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Aaron Copland And The Spirit Of Labor Day

US composer Aaron Copland conducting.
US composer Aaron Copland conducting.

The world of work has inspired some of our best-known classical music. From Schumann to Shostakovich, to one of the most respected American classical composers of the twentieth century: Aaron Copland. For Labor Day, Copland is our focus.

Leonard Bernstein called him “the best we’ve got.” Works like “Appalachian Spring,” “Rodeo,” “A Lincoln Portrait,” and “Fanfare for the Common Man” have been described asembodying the classic American virtues of simplicity, goodness, and love of wide-open spaces.

No wonder he is often called the “dean of American composers.”

Politics and public affairs were at the center of Copland’s life. He was attacked by Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. As a liberal, at one time he supported a Communist candidate for governor of Minnesota and a Communist candidate for president.

Our guide is the cultural historian Joe Horowitz. He is executive producer of PostClassical Ensemble based in Washington, D.C., and has written extensively about the American musical experience. His forthcoming book is “Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music.” 

Program credits & live event details

  • Excerpts from the “The City” taken with permission from a “PostClassical Ensemble” Naxos DVD conducted by Angel Gil-Ordonez. 
  • The excerpts from the Copland Piano Sonata and Piano Variations taken with permission from a Naxos CD performed by Benjamin Pasternack. 
  • Readings voiced byEdward Gero as Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Lorenzo Candelaria as Aaron Copland, and WAMU’s Murray Horwitz as Roy Cohn. 
  • Jenn White will host a PostClassical Ensemble concert, about Black Classical Music, on Nov. 14 at Washington DC’s All Souls Church.

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