Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Aaron Copland

Dr. Bob Prescribes Aaron Copland, Music for the Theatre (1925)

Aaron Copland in France, 1921-1924 Aaron Copland (1900-1990) never went to college. It was a decision that he later claimed to regret, although it’s hard to imagine how he could have gotten a better education than the one he actually received. He had begun to study music composition with the well-know and highly respected composer and teacher Rubin Goldmark (1872-1936) in the fall of 1917, during his senior year of high school in Brooklyn, New York. Copland graduated from high school in the spring of 1918 and continued his lessons with Goldmark while living at home. At the same time, he had the vibrant New York music and theater scene at his disposal and the full support of his family to pursue his musical studies (as an indication of that support, his father bought him a Steinway grand in 1919). Goldmark was an alum of the Vienna Conservatory and at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, and he gave Copland exactly the sort of rigorous and vigorous grounding in harmony, counterpoint, and musical form that the young dude required. But even as Copland thrived under Goldmark’s regimen, he did what your people have always done and hopefully […]

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Music History Monday: Aaron Copland in New York

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 […]

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Music History Monday: An American Classic

On this day in 1944 – 73 years ago – Aaron Copland’s ballet Appalachian Spring was first performed by the Martha Graham Dance Company in Washington, DC. From that moment, it has been embraced as being “as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie!” Now there’s a familiar cliché: “as American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.” Except that not a single one of those presumably “American” things is American in origin, any more than the vast majority of “Americans” is actually American in origin. We are told that “baseball and the other modern bat, ball and running games – such as cricket and rounders – were developed from folk games in early Britain and Continental Europe (such as France and Germany). Early forms of baseball had a number of names, including ‘base ball’, ‘goal ball’, ‘round ball’, ‘fetch-catch’, ‘stool ball’, and, simply, ‘base.’” As for hot dogs, the German city of Frankfurt is credited as being the birthplace of a sausage called a “frankfurter”. In Germany, the sausage was colloquially referred to as a “dachshund” or “little dog” because of its resemblance to a dachshund. It was around 1870 that an enterprising German immigrant named Charles Feltman began […]

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Music History Mondays: Too Many Birthdays!

I began this “Music History Monday” project by scouring the Web for musical events from which I assembled a master list of what happened in the world of Western concert music on each of the year’s 366 days. (Indeed: 366; we cannot forget February 29. And yes, February 29 is a significant date in the history of Western concert music. Since February 29 will not again fall on a Monday until 2044, I don’t mind spilling those leap year beans right now: On February 29, 1792, the extraordinary Italian opera composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini was born in Pesaro, Italy. In his 76 years, the poor dude managed to celebrate only 19 birthdays!) My master list catalogs over a thousand noteworthy musical events. On most Mondays I have two or three events to choose between, although – every now and then – there are Mondays during which nothing noteworthy happened: nada, niente, zilch, zed, zero. Monday, September 19, 2016 was just such a day. Yes, many other noteworthy things occurred on September 19, among them: on September 19, 1870 the Prussian Army laid siege to Paris; on September 19, 1893, New Zealand became the first country to grant all women the […]

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