This morning, CBS Sunday Morning gave recognition to Aaron Copland, who died today in 1990. They showcased the familiar list of works such as Appalachian Springs (1944), Fanfare for the Common Man (1942), and ended the segment with a pianio/violin duo briefly playing Hoe-down from Rodeo (1942). His sound is so iconic that it’s become a soundtrack for America.
But my favorite Copland work is one that is rarely played, even in its orchestrated version – Nonet for String (1960). It’s a slow, tense, yet gentle work, written at the start of his last period of composing. If I were to describe it to someone hearing it for the first time, the best description would be the following:
Imagine Copland writing Appalachian Springs again 20 years later. But instead of the vigor and confidence of the former, imagine someone who has 20 years of experience. A person with less vigor and bits of doubt creeping here and there. Representing an America that has also changed during those 20 years.