COPLAND: Volume I, 1900-1942 by Aaron & Vivian Perlis Copland

COPLAND: Volume I, 1900-1942

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Filled out with connecting/background material (by Perils) and interview-testimony from some friends and colleagues: the first half of Copland's autobiography--with extensive musical documentation and detail but very little personality or intimate life-history. After a brief, charming chapter on family-life in Brooklyn (1900-1921), Copland tells of his three crucial years in Paris, studying composition--""the decisive musical experience of my life""--with Nadia Boulanger (whom he saw, unlike others, as warm, womanly, and not anti-Semitic). She shared his enthusiasm for polyrhythms; the example of Stravinsky ""proved it was possible for a twentieth-century composer to create his own tradition""--inspiring Copland to use jazz ideas in his first major work: the Organ Symphony, ""a very tempting, but very scary"" commission from the epically supportive Koussevitsky. The following years brought: creative stays at the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo; colleagueships with Roy Harris, Roger Sessions, Virgil Thomson; lecturing and conducting; founding programs for the performance of new US music. Meanwhile, Copland's music moved from a jazz orientation to metrical complexity and serialism (Symphonic Ode, Piano Variations) to the ""simpler style"" of El Salon Mexico, Billy the Kid, and the film scores. (""I occasionally had the strange sensation of being divided in half--the austere, intellectual modernist on the one hand; the accessible, popular composer on the other. I have addressed this issue several times in print."") And the final period covered here brings Copland to Tanglewood, the Lincoln Portrait, and Fanfare for the Common Man--America's ""most successful"" composer circa 1941. . . with a total annual income of $4,557.61. Copland provides welcome, if often-familiar, comments on each of the major works, along with a wealth of names, places, and concert-dates. But the flavor of the period and its personalities, like Copland's own charisma, comes through only in a few of the interviews (especially those with Harold Clurman, David Diamond, and Leonard Bernstein). So, while valuable as a professional/esthetic chronicle, this is a dry, somewhat disappointing memoir from the man Virgil Thomson calls the ""president of American music.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's