Like Vol. I of Copland's quasi, autobiography(1984), this follow-up collage--part memoir, part biographical sketch (by...

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COPLAND: Since 1943

Like Vol. I of Copland's quasi, autobiography(1984), this follow-up collage--part memoir, part biographical sketch (by Perlis: Yale School of Music), part symposium (tributes from colleagues and friends)--is richly informative, occasionally illuminating, but rarely vivid, dramatic, or emotionally involving. Recollections of the 1940's begin with the development of the ballet score for Appalachian Spring--and, throughout, Copland's most intriguing comments come in connection with his often courageous ventures beyond concert music: ballets, film scores (The Red Pony, The Heiress, the little-known Something Wild for Carroll Baker), and his semi-opera, The Tender Land. (If he has one regret, ""it is that I never did write a 'grand opera.'"") There are solid discussions, too, of his legendary teaching at Tangle-wood, his nondoctrinaire use of serialism in several later scores, and his lucrative conducting career--which took on ever greater importance through the Fifties and Sixties. (""Somebody had to pay the rent!""--and Copland is always refreshingly practical about the financial ups and downs of a serious composer.) But many of the more personal moments--like Copland's appearance at the McCarthy hearings--are taken up in Perlis' bland narrative ""interludes."" Others are severely understated, or left out entirely. So the more human side of Copland emerges primarily in the reminiscences of grateful former students (Jacob Druckman, David Del Tredici, et al.), affectionate old friends, and such fellow composers as Lukas Foss, Leonard Bernstein (always the most eloquent Copland admirer), and Ned Rorem. (Characteristically, it's Rorem alone who refers--briefly and vaguely--to Copland's private life: ""People are inclined to sanctify him, as though he had no temperament or sexual urges at all!"") Again, then, only half-satisfying--but, for the piece-by-piece commentary, an essential volume in any music-reference collection.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 1989

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1989