The Intermediate Piano Works of Aaron Copland

Report
The Intermediate
Piano Works
of Aaron Copland
Style, Analysis, Pedagogy, and
Peformance
Peter Friesen
The Piano Works
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Piano Variations
(1930) (orchestrated 1957)
Piano Sonata
(1939-1941)
Piano Fantasy
(1952-1957)
Intermediate Works
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Moment musicale, 1917, Waltz Caprice, Sonnet I, 1918,
Sonnet II, 1919, Sonnet III, 1920 – all unpublished
Scherzo Humoristique: The Cat and the Mouse, 1920
3 Moods, 1920–21: Embittered, Wistful, Jazzy
Passacaglia, 1921–2
Petit Portrait, 1921
Blues no.1 (Sentimental Melody: Slow Dance), 1926–7
Blues no.2 (Piano Blues no.4), 1926
Pf Blues no.2, 1926, rev. 1934 (arr. chamber orch, 1978–9)
Sunday Afternoon Music, 1935
The Young Pioneers, 1935
More Intermediate Works
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Billy the Kid: Suite from the ballet: Nos 1, 2, 5 & 8,
1938
Billy the Kid: Waltz from the ballet, 1938
Episode, (organ), 1940
Midday Thoughts, 1944 (rev. 1982)
Midsummer Nocturne, 1947 (rev. 1977)
Piano Blues no.1, 1947 (arr. For chamber orchestra, 1978–9)
Piano Blues no.3, 1948
Down a Country Lane, 1962
In Evening Air, 1966
Night Thoughts (Homage to Ives), 1972
Proclamation, 1973 (rev. 1982)
Duet/2-Piano Works
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Concerto for Piano, 1926
Dance of the Adolescent (arr. excerpt from ballet Grohg), before
1932
El Salon Mexico, 1936
Fantasia Mexicana, 1936
Two Children’s pieces, 1936
Billy the Kid: Suite from the ballet: Nos 1, 2, 5 & 8,
1938
Billy the Kid: Waltz from the ballet, 1938,
Rodeo: Dance Episodes Nos. 3&4, 1942
Danzón cubano, 2 pf, 1942 (orchestrated 1946)
Danza de Jalisco, 2 pf, 1963 (arr. of orch. work)
Dance Panels, 1959 (ballet, arr. 1965 for two pianos)
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
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Early influences: piano music
of Liszt, Chopin; music of
Scriabin, Mussorgsky
Studied composition with
Rubin Goldmark in New York
Studied piano under Victor
Wittgenstein and Clarence
Adler
At 20, moved to Paris to study
under Boulanger; also studied
French piano music under
Ricardo Viñes
Aaron Copland
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(continued)
Published his first work, The Cat and the Mouse,
in 1920 after his arrival in Paris
Upon return to the USA, was involved in various
music societies to promote new music; was
championed in his early career by Koussevitsky,
later by Bernstein
Taught at Harvard in 1935 and 1941 on an
interim basis; in 1951, was honored as the
Norton Chair of Poetics
Less productive later in life, esp. after onset of
Alzheimer’s
General Style Characteristics
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4 overlapping style periods:
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Jazzy, abstract, populist/Americana, serial
Transparent textures/economic use of pitch material
Disjunct melodies
Static key areas
Ambiguous harmonic language
Use of familiar harmonic elements (e.g. triads,
tonic/dominant) in non-traditional ways
Use of colorful descriptive language in scores
Highly syncopated, often declamatory rhythms
Down a Country Lane (1962)
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Ternary form
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Disjunct melody
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Irregular phrasing
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Avoidance of tonic and strong cadences
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Creates wistful/longing effect
Unclear key areas in B section
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Unresolved modulations
Examples of disjunct melodies
Avoidance of Tonic/Cadences
Down a Country Lane
Pedagogical Notes
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One of Copland’s piano works that doesn’t require large hands to
play comfortably
Introduction to non-traditional harmonic devices, but still very
accessible to the listener
Familiar elements (ternary form, unchanging meter) make the work
accessible for earlier intermediate pianists
Contrapuntal in nature – 2- to 3-voice textures dominate
The Young Pioneers (1935)
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7/8 meter
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Meter changes at transitions between formal sections
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Ternary form
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Use of repetitive motives to explore variety of colors
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Sparse texture, limited pitch material
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Harmonic center (not key area) of Eb/D#
(3+4, alternates occasionally with 4+3)
Meter Changes at Transitions
The Young Pioneers
Pedagogical Notes
Think 3+2+2 in general (beat 6 often has a tenuto
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indicated)
Try not to make this too cerebral - encourage a “feel”
of the rhythmic scheme
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Have student come up with short lyrics which have accents on
the strong beats
Have student clap 3+2+2 while you play for them
Dynamic variety a must for a strong performance
Piano Blues No. 4 (1926)
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Blatant example of Copland’s “jazzy” style
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Use of blue notes
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Syncopated rhythms
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Repetitive vamping style
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No indicated key signature
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Published 1949
Use of Blue Notes
Syncopation
Piano Blues No. 4
Pedagogical Notes
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Player should have large hands
Frequent, large jumps
Syncopations make it easy to lose the beat
without strong counting
The Cat and The Mouse
“Scherzo Humoristique”
(1920)
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Most directly programmatic of
intermediate works
Utilizes extensive augmented and wholetone harmonies
Wide rhythmic variety
Frequent tempo changes
Through-composed with repeated themes
Use of Whole Tone Scale
The Cat and the Mouse
Pedagogical Notes
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Rapid jumps
Highly patterned themes and motives
Pacing/tempo relationships critical
Great piece for teaching dramatic interpretation
Silence is golden
Petite Portrait
(ABE)
(1921)
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Use of limited serialism
Use of familiar triadic harmonies in nontraditional ways
Use of widely-spaced, open intervals
Declamatory rhythm
Non-melodic composition
Petite Portrait
Pedagogical Notes
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Frequent 10ths
No melody – can explore color and harmonic
shaping
Bold dissonance

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