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Aaron Copland (1900-December 2, 1990) was born in Brooklyn, New York in November. Of Russian Jewish descent, he spent his childhood living above his parents' Brooklyn shop. His music education included time with Rubin Goldmark, also one of George Gershwin's teachers, and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris from 1921. His first significant work was the necromantic ballet Grohg which contributed thematic material to his later Dance Symphony. Other major works of his first (austere) period include the Short Symphony - 1933 and Music for Theater - 1925.

Copland's second period (vernacular) began around 1936 with Billy The Kid and El Salon Mexico. Perhaps Copland's most famous work, Fanfare for the Common Man for brass and percussion was written in 1942 at the request of the conductor Eugene Goosens. The fanfare was also used as one of the main themes in the third movement of Copland's Third Symphony.

Aaron Copland died in his home in Peekshill, New York.

Major Works:

  • Fanfare for the Common Man
  • Short Symphony
  • Dance Symphony
  • Third Symphony
  • Appalachian Spring
  • Grohg a ballet
  • Lincoln Portrait
  • Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • Dance Panels
  • El Salon Mexico
  • The Red Pony Suite
  • Danzon Cubano
  • Three Latin American Sketches
  • Rodeo
  • Music for Theater
  • Music for Movies


Biography at ...
With his large, craggy countenance, Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was once described as possessing "a kind of Old Testament grandeur." And indeed his music conveys an almost prophetic majesty and confidence. Though Copland went abroad to study his craft as a young man, his best-known works from the 1930s and '40s came to define, like the music of George Gershwin, an authentic American voice. Copland was interested above all in communicating with a wide audience rather than speaking only to an elite. Listen to the selections on this disc--most of them drawn from his pioneering ballet music written for Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham--and you will hear a kind of directness and generosity of spirit that might call to mind the poetry of Walt Whitman.

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recommended recordings
Copland - The Music of America / Kunzel, Cincinnati Pops
Composer: Aaron Copland
Conductor: Erich Kunzel
Performer: Philip Collins, William Harrod
Ensemble: Cincinnati Pops
Telarc - #80339 / January 28, 1997

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When it comes to light, folk-flavored listening, the music of Aaron Copland is some of the best and most popular. When it comes to crowd-pleasing conducting, Erich Kunzel is one of the great successes. This album contains most of Copland's essential compositions, in all or part: "Fanfare for... Read more

Bernstein Century - Copland: Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, etc / Bernstein, New York PO
Composer: Aaron Copland
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
Ensemble: New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Sony Classics - #63082 / October 28, 1997

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Happy is the composer who has an advocate as passionate and talented as Leonard Bernstein. These Copland performances have been the preferred versions since they were first issued--better even than the composer's own, later recordings. Originally they were spread over two discs, but thanks to the extended playing time of the compact disc, you can now get all three great Copland ballets together, along with the ever popular Fanfare for the Common Man. Bernstein brings to this music the right...Read more

Bernstein Century - Copland: Symphony no 3, etc / Biggs

Composer: Aaron Copland
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
Performer: E Power Biggs
Ensemble: New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Sony Classics - #63155 / October 28, 1997

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Leonard Bernstein's performance of Copland's Third Symphony has had to wait a long time before finally appearing on CD. Part of the delay no doubt stemmed from the fact that DG released a second, later recording with the same orchestra, in digital sound. Comparing the two versions, both of which are very good, one prefers this first performance. Not only does the music move a bit more quickly, with sharper rhythms and a stronger sense of the dance (never far from Copland's musical thoughts), but...Read more

Copland: The Tender Land / Brunelle, Plymouth Music Series

Composer: Aaron Copland
Conductor: Philip Brunelle
Performer: James Bohn, Elisabeth Comeaux, et al.
Ensemble: Plymouth Music Series Chorus, Plymouth Music Series Orchestra
Emd/Emi Classics - #59207 / September 4, 1990

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Aaron Copland didn't have the theatrical instinct of a George Gershwin or even a Gian Carlo Menotti, but that didn't keep him from writing one of the best operas we have in the "American" vein. The Tender Land was composed in 1953 on a commission from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II--who since the premiere of Oklahoma! 10 years earlier could afford such largesse--and received its premiere on April 1, 1954 at the City Center in New York. Concerning a girl transformed into a young woman...Read more

Copland: Music for Films / Slatkin, Saint Louis Symphony

Composer: Aaron Copland
Conductor: Leonard Slatkin
Ensemble: St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Bmg/Rca Victor - #61699 / April 12, 1994

