Copland’s “Music for the Theatre”: Jazzy American Vignettes

In the 1920s, jazz entered the concert hall and infused new symphonic music with a brash, vibrant, and distinctly American sound. On February 12, 1924, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was premiered in New York at a concert bearing the grandiose title, An Experiment in Modern Music. A year later, the young Aaron Copland returned home from studies in Paris with the eminent Nadia Boulanger and wrote the chamber orchestra suite, Music for the Theatre.  At moments, …

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Copland’s Interlude: A Brief, Hypnotic Dreamscape

In Aaron Copland’s Music for the Theatre, the ghosts of early American popular music come out to play. Opening with a sharp drumroll and a brash, fanfare-like trumpet announcement, the work’s five movements are filled with jazzy melodies, off-balance rhythms, and Burlesque comedy in the form of “wrong” notes and musical “cat and mouse” games. Written in 1925, Music for the Theatre is scored for chamber orchestra, reveling in the witty, lean sound of a theater pit …

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Music and Humor

Leonard Bernstein masterfully explored the subject of humor in music in one of his Young People’s Concerts. The episode takes listeners on a musical tour from Haydn and Rameau to Brahms, Mahler, Prokofiev and Shostakovich and offers insight into why we find certain music funny. To this day, no one has done more for music education than Bernstein. Watching these programs, which originally aired on CBS in the late 1950s, you can sense Bernstein’s passion and …

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