Aaron COPLAND - Fanfare for America
Andreas Skipis, director
Stella Doufexis (mezzo)
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hugh Wolff
Picture format 4:3 NTSC; Sound format LPCM stereo; Subtitles GB, DE, FR, ES; Region Code 0 (Worldwide)
ARTHAUS MUSIK 101573 [60:00]

Itís difficult to give an overview of the life and works of a composer as important as Aaron Copland in one hour, but this 2001 documentary does a good job of it. While some of Coplandís music is well known - especially to Americans, who will easily recognize the now-clichťd Fanfare for the Common Man, or the happy melodies of Appalachian Spring - much of his music has been forgotten. Throughout his career, he had an importance and influence on American classical music unmatched by anyone other than, perhaps, Leonard Bernstein.

This documentary features a narrative voice-over, shots of old photos, a handful of filmed interviews with the composer, and a number of interviews with Coplandís biographer, Howard Pollock. Together with some obligatory shots of cars driving through New York City, and the oddity of the interviews with Pollock being mostly filmed on the subway, the documentary includes a number of excerpts of Coplandís music performed by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, whose conductor Hugh Wolff gives his opinions on the music.

Unlike many documentaries, the musical excerpts here are long enough to get a feel for the works, even if the viewer is unfamiliar with them. Nevertheless, they are but excerpts, and one hopes that these snippets will lead viewers to seek out some of Coplandís music to hear works in full.

While the biographical information imparted in this hour is limited, the film achieves a good balance between interview, voice-over and music. Those who are unfamiliar with Copland will come away with a better understanding of what he was about. Aficionados of his work will find this superficial, but this is an ideal documentary for a library or music school wishing to offer an overview of Coplandís music to its patrons.

Kirk McElhearn
Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville (http://www.mcelhearn.com).

A well-made documentary giving an overview of the life and works of the great American composer.