Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Saturday, December 2

Burleigh and Copland

Synopsis

Today let’s play a round of “Six Degrees of Separation” involving two American composers: Harry Thacker Burleigh, who was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, on today’s date in 1866, and Aaron Copland, who died on today’s date in North Tarrytown, New York, in 1990.

Burleigh was the talented African-American baritone who studied at the National Conservatory in New York City in the 1890s when Antonin Dvorak was serving as its director. It was Burleigh who introduced Dvorak to traditional Negro spirituals. “Go Down, Moses” was a particular favorite of Dvorak’s, who called it “great as a Beethoven melody.”

Burleigh never studied composition with Dvorak, but one young American who did was Rubin Goldmark, the New York-born nephew of the eminent Hungarian composer Karl Goldmark. Rubin Goldmark’s own music never became as famous as his uncle’s, but as a composition teacher, he’s still remembered. After all, he could count among his pupils two of the most famous American composers of the 20th century: George Gershwin and Aaron Copland.

Those two young men both visited Goldmark’s studio on West 87th Street around 1919, but they never met until some years later, when their respective musical careers had taken them in quite different directions. As Copland later recalled with some bemusement, when they finally did meet, Copland and Gershwin found they had little to say to one another.

Music Played in Today's Program

Harry T. Burleigh (1866 – 1949) A Jubilee Joseph Smith, piano Premier 1041

Aaron Copland (1900 – 1990) Four Piano Blues Michel Legrand, piano Erato 96386

Additional Information

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