Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Music and War: Copland's Fanfare

It’s interesting how catastrophic events inspire great art. When moved by a world-altering situation, many in the fine arts turn to their craft to best deal with difficult circumstances. The result, in turn, can impact audiences across the globe who may share in their sentiments. War is an example of this type of event. Composers throughout time have created masterpieces inspired by war or dedicated to the memory of those lost in war. This month, let’s explore a few of these pieces.

Many of you Cincinnatians may know that Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man was premiered by our very own Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra back in 1943. The conductor at the time, Eugene Goossens, commissioned eighteen composers to write fanfares as a contribution to the WWII war efforts. One of these fanfares began each concert of the CSO’s 1942–1943 season. Of these fanfares, Copland’s remains the most famous today. Prior to its premiere, Copland wrestled over the title, considering Fanfare for the Spirit of Democracy, Fanfare for the Rebirth of Lidice (a town in Czechoslovakia that the Nazis had destroyed), and Fanfare for Four Freedoms (in Roosevelt’s 1941 speech he mentioned four freedoms including the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear.) In the end, Copland settled on Fanfare for the Common Man, saying “it was the common man, after all, who was doing all the dirty work in the way and the army. He deserved a fanfare.”

The video below is taken from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 2014 Lumenocity concert.