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Aaron Copland

@ National Portrait Gallery


In the course of his musical career, Aaron Copland distinguished himself as a conductor, teacher, and critic. But his greatest accomplishments by far were in the field of composing. Long regarded as the dean of American composers, Copland received his training in Paris. His grounding in European music, however, did not diminish his interest in exploring the musical styles and traditions of his own country. In fact, his compositions drew much of their inspiration from American sources, ranging from jazz to cowboy ballads to New England hymns. Copland’s prodigious output included operas, ballets, choral pieces, film scores, and symphonies. Among his best-known works are Appalachian Spring (1943), a ballet commissioned for Martha Graham’s dance company, and his Third Symphony (1944–46), which conductor Serge Koussevitsky called the “greatest American symphony.”Karsh responded warmly to Copland, observing, “There was about him a certain candour and friendliness that endeared him to me at once.”
Gelatin Silver Print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousuf Karsh
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National Portrait Gallery

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Smithsonian Institution