Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cheesy Classical Music You Should Know: Fanfare for the Common Man

In 1977, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer recorded their own, nine-minute blues-jam version of what is probably Aaron Copland's single most famous piece. The cover was a big hit--perhaps also the nadir of art rock--and CBS used it as the opening theme for its Saturday-afternoon sports show, CBS Sports Spectacular, a low-rent version of Wide World of Sports:

Outside of the concert hall, this is how most people (at least those of a certain baby-boomer age) have come to know Fanfare for the Common Man; that's a shame, because inside of the concert hall, its distinctive, sweeping opening always exhorts goosebumps.
Copland wrote the piece on commission in 1942 from Eugene Goosens, who at the time was the music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Goosens contacted 18 composers to write fanfares that would be "stirring and significant contributions to the war effort" (this was only shortly after Pearl Harbor). He ended up using nine of them for Cincinnati's 1942-43 season, including Copland's, which is pretty well the only one still heard today.

A few years later, Copland used Fanfare for the Common Man in the finale of his Third Symphony, which you can hear here.