“Aaron Copland: American Populist”
A PostClassical Ensemble “More than Music” film
Written and produced by Joseph Horowitz
Visual presentation by Peter Bogdanoff
Film four in the six-film Naxos series:
“Dvorak’s Prophecy: A New Narrative for American Classical Music”
Buffeted by social and political currents, Copland can seem unmoored: a cork in a stream. He was politicized by the Depression- and by the example of Mexico, whose artists galvanized national identity and progressive thought. He wrote a prize-winning workers’ song and addressed a Communist picnic in Minnesota. Twenty years later, the Red Scare targeted him as a traitor. Can his odyssey be read as a parable illuminating the fate of the American artist? This film features a reenactment of Copland’s grilling by Senator Joseph McCarthy (played by Edward Gero). It also highlights the most consequential Copland score we don’t know: his ingenious music of Lewis Mumford’s 1939 World’s Fair film The City, itself a complex product of the Popular Front. We reconsider the valedictory Piano Fantasy, in which Copland refreshed his modernist roots- a galvanizing performance by Benjamin Pasternack, who also recalls a telling encounter with the composer. The other commentators include the American historians Michael Kazin and Joseph McCartin, who ponder the tangled legacy of American populism of the left and right.
"The 'Dvořák’s Prophecy' film series makes an essential contribution to our understanding of the history of music in America, and of the role that music has played, and must continue to play, in American culture as a whole. The films are both enlightening and entertaining. I can readily envision their use in classrooms, in both introductory and advanced-research contexts. Non-specialists will also enjoy them thoroughly. Because Horowitz does not shy away from political, racial, and gender issues of intense contemporary relevance, these films are especially important right now." – Larry Starr, Emeritus Professor of Music, University of Washington