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The Intermediate Piano Works of Aaron Copland. Style, Analysis, Pedagogy, and Peformance Peter Friesen. The Piano Works. Piano Variations (1930) (orchestrated 1957) Piano Sonata (1939-1941) Piano Fantasy (1952-1957). Intermediate Works.

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The Intermediate Piano Works of Aaron Copland


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the intermediate piano works of aaron copland

The Intermediate Piano Works of Aaron Copland

Style, Analysis, Pedagogy, and Peformance

Peter Friesen

the piano works
The Piano Works
  • Piano Variations (1930) (orchestrated 1957)
  • Piano Sonata

(1939-1941)

  • Piano Fantasy

(1952-1957)

intermediate works
Intermediate Works
  • Moment musicale, 1917, Waltz Caprice, Sonnet I, 1918, Sonnet II, 1919, Sonnet III, 1920 – all unpublished
  • Scherzo Humoristique: The Cat and the Mouse, 1920
  • 3 Moods, 1920–21: Embittered, Wistful, Jazzy
  • Passacaglia, 1921–2
  • Petit Portrait, 1921
  • Blues no.1 (Sentimental Melody: Slow Dance), 1926–7
  • Blues no.2 (Piano Blues no.4), 1926
  • Pf Blues no.2, 1926, rev. 1934 (arr. chamber orch, 1978–9)
  • Sunday Afternoon Music, 1935
  • The Young Pioneers, 1935
more intermediate works
More Intermediate Works
  • Billy the Kid: Suite from the ballet: Nos 1, 2, 5 & 8, 1938
  • Billy the Kid: Waltz from the ballet, 1938
  • Episode, (organ), 1940
  • Midday Thoughts, 1944 (rev. 1982)
  • Midsummer Nocturne, 1947 (rev. 1977)
  • Piano Blues no.1, 1947 (arr. For chamber orchestra, 1978–9)
  • Piano Blues no.3, 1948
  • Down a Country Lane, 1962
  • In Evening Air, 1966
  • Night Thoughts (Homage to Ives), 1972
  • Proclamation, 1973 (rev. 1982)
duet 2 piano works
Duet/2-Piano Works
  • Concerto for Piano, 1926
  • Dance of the Adolescent (arr. excerpt from ballet Grohg), before 1932
  • El Salon Mexico, 1936
  • Fantasia Mexicana, 1936
  • Two Children’s pieces, 1936
  • Billy the Kid: Suite from the ballet: Nos 1, 2, 5 & 8, 1938
  • Billy the Kid: Waltz from the ballet, 1938,
  • Rodeo: Dance Episodes Nos. 3&4, 1942
  • Danzón cubano, 2 pf, 1942 (orchestrated 1946)
  • Danza de Jalisco, 2 pf, 1963 (arr. of orch. work)
  • Dance Panels, 1959 (ballet, arr. 1965 for two pianos)
aaron copland 1900 1990
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
  • Early influences: piano music of Liszt, Chopin; music of Scriabin, Mussorgsky
  • Studied composition with Rubin Goldmark in New York
  • Studied piano under Victor Wittgenstein and Clarence Adler
  • At 20, moved to Paris to study under Boulanger; also studied French piano music under Ricardo Viñes
aaron copland continued
Aaron Copland (continued)
  • Published his first work, The Cat and the Mouse, in 1920 after his arrival in Paris
  • Upon return to the USA, was involved in various music societies to promote new music; was championed in his early career by Koussevitsky, later by Bernstein
  • Taught at Harvard in 1935 and 1941 on an interim basis; in 1951, was honored as the Norton Chair of Poetics
  • Less productive later in life, esp. after onset of Alzheimer’s
general style characteristics
General Style Characteristics
  • 4 overlapping style periods:
    • Jazzy, abstract, populist/Americana, serial
  • Transparent textures/economic use of pitch material
  • Disjunct melodies
  • Static key areas
  • Ambiguous harmonic language
  • Use of familiar harmonic elements (e.g. triads, tonic/dominant) in non-traditional ways
  • Use of colorful descriptive language in scores
  • Highly syncopated, often declamatory rhythms
down a country lane 1962
Down a Country Lane (1962)
  • Ternary form
  • Disjunct melody
  • Irregular phrasing
  • Avoidance of tonic and strong cadences
    • Creates wistful/longing effect
  • Unclear key areas in B section
    • Unresolved modulations
down a country lane
Down a Country Lane

Pedagogical Notes

  • One of Copland’s piano works that doesn’t require large hands to play comfortably
  • Introduction to non-traditional harmonic devices, but still very accessible to the listener
  • Familiar elements (ternary form, unchanging meter) make the work accessible for earlier intermediate pianists
  • Contrapuntal in nature – 2- to 3-voice textures dominate
the young pioneers 1935
The Young Pioneers (1935)
  • 7/8 meter (3+4, alternates occasionally with 4+3)
  • Meter changes at transitions between formal sections
  • Ternary form
  • Use of repetitive motives to explore variety of colors
  • Sparse texture, limited pitch material
  • Harmonic center (not key area) of Eb/D#
the young pioneers
The Young Pioneers

Pedagogical Notes

  • Think 3+2+2 in general (beat 6 often has a tenuto indicated)
  • Try not to make this too cerebral - encourage a “feel” of the rhythmic scheme
    • Have student come up with short lyrics which have accents on the strong beats
    • Have student clap 3+2+2 while you play for them
  • Dynamic variety a must for a strong performance
piano blues no 4 1926
Piano Blues No. 4 (1926)
  • Blatant example of Copland’s “jazzy” style
  • Use of blue notes
  • Syncopated rhythms
  • Repetitive vamping style
  • No indicated key signature
  • Published 1949
piano blues no 4
Piano Blues No. 4

Pedagogical Notes

  • Player should have large hands
  • Frequent, large jumps
  • Syncopations make it easy to lose the beat without strong counting
the cat and the mouse scherzo humoristique 1920
The Cat and The Mouse “Scherzo Humoristique”(1920)
  • Most directly programmatic of intermediate works
  • Utilizes extensive augmented and whole-tone harmonies
  • Wide rhythmic variety
  • Frequent tempo changes
  • Through-composed with repeated themes
the cat and the mouse
The Cat and the Mouse

Pedagogical Notes

  • Rapid jumps
  • Highly patterned themes and motives
  • Pacing/tempo relationships critical
  • Great piece for teaching dramatic interpretation
  • Silence is golden
petite portrait abe 1921
Petite Portrait(ABE)(1921)
  • Use of limited serialism
  • Use of familiar triadic harmonies in non-traditional ways
  • Use of widely-spaced, open intervals
  • Declamatory rhythm
  • Non-melodic composition
petite portrait
Petite Portrait

Pedagogical Notes

  • Frequent 10ths
  • No melody – can explore color and harmonic shaping
  • Bold dissonance