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There are some benefits in not having to review a book the moment it comes out. I have been able to live with Howard Pollack's tome on Copland since last autumn, having read it right through to start with, and I have been using it for regular reference ever since. Pollack is an experienced author with books on Piston, Carpenter and Harvard Composers to his credit. Shortly after Copland's death in 1990, Pollack decided the time was ripe for a fuller study of his life and work. Previous books included those by Arthur Berger (1953) and Julia Smith (1955) as well as two volumes of memoirs and interviews which Vivian Perlis prepared with Copland himself (1984 & 1989).

Aaron Copland - The Life and Work of an Uncomman Man. Howard Pollack (c) 2000 Faber & Faber

Pollack's first chapter is A Copland Portrait where he assembles various statements from friends and colleagues to produce a composite picture. The Chilean composer, Orrego-Salas, hit the nail on the head when he said:

'I admire greatly your serenity. You are a man and an artist at ease with yourself. I truly believe that it is exactly there from which the greatness of your contribution rises.'

There is nothing neurotic about Copland or his music. Even when he adopted, in a limited way, the techniques of the Second Viennese School, he still sounded like himself, poised and affirmative.

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Copyright © 18 September 2001 Peter Dickinson, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK

 

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