Music for the Theater (1925)

by Aaron Copland (1900-1990)


Sponsored by NV Energy

About the Composer

Aaron Copland was born on November 14, 1900 in Brooklyn, New York and died on December 2, 1990 in North Tarrytown, New York. At the age of sixteen, Copland journeyed to the city of Manhattan where he studied with renowned and highly respected private music teacher, Rubin Goldmark. During his lessons with Goldmark, Copland became more interested in the history and musicians of Europe. At the age of twenty, Copland left New York and headed to Foutnainbleau, France where he attended the Summer School of Music for American Students.

While in France, Copland took composition lessons from Nadia Boulanger from whom he learned how to write music that was more logical, clear, and elegant. The works of his early years prove to have elements of jazz and strong dissonances within them, but continuing into the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, Copland focused on making his music appeal to a larger audience; competing with the advancement in radio and record production.

Copland continued to write music that would attract the larger masses by composing works for film and ballet including Our Town (1940) and Martha Graham’s ballet, Appalachian Spring (1944). Eventually, Copland would slow his work as a composer and begin conducting ensembles that allowed him to travel around the world. Aaron Copland is considered one of the most respected American classical composers of the twentieth century and his work continues to inspire many young composers today.





About the Piece

Music for the Theater was commissioned by conductor Serge Koussevitzky and had its premiere in Boston on November 20, 1925. Putting aside the heftier tone and large orchestration of his Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, Copland brought together a smaller ensemble with a jazzy score.

In the opening, a drum-roll and trumpet solo announce the lively atmosphere of the piece. The second movement, Dance, starts with bassoon solos and continues with bursts of rhythmic eruptions that lead the audience through playful references to the blues, found more profoundly within the clarinet and muted trumpet. The third movement takes a break from the chaotic energy and focuses on more lyrical lines. Burlesque, the fourth movement, captures a different take on cabaret music while a bass line continues throughout. The last movement, Epiloque, concludes the piece on a more pensive note, with short solos heard throughout until a quiet bassoon ends the movement. 

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