Composers Datebook®

Copland counts to 12

Composer's Datebook - September 13, 2023


On today’s date in 1967, Aaron Copland’s final orchestra work, titled Inscape, was premiered by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Copland said the work’s title Inscape was borrowed from the 19th century English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Its compositional technique was borrowed from the serial or 12-tone models of Arnold Schoenberg and the some of the late works of one of Copland’s favorite composers, Igor Stravinsky. Bernstein himself was no great fan of 12-tone music, but he exclaimed to Copland following the premiere, “Aaron, it’s amazing how, even when you compose in a completely foreign idiom, the music STILL comes out sounding like you!”

Beyond the technical challenge involved, Inscapes, said Copland, reflected what he called “the tenseness of the times in which we live.”

Copland’s experiments with 12-tone pieces like Inscape didn’t impress the avant-garde composers of the day, and only baffled audiences who expected him to produce more works in the style of his popular ballet scores of the 1930s and 40s.

By 1970, Copland stopped composing altogether, and claimed not to miss it very much. “I must have expressed myself sufficiently,” he said.

Music Played in Today's Program

Aaron Copland (1900 - 1990) Inscape New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond. Sony 47236

On This Day


  • 1819 - German pianist, teacher and composer Clara Schumann (née Wieck), in Leipzig;

  • 1874 - Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, in Vienna;

  • 1917 - American composer Robert Ward, in Cleveland;

  • 1924 - French film composer Maurice Jarre, in Lyons; He won an Academy Award in 1965 for his "Dr. Zhivago" film score;


  • 1894 - French composer Emmanuel Chabrier, age 53, in Paris;

  • 1977 - English-born American conductor, arranger and new music patron, Leopold Stokowski, age 95, in Nether Wallop, Hampshire (England);

  • 1985 - French-born American composer, painter and mystical philosopher Dane Rudhyar, age 90, in San Francisco;


  • 1948 - Cyril Scott: Oboe Concerto, at Royal Albert Hall in London;

  • 1956 - Stravinsky: "Canticum sacrum ad honorem Sancti Marci nomiminis," at St. Mark's in Venice, with the composer conducting;

  • 1967 - Copland: "Inscape" for Orchestra (commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 125th Anniversary Year), at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein;

  • 1986 - Bernstein: Concerto for Orchestra ("Jubilee Games"), at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, by the Israel Philharmonic with composer conducting.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®