Aaron copland down a country lane
The Copland Piano Collection: 13 Piano Pieces by Aaron CoplandAaron Copland was born on November 14, 1900 in New York City. His musical works ranged from ballet and orchestral music to choral music and movie scores. For the better part of four decades Aaron Copland was considered the premier American composer.
Copland learned to play piano from an older sister. By the time he was fifteen he had decided to become a composer. His first tentative steps included a correspondence course in writing harmony. In 1921 Copland traveled to Paris to attend the newly founded music school for Americans at Fontainebleau. He was the first American student of the brilliant teacher, Nadia Boulanger. After three years in Paris he returned to New York with his first major commission, writing an organ concerto for the American appearances of Madame Boulanger. His Symphony for Organ and Orchestra premiered in at Carnegie Hall in 1925.
Coplands growth as a composer mirrored important trends of his time. After his return from Paris he worked with jazz rhythms in his Piano Concerto (1926). His Piano Variations (1930) was strongly influenced by Igor Stravinskys Neoclassicism.
In 1936 he changed his orientation toward a simpler style. He felt this made his music more meaningful to the large music-loving audience being created by radio and the movies. His most important works during this period were based on American folk lore including Billy the Kid (1938) and Rodeo (1942). Other works during this period were a series of movie scores including Of Mice and Men (1938) and The Heiress (1948).
In his later years Coplands work reflected the serial techniques of the so-called 12-tone school of Arnold Schoenberg. Notable among these was Connotations (1962) commissioned for the opening of Lincoln Center.
After 1970 Copland stopped composing, though he continued to lecture and conduct through the mid-1980s. He died on December 2, 1990 at the Phelps Memorial Hospital in Tarrytown (Westchester County), New York.
Down a Country Lane - Stanford Wind Ensemble 3-6-2013
Down a Country Lane
Listen to the author reading the text. This is the first piece I ever played from a magazine. To produce this idyll quickly when it was commissioned by Life Magazine , Copland recycled music he had written about refugees trying to integrate and ingratiate themselves into a small Massachusetts town for a wartime film short called The Cummington Story. I am not alone in thinking that this exquisite Bucolic was slyly slipped into a national magazine whose readers had no idea what its calligraphy intimated. The smell of wet wheat and summer dust, the flounce of cottonwoods in the hot breeze slipped out of the glaring cream of the pages, and the clouds bent comfortingly over the darkening magazine as it bent like enfolding trees on the piano stand. The sun would make on the road, when I walked contentedly along it, oblivious to its never-to-be-repeated peace, halos in the haze. Everything was always bathed in dust in the summertime.
The piece was commissioned by Life in hopes of making quality music available to the common pianist and student. The article explains, "Down a Country Lane fills a musical gap: It is among the few modern pieces specially written for young piano students by a major composer. I didn't think of the title until the piece was finished -- Down a Country Lane just happened to fit its flowing quality. Copland is very descriptive in his directions on how the piece should be played. The piece begins with instructions to play "gently flowing in a pastoral mood"; a brief midsection is slightly dissonant and to be played "a trifle faster"; and the ending returns to the previous lyrical mood.
When Copland wrote this atmospheric miniature he had already adopted a gritty, dissonant style for such works as orchestral variations, dance panels, and connotations. Yet here, Copland reverted to his American pastoral sound, made famous by the quiet sections of Appalachian Spring. The reason: Down a Country Lane was commissioned by and published in the middlebrow Life magazine as a piano solo for children. In an article appearing with the two-page score, Copland explained that the music "is descriptive only in an imaginative, not a literal sense. I didn't think up the title until the piece was finished. In , he prepared a version for small orchestra, intended as fodder for youth groups. The piece could serve as a lullaby, with its gently rocking rhythm; the melodic line, however, wanders all over the staff without developing a strong profile, and without great care and balance, it can easily become submerged in the chordal accompaniment.
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