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This is a great series of recordings. Leonard Slatkin has generally chosen the right balance of music for the composers used in the series (with terrific cover art from Thomas Hart Benton). This disc is devoted to Copland's film music. The treat here is a version of The Heiress Suite reconstructed by Arnold Freed. Copland's talent for writing for films rested in his ability to identify and maintain themes, at the same time not slacking on the transitional details. This belongs in any Copland...Read more

Copland - The Modernist / Tilson Thomas, San Francisco

Composer: Aaron Copland
Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas
Performer: Garrick Ohlsson
Ensemble: San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Bmg/Rca Victor - #68541 / October 15, 1996

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The material covered on Copland the Modernist offers an important--and highly enjoyable--counterweight to the icon of folksy Americana that the composer is usually made out to be. And though such works as Appalachian Spring and Rodeo have kept Copland high on the list of the 20th century's most popular composers, his achievement extends well beyond the familiar beauty of those musical landscapes. Michael Tilson Thomas, who has evolved into arguably the finest American conductor of his...Read more

Benny Goodman Collector's Edition

Composer: Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, et al.
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, et al.
Performer: Benny Goodman, Bˇla Bart—k, et al.
Ensemble: Columbia Jazz Band, Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Sony/Columbia - #42227 / January 1, 1987
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This disc collects together the various classical works that Benny Goodman either commissioned or premiered. Copland's concerto was written with Goodman's manner of playing very much in mind. Includes Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto, Bartók's Contrasts, Bernstein's Preludes, Fugues and Riffs.

Long Time Ago - Copland / Dawn Upshaw & Thomas Hampson

Composer: Aaron Copland
Conductor: Hugh Wolff
Performer: Thomas Hampson, Dawn Upshaw
Ensemble: St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Wea/Atlantic/Teldec - #77310 / June 7, 1994

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Copland's Eight Songs of Emily Dickinson comprise one of the finest song cycles by an American composer, and a perfect meeting of minds between poet and composer. Dickinson's verses and Copland's music alternate plain-spun honesty and wry humor with sudden, unpredictable bursts of passion and pain and a complete lack of false sentimentality. The Old American Songs are simply a good time and you'll recognize many of the tunes even if you haven't remembered the words. Hampson and Upshaw are two of the finest American singers alive, and they perform this music as though they have a proprietary interest in it. A terrific record.

Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy the Kid / Bonney, Previn

Composer: André Previn, Aaron Copland, et al.
Performer: Barbara Bonney, André Previn, et al.
Uni/London Classics - #455511 / January 27, 1998

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Though American, Barbara Bonney has spent most of her career in Europe and, up until recently, never saw the need to sing in English. But this collection is entirely in English, featuring the title piece written for her by Previn--sort of a tone poem for voice, nice but not great--plus Samuel Barber's more familiar Hermit Songs, Dominick Argento's Six Elizabethan Songs and Aaron Copland's Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson. It's one of her best recordings and a big step in the gradual evolution of an artist who began as another pretty-voiced soprano and is becoming one of the most memorable recitalists of her generation.

works & recordings
Listing of Major Compositions

Browse Aaron Copland


Aaron Copland : The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man
by Howard Pollack

Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
(March 1999)

Opening with a 12-page chapter that gives a sharper impression of the great American composer's personality than many full-length books, this superb biography goes from strength to strength as it elucidates Aaron Copland's background, beliefs, affiliations, and achievements. Music historian Howard... Read more

Aaron Copland (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers)
by Mike Venezia

Children's Press
Paperback - 32 pages
(September 1995)

Venezia's love and respect for music shine through in another of the books in his World's Greatest Composers series. The story of Aaron Copland's life is told in an interesting and amusing fashion and shows children how Copland discovered his own style through his experiences over the years. While... Read more

Copland: 1900-1942
by Aaron Copland, Vivian Perlis

St. Martin's Press
Paperback - 402 pages
2nd edition (October 1999)

Aaron Copland is one of America's most beloved musical pioneers, famous for Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, and Lincoln Portrait, as well as the movie scores for "Our Town" and "Of Mice and Men," and numerous orchestral and chamber works. This candid, colorful memoir begins with Copland's... Read more

Copland : Since 1943
by Aaron Copland, Vivian Perlis

St. Martin's Press
Paperback - 463 pages
Reprint edition (April 28, 1999)

Hailed as important, entertaining, and revealing, Copland: Since 1943 is composer Aaron Copland's irresistible account of the latter half of his career--a career that brought us such pioneering works as Appalachian Spring and Lincoln Portrait, the movie scores for Of Mice and Men and Our Town, and... Read more


    Aaron Copland - Biography, worklist.

    COPLAND 2000 - Introduction, retrospective, upcoming events, biography, annotations, publications.

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