Four letters from American Pianist and Composer Aaron Copland on his “Duet for Flute and Piano”

Signed by Aaron Copland

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Item: 19210
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COPLAND, AARON. (1900-1990). American pianist and composer of such 20th-century masterpieces as the ballets Billy the Kid, Rodeo and Appalachian Spring. Three TLSs and one ALS. (“Aaron Copland”). 4pp. (total). 8vo. Peekskill, July, 1970 to March, 1971. On his personal, Peekskill stationery. To American flutist ELAINE SHAFFER (1925-1973).

 

1. TLS. 1p. July 21, 1970.

“I didn’t want to delay any longer answering your nice letter of July 9th, even though I don’t have anything too specific to tell you. My present plan is to write a work in three movements and, of course, I will send you whatever movement is completed as soon as it is ready. When that will be is difficult for me to say because of a considerable amount of conducting activity during the summer. In any event, I think I can safely predict that the piece will be quite direct in style and won’t contain any particularly difficult technical problems. I have it in mind to write something that will be useful for flute players in general rather than a virtuoso piece for the few. Please give my friendly greetings to Efrem…”

2. TLS. 1p. August 25, 1970.

“Under separate cover I am air-mailing the slow movement of the flute and piano work. This will give you a chance to at least familiarize yourself with one third of the piece as I now visualize it. Perhaps you will drop me a note when you receive it and let me know where you will be from October 1st, if it should turn out that I can send any further material… “

3. ALS. 1p. December 8, 1970

“I thought you would like to know that I have just completed the first movement of the Flute & Piano Duo. As soon as the flute part is copied I’ll be mailing you the movement. Two down — and one to go!..”

4. TLS. 1p. March 16, 1971

“I’m glad to be able to tell you that the Flute Duo is finished. I am sure you will heave a sigh of relief, as do I! As soon as the manuscript has been reproduced, I will be airmailing you a copy of the last movement. I am also writing at this time to let John Solum know. Greetings to Efrem…”

Trained in Paris, Copland, strongly influenced by the Russian-born American composer Igor Stravinsky, was the first American to study with noted French composer, Nadia Boulanger. However, Copland’s compositions, which include Rodeo, Billy the Kid and A Lincoln Portrait, are revered for their distinctly American theme and flavor.

Shaffer studied at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, where she became William Kincaid’s star pupil before embarking on a career with the Kansas City Philharmonic, Houston Symphony Orchestra and as a solo flutist. Upon Kincaid’s death in 1967, another of his students, world-renowned flutist John Solum, invited Copland to compose a work in his memory. The result was the Duo for Flute and Piano, the subject of our letters. It was premiered in October 1971 by Shaffer and Hephzibah Menuhin in Philadelphia, shortly before Shaffer was diagnosed with lung cancer, which tragically cut short her brilliant career. Our letters send greetings to Shaffer’s husband, prominent Russian-born conductor Efrem Kurtz (1900-1995). All the letters are folded and in excellent condition.


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