Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man

Soon after the start of the Second World War, Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was one of eighteen American composers invited by conductor Sir Eugene Goossens (1893-1962) to write patriotic fanfares to begin the concerts in the Cincinnati Orchestra’s '42-'43 season. Goossens wanted to produce "stirring and significant contributions to the war effort" as he had done so effectively with the help of British composers during World War I.

Copland's piece was titled as a reference to a famous 1942 speech given by Vice President Henry Wallace, who proclaimed the arrival of the "century of the common man." With Copland's vigorous approval, Goossens scheduled the premiere for March 13, 1943 as a tribute to the common man at income tax time.

Goossens left Cincinnati for Australia in 1946, and Copland was one of nine composers who co-wrote the farewell piece, Variations on a Theme by Eugene Goossens. In Sydney, Goossens would later be influential in the development of the Sydney Opera House, but a scandalous love affair clouded the rest of his career.

Copland fared better, despite the suspicions later placed upon him by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare. Ironically, he had by that time completed the most prolific period of his career, including such definitively American works as Rodeo (1942), A Lincoln Portrait (1942), and Appalachian Spring (1944).

So stately and momentous are the chords, crashes and timpani strokes of the Fanfare that it has been quoted many times in popular music, television, film and official occasions throughout the western world. Copland himself borrowed it as material for his Third Symphony, in which it appears prominently in the final movement.

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