978-0-252-06900-0 / 9780252069000

Aaron Copland: THE LIFE AND WORK OF AN UNCOMMON MAN (Music in American Life)


Publisher:University of Illinois Press



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About the book:

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 Pollack depicts Copland (1900-90) as a man whose inner serenity and self-confidence enabled him to encompass "startling dichotomies" in his life and work. "A participant in the avant-garde, he wrote works of popular appeal," comments the author. "A Jewish, homosexual, liberal New Yorker, he became a national hero." Moving forward in a generally chronological manner, the narrative mixes two kinds of chapters. Some pursue themes over time: his feelings about European music (he adored Stravinsky, was ambivalent about Mozart), his political commitments (which got him into trouble during the McCarthy era), and his relationships with fellow composers and a host of nonmusical artists all equally determined to give America its own distinctive culture. Others concentrate on describing and analyzing groups of compositions: perennial favorites like Appalachian Spring and Billy the Kid, of course, but also the concertos and symphonies respected by his peers. In either mode, Pollack writes with a clarity and dignity eminently suitable to his subject, who seems as warmly appealing as his music. --Wendy Smith

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