COMPOSED BY

Aaron Copland (Nov 1900 - Dec 1990) in 1942

DURATION

Approximately 3 minutes

Instrumentation

4 horns in F, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, tam-tam

WHAT'S FANFARE?

A fanfare is a short, showy piece usually played for a special event. It often played to mark the arrival of an important figure, such as a king, a queen, or a presidential leader.

SUMMARY OF THE COMPOSITION

Aaron Copland’s Fanfare For The Common Man opens with a dramatic percussion, as though announcing something grand and exciting. It is followed by a ladder of heroic and stoic trumpet notes. Copland’s fanfare is not a celebration of any particular hero. Rather, the fanfare paints a bigger picture, celebrating every person as a hero who holds power within that can change the world.

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About the Composition

In 1942 during World War II, conductor Eugene Goossens commissioned fanfares from several prominent American composers to encourage support for the war effort. Out of all the fanfares written, Copland’s Fanfare For The Common Man is the only active repertoire that remains to this day and is the composer’s best-known concert opener.

The piece is orchestrated only for the brass and the percussion and showcases a pure and vibrant sound. The opening mood is majestic, with clashes of percussion. Then, the trumpets enter in unison, sounding the main motif of the fanfare. After more percussion, the trumpets are joined by the horns and later, by the trombones. As each instrument joins the orchestra, the melody becomes more powerful, with interesting harmonies and textures, until the fanfare culminates in a series of massive chords from the brass.

WHO IS ... Aaron Copland?

Suprising fun facts

  • Spent three years in Paris studying composition with Nadia Boulanger. He was sceptical of studying with a woman but later found that he liked her very much.
  • During Boulanger’s Wednesday afternoon teas, he had the chance to mingle with many famous musicians, including Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, and Camille Saint-Saens.
  • From the 1960s until his death, he switched his focus from composing to conducting. He felt that “someone had simply turned off the faucet” and he had no new ideas.
  • He was the mentor of Leonard Bernstein, who would become the foremost conductor of Copland’s works.
  • A night owl, he would often compose in the evening after dinner, working until midnight or later.

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