Copland + Mozart

Aaron Copland (1900-1990) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Despite living in separate times, Aaron Copland and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart shared some interesting similarities. As we prepare for the first of our RPO @ Home: Ward Conducts Copland + Mozart, we look at some interesting facts about these two remarkable artists. 

Babies of the Family: Aaron Copland was born to Harris Morris and Sarah Mittenthal Copland on November 14, 1900, the youngest of five children. Two and a half centuries earlier, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born to Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart on January 27, 1756, the youngest of seven children. 

A Musical Family: Wolfgang grew up in a musically-inclined household – his father was composed, taught music, and later joined the orchestra of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. His sister, Nannerl, began music lessons when she was seven. 

Though his father shared no interest in music, Aaron’s mother arranged lessons for her little ones. His sister, Laurine, gave him his first lessons on the piano; his brother, Ralph, learned the violin.

Child Composers: Both were not even in their teens when they began composing music. Copland’s first composition was at eight and a half, with his first opera concept, Zenatello, written at 11. Mozart’s completed his first work at only four years old

A Paris State of Mind: Regardless of the century, Paris has attracted musicians and other artists to the French capital. Though Mozart traveled to Paris as an adult, his name was already familiar in the tres chic capital. At seven years old, Wolfgang and his family traveled to the city as part of a continental journey that took them to Europe’s great royal courts. The family performed at the Court of Versailles in 1764, with Wolfgang himself composing and dedicated four sonatas to one of Louis XV’s daughters. He returned in 1778, aged 22, to try his luck at gaining a commission. By the time of his second visit, Mozart had composed his first 30 symphonies. Despite his 31st symphony’s success, aptly named after the City of Love, Mozart did not attract the needed success to survive in Paris and returned to Austria. 

Fast forward to the early 1920s: Copland, 21, was accepted at the Fontainbleau School of Music after completing his studies with noted teacher and composer, Rubin Goldmark. During his Parisian studies, he studied with Isidor Philipp and Paul Vidal and later became a Nadia Boulanger’s student. Later in his life, he wrote that Nadia had confidence in his talents, with her teachings being “crucial to my development at this time of my career.” His initial yearlong stay was expanded for an additional two years, learning her unique approach to music. In addition to classes at the Sorbonne, Aaron befriended fellow artists at the infamous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Among them included Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Proust, and Pablo Picasso. 

Music for the People: Though both men enjoyed fame among aristocratic circles, Copland and Mozart created fantastic works that appealed to the general public. Mozart’s The Magic Flute remains one of the most popular and well-known operas, adding to Wolfgang status as a titan of the classical genre. Meanwhile, Copland earned his reputation as the “Dean of American Composers” by composing works that were deliberately accessible to audiences of all interests – from his Fanfare for the Common Man to Appalachian Spring. Despite being separated by nearly two centuries, Copland and Mozart’s similar experiences helped create classical music for everyone to enjoy. 

Enjoy a concert from your couch! Stream us tonight at 7:30 p.m. as your RPO returns to the stage with Music Director Ward Stare. Click here to order online, or call our Patron Services Center at (585) 454-2100!

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