November 6, 2012

Cry a Little, Then Dance: Copland's Clarinet Concerto

Aaron Copland knew the first movement of his clarinet concerto was a real tear jerker: "I think it will make everyone weep," he predicted to his friend Victor Kraft after completing the piece in 1948.

Serge Koussevitsky must have thought the music to be pretty powerful too, because in the summer of 1950 he asked Copland to orchestrate the concerto's first movement as an elegy for strings. Nothing came of that idea--Copland shot it down rather quickly--and in November Benny Goodman finally premiered the complete concerto that he had commissioned from Copland almost four years earlier. (In the video above, the two team up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1976.)

With a jazzy, jaunty second movement, the Clarinet Concerto--which Rochester Philharmonic Principal Clarinet Kenneth Grant performs on November 8 and 10 with the RPO--was a big hit on the New York City Ballet's 1951-52 season as the music for Jerome Robbins's Pied Piper. It was also part of NYCB's summer 1952 European tour, where critics labeled its spirited nature as distinctly American.

The Rochester Philharmonic performs Copland's Clarinet Concerto with Principal Clarinet Kenneth Grant as soloist on November 8 and 10, part of a program that includes music by Jeff Tyzik, Michael Daugherty, and Leonard Bernstein. 

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