Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: Aaron Copland in New York

Aaron Copland in 1933
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) in 1933

We mark the New York premiere on November 28, 1925 – 97 years ago today – of Aaron Copland’s Music for the Theater, at a League of Composer’s concert conducted by Serge Koussevitzky at New York’s Town Hall. The actual world premiere of the piece took place eight days before, when Koussevitzky conducted Music for the Theater in Boston. But Copland was a native New Yorker and Music from the Theater is about the New York theatrical and musical world. So – and for this you’ll have to excuse me, particularly the Bean Town babies among us – the so-called “Boston Premiere” was nothing but a warmup, a preview, a promo, an hors d’oeuvre akin to trying out a Broadway play in New Haven or Philadelphia before taking it to the house, to the big time, the Apple, to the city that never sleeps, to the burg so big they had to name it twice: New York, New York!

Coming Clean

We all have to make decisions, the vast majority of which are, gratefully, relatively insignificant. (I cannot imagine having to make decisions that would affect the health and welfare of entire communities. It’s difficult enough for me to figure out what to make for dinner.) The decisions I do make are for myself and for my families: my immediate family and my Patreon family.

Here’s a decision I made for my Patreon family two weeks ago today, on November 14. You see, November 14 is one of those crazy dates when so much happened in the world of music that I was hard put to decide what to feature in that day’s Music History Monday. Check it out.

Leopold Mozart
Leopold Mozart (1719-1787)

On November 14, 1719, the composer, violinist, teacher, and tennis-father-supreme Leopold Mozart (father of you-know-who) was born in the German city of Augsburg.

On November 14, 1778, the composer and pianist Johann Nepomuk Hummel was born in the city of Pressburg, today Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

On November 14, 1805, the composer and pianist Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel was born in the German city of Hamburg.

On November 14, 1831, the Austrian-French composer and piano builder Ignaz Joseph Pleyel died in Paris at the age 74.

On November 14, 1900, the composer Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York.

On November 14, 1939, the composer and synthesizer virtuosa Wendy (“don’t call me ‘Walter’”) Carlos was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

On November 14, 1946, the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla died in Alta Gracia, Argentina, at the age of 69.

(And finally, on that very day two weeks ago – November 14, 2022 – the wonderful Robert Flack [born 1937) revealed that she is suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and is no longer able to sing.)

Heavens: and to think that on some dates, nothing happened.

Ignaz Joseph Pleyel
Ignaz Joseph Pleyel (1757-1831)

Okay; when deciding what to write about two weeks ago on November 14, I was able to knock a couple of names off this list. My Music History Monday post for June 18, 2018, celebrated the birth of Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831), and Music History Monday of October 17, 2022 (six weeks ago today) noted the death (and celebrated the life) of Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

As it turned out, I chose to feature Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel in my Music History Monday post of November 14 past (and my Dr. Bob Prescribes post on November 15). I was comforted in making this decision by the fact that I knew I’d be writing about the November 14 birthday boy Aaron Copland in today’s Music History Monday (and in tomorrow’s Dr. Bob Prescribes as well).

Aaron Copland in New York (?)

The question mark attached to the post title above is appropriate, because as a native New Yorker who lived the great bulk of his life in that singular town, we might rightly wonder when was Aaron Copland not in New York?

In fact, the title of today’s post refers to two very specific periods of Copland’s life in New York: his childhood and the period after his return to New York in 1924 after three years of study abroad, primarily with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.…

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