Monday, March 16, 2009

...this paean to the inherent nobility of the common man

This past weekend saw the Milwaukee Symphony presenting--under the direction of departing Maestro, Andreas Delfs--three pieces, beginning with Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

Before the music started, I enjoyed reading Roger Ruggeri's Program Notes. Long the principal bassist at the Symphony, Ruggieri has been writing--for decades--witty and knowledgeable introductions and short histories of the music, in the Encore program. He's an engaging writer, does great research and often adds a little-known fact about how the music came into being.

Here's what he wrote about Copland, the naming the Fanfare and how the date of the 1943 debut performance was chosen.

Notes by Roger Ruggeri © 2009

Aaron Copland
b. November 14, 1900; Brooklyn, NY
d. December 2, 1990; New York City
Fanfare for the Common Man

Composed in 1942 for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, this 3-minute fanfare was first performed by them and their Music Director, Eugene Goossens on March 12, 1943. Scored for four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum and tam tam, the work has been performed many times by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra...

Evoking the essential American spirit with the ringing sonority of brass and percussion, Fanfare for the Common Man was written in response to a commission for a patriotic fanfare for the opening concert of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 1942-43 season.

Copland recalled: “…The music was not terribly difficult to compose, but working slowly as was my custom, I did not have the fanfare ready to send to Goossens until November. I had some difficulty with the title. The piece has been Fanfare for the Common Man for so long that it is surprising to see on my sketches that other titles were considered: Fanfare for a Solemn Ceremony, for the Day of Victory, for Our Heroes, for the Rebirth of Lidice, for the Spirit of Democracy, for the Paratroops, for Four Freedoms.…After I decided on Fanfare for the Common Man and sent the score to Goossens, I think he was rather puzzled by the title. He wrote, ‘It’s title is as original as its music, and I think it is so telling that it deserves a special occasion for its performance. If it is agreeable to you, we will premiere it 12 March[*] 1943 at income tax time.…”
In these days, when bitching about the injustice of taxation is glorified as the height of patriotism, it makes me think of my old friend, Bob Overs, whose advice on being a good citizen was simply: "Pay your taxes cheerfully and always, always vote".

* Not until 1955 was the due date of Federal Income taxes moved from the Ides of March to April 15.

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.