Composers Datebook®

Copland's fanfare for America's 'Greatest Generation'?

Composers Datebook - March 12, 2024


On today’s date in 1943, at the height of World War II, Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man had its premiere performance in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Symphony’s conductor in those days, British-born Eugene Goosens, had commissioned 18 fanfares for brass and percussion.

“It is my idea,” he wrote, “to make these fanfares stirring and significant contributions to the war effort.”

Besides Copland, composers commissioned included Henry Cowell, Paul Creston, Morton Gould, Howard Hanson, William Grant Still and Virgil Thomson.

Most of the composers dedicated their fanfares to a unit of the U.S. military or one of its wartime allies. But Copland’s fanfare stood out, both musically and by virtue of its title.

Among the titles Copland considered — and rejected — were Fanfare for the Spirit of Democracy and Fanfare for Four Freedoms, the latter in reference to President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address that called for the freedom of speech and religion, and from want and fear. He settled on Fanfare for the Common Man.

“It was the common man, after all, who was doing all the dirty work in the war and the army,” Copland recalled. “He deserved a fanfare.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Aaron Copland (1900-1990): ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’; San Francisco Symphony; Michael Tilson Thomas, cond. RCA/BMG 63888

On This Day


  • 1710 - British composer Thomas Arne, in London (Gregorian date: March 23);

  • 1837 - French composer and organist Alexandre (Felix) Guilmant, in Boulogne-sur-Mer;

  • 1921 - American composer Ralph Shapey, in Philadelphia;


  • 1628 - English composer John Bull, 65 on March 12-13, 1628, in Antwerp;

  • 1832 - Danish composer of German birth Friedrich (Daniel Rudolf) Kuhlau, 45, in Copenhagen;

  • 1937 - French composer and organist Charles Marie Widor, 93, in Paris;

  • 1955 - American be-bop composer and jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, 34, in New York City;


  • 1726 - Handel: opera Scipione in London at the King's Theater in the Haymarket (Gregorian date: March 23);

  • 1857 - Verdi: opera Simon Boccanegra (first version), in Venice at the Teatro La Fenice;

  • 1898 - Kalinnikov: Symphony No. 2, in Kiev (Julian date: Feb. 28);

  • 1934 - Hindemith: Mathis der Maler Symphony, by the Berlin Philharmonic, with Wilhelm Fürtwängler conducting;

  • 1943 - Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man, by Cincinnati Symphony, Eugene Goosens conducting;

  • 1964 - Britten: Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, in Moscow with the Moscow Philharmonic conducted by the composer, with Mstislav Rostropovich the soloist;

  • 1965 - Lutoslawski: String Quartet, in Stockholm (Sweden), by the LaSalle Quartet;

  • 1998 - Magnus Lindberg: Fresco, by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conducting;


  • 1909 - American premiere of Bruckner: Symphony No. 8, by the Boston Symphony, Max Fiedler conducting (no relation to Arthur Fiedler!);

  • 1945 - The Vienna Opera House is damaged by Allied bombs; In the immediate post-war period, performances continued at the Theatre an der Wien and the Vienna Volksoper; The gala reopening of the rebuilt Vienna State Opera occurred on November 5, 1955, when Karl Böhm conducted a performance of Beethoven's Fidelio.

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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®