Friday February 23, 2018 10:35 pm

FanFaire celebrates AARON COPLAND
"who led American music out of the wilderness"

Another FanFaire-Kultur UNCOMMON Giveaway:

A series of TV programs hosted by composer AARON COPLAND, “high priest of American music”
[Based on interviews with Copland filmed at WGBH Boston in November 1964 and January 1965]

FanFaire is pleased to partner once again with KULTUR in giving away to FanFaire viewers another uncommon DVD set. This time we celebrate the American icon AARON COPLAND, whom LEONARD BERNSTEIN, another American icon to whom Copland was adored friend and mentor, interestingly likened both to the biblical Aaron as the amiable, immensely articulate “high priest… who would lead American music out of the wilderness” AND to his brother Moses the patriarch, for in Copland’s music there was “always the prophetic statement, the reflective meditation, that curiously tender hesitancy.”

The qualities of high priest and patriarch are evident in the 12 half-hour programs reproduced in the original black and white on this recently released 3-DVD set, that made up the educational TV series MUSIC IN THE 20′s commissioned in 1965 by National Education Television (now WNET), the predecessor to today’s PBS (Public Broadcasting System).

With his quick wit, depth of knowledge, and singular articulateness, Copland takes us on a special journey through the 1920′s. Popularly known as “The Roaring Twenties” (but Copland hardly used the phrase here), it was a decade of social and cultural ferment, upheaval and revolution sustained by an economic prosperity that was suddenly punctuated by the Crash of 1929–altogether a roaring prologue to the harrowing years of the ensuing Great Depression. It was in this context that Copland in these programs examined succinctly but with his trademark incisive insight the spirit of revolution that permeated all aspects of life in the 20′s, not the least classical music.

No, the musical renaissance of the 20′s was not only all about Jazz and Broadway and the Charleston as most popular histories of the decade made it to be. To be sure, Jazz in America played a role in upsetting the existing musical order, but there was a lot more to the musical revolution of the 20s that, as the preview video reel below shows, had its roots in Europe where an early twenty-something Aaron Copland, then studying in Paris with the legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, had the good fortune to be in the nerve center of the arts–experiencing with rapt attention the future of music being shaped by previously unheard of “isms” or shockingly new ideas that permeated the works of composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, and Paul Hindemith; and, if not exactly rubbing elbows, being in the same cafe or salon with the period’s luminary agents of change themselves: famous painters such as Chagall, Picasso. Modigliani; writers such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, TS Eliot, and Ezra Pound; and such musical greats as Ravel, Stravinsky, Poulenc, Milhaud and Honegger. Thus, he had an enviable “front-row seat” from which to witness the seminal developments that spawned modern art and what to many of us is still largely inscrutable 20th century music.

What to expect then of these almost 50-year old programs? Given Copland’s boundless but unselfconscious erudition, incomparable pedagogic ability, and remarkable facility with both the spoken and the written word– a veritable crash course, but an unquestionably excellent and delightful one, in how and what to appreciate in 20th century music. Certainly enough to make the non-expert reasonably conversant about such arcane subjects as Schönberg’s revolutionary 12-tone system, perhaps even to become fascinated by it. And enough to make of the amateur music connoisseur an even more gifted listener, deriving as much pleasure from listening, say, to Bartok as from listening to Beethoven. The succinct yet very illuminating lectures are complemented with live performances by a hand-picked studio orchestra often conducted by Copland himself, appearances by such luminaries as the Juilliard String Quartet, Beverly Sills, and Lotte Lenya, to name a few, as well as instructive musical demonstrations with Copland at the piano.

This giveaway ended April 15, 2012. ]


[An afterthought: The format of this program series must have been partly the inspiration for LEONARD BERNSTEIN's brilliant 6-volume series "The Unanswered Question", based on six talks he gave at Harvard in 1970s as part of the University's Norton Lecture Series. (The link takes you to the original Bernstein pages on FanFaire, currently being redesigned.]
- © GJCajipe / FanFaire 2012.

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