This DVD is a very enjoyable way to spend an hour. The first issue I must address, however, may prove a stumbling block for many viewers. The narration of this documentary is in German, with English subtitles. Nowhere is this mentioned on the package, which to me seems deceptive. The explanation is that the film was made by Frankfurt Radio in 2001. If you can get around the incongruity of a film about an American composer in German, I think you’ll find much to enjoy. The interviews in the film, thankfully, are conducted in English. Musically, the film offers fine performances of highlights from Copland’s works, with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony conducted by its then music director, the American Hugh Wolff. I heard Wolff lead a lovelyRead more performance of the Clarinet Concerto with Karl Herman and the New Jersey Symphony, so his excellence here doesn’t surprise me. Not all the works included are the usual suspects. There’s the 1925 Music for Theater, the 12-tone Connotations, and the original 13-instrument version of Appalachian Spring. Wolff says that this last, as chamber music, possesses the feeling of settlers in an isolated area. Stella Doufexis also gives a lovely rendition of three of the orchestrated Emily Dickinson songs.
One of Wolff’s trenchant observations about Copland is that he did not have a big ego. He did not, as an artist, have to believe that he was right and everyone else was wrong. Copland, claims Wolff, would say that he was doing things one way one day, and maybe another way the next. Excerpts from an interview with Copland put you in the presence of the man, who is absolutely charming. He even discusses his victimization for his leftist views during the McCarthy era without any sign of bitterness. The film does not mention Copland’s homosexuality, although biographer Howard Pollack does say that he lived a temperate life and with restraint. One of my favorite stories about Copland involves his friend Leonard Bernstein urging him to come out of the closet. Copland replied, “I’ll leave that to you, my boy.” On a personal note, Copland studied piano with Clarence Adler, who was my mother’s teacher.
Other highlights of the film include an excerpt from Martha Graham and her company dancing Appalachian Spring, and an all too short portion of the Clarinet Concerto with Benny Goodman and the composer conducting. Leonard Bernstein is shown directing A Lincoln Portrait, but no other information is given about this concert. I recall it as a telecast with William Warfield narrating and the New York Philharmonic, from the Royal Albert Hall in London. Director Andreas Skipis has devised some trick camerawork for the performances of Fanfare for the Common Man and Music for Theater that I find very engaging. In sum, this is a good biography with a healthy dollop of beautiful music. It adds to my appreciation of Copland. Perhaps we should ask why there is a film from Germany like this and not one from America.
I can’t resist adding one more story about Copland that’s not in the film. Early in his conducting career, Copland was leading a rehearsal, with Serge Koussevitzky in the hall. Afterwards, Copland asked Koussevitzky what he thought of his conducting. Koussevitzky replied, “What do you think of my Double Bass Concerto?”
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
AARON COPLAND – FANFARE FOR AMERICA
A film by Andreas Skipis
Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 60 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 5)
PLEASE NOTE: This documentary is in German with subtitles available in English, French and Spanish. Read less
Works on This Recording
Work(s)by Aaron Copland
Period: 20th Century
Concerto for Clarinet Excerpt(s)by Aaron Copland
Benny Goodman (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1947-1948; USA
Lincoln Portrait: Excerpt(s)by Aaron Copland
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
All we need to know about CoplandJune 17, 2014By P. Bentham (Montreal, Quebec)See All My Reviews"This review of Copland's works and life is an essential part of what the average viewer needs to know to make Copland more accessible and pleasurable to hear. The video shots are most pertinent to Copland's way of cmposition and thinking. Excellent DVD."Report Abuse