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March 12: Copland’s Fanfare

March 12, 2016

4086167_01Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” had its first performance on this date in 1942, by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under conductor Eugene Goossens. The piece, inspired in part by a famous speech by Vice President Henry A. Wallace proclaiming the dawning of the “Century of the Common Man,” later became the main theme of the fourth movement of Copland’s Third Symphony (1944-1946). The Fanfare is likely the composer’s best-known work; it has served as the wake-up music for Space Shuttle astronauts; it was played at Barack Obama’s inaugural celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in 2009; it has served as the opening music for shows by Bob Dylan and by the Rolling Stones. The piece is written for four horns (in F), three trumpets (in B), three trombones, a tuba, a timpani, a tam-tam (Chinese gong), and a bass drum. To hear it, look below.

“Aaron [Copland] brought leanness [in musical scoring] to America, which set the tone for our musical language throughout the war. Thanks largely to Aaron, American music came into its own.” —Ned Rorem