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, Rodeo and his Fanfare for the Common Man. The open, slowly changing harmonies of many of his works are archetypical of what many people consider to be the sound of American music, evoking the vast American landscape and pioneer spirit. However, he wrote music in different styles at different periods of his life: his early works incorporated jazz or avant-garde elements whereas his later music incorporated serial techniques. - Wikipedia

This playlist collects the complete compositions of Copland, sorted in chronological order after this list. The first track is a conversation from 30 years ago today, on Copland's 81st birthday, in which the composer talked about how did he find the name Appalachian Spring (or really the other way around). Both the original version and suites of the ballets are included (the original Appalachian Spring for 13 instruments is a must hear). I used lots of recordings conducted by Copland himself but also digested many other fine performances. The Clarinet Concerto is played by Benny Goodman, and the Piano Concerto features Leonard Bernstein on the bench.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Aaron Copland: Complete Chronological Catalogue (279 tracks, total time: 21 hours) Ctrl (CMD)+G to browse in album view.  Seven tracks are currently not available on Spotify USA, including, unfortunately, a 17 minutes Copland Rehearses Appalachian Spring at the end of the playlist. Find more about this great composer on Keeping Score: In Search Of An American Sound, and The Aaron Copland Collection on LoC. Also give the recently unearthed original version of Quiet City a listen on NPR, hope it will be on Spotify soon. Lastly, I recommend Copland's book What To Listen For In Music to everyone who ever wondered about that question.

Happy 111th birthday.