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V.T.C.M.A. 12

Yeah, yeah, I bet EVERYBODY’s blogged this one… But I just gotta get on that bandwagon, too! ūüôā

Of course, I’m talking about John WilliamsAir and Simple Gifts¬†composed for and performed at Obama’s inaguration yesterday. The musicians? The venerable¬†¬†Anthony McGill¬†¬†on clarinet,¬†Itzhak Perlman¬†on violin,¬†Yo-Yo Ma¬†on¬†cello (who was also asked by the inauguration committee to organize the performance), and¬†Gabriela Montero¬†on piano.

It’s a beautiful piece, no doubt – the¬†instrumentation¬†reminding me (and lots of others) of Messiaen‘s¬†Quatuor pour la fin du temps, of course, and then my mind instantly turning to Copland‘s¬†Appalachian¬†Spring with the entrance of Simple Gifts¬†in the clarinet. Which, it turns out, was done intentionally; and here I thought I was being clever. ūüôā¬†


Williams quotes that passage almost verbatim, and goes on to put the hymn tune through a very Coplandesque treatment before bringing the mood back down to earth with the opening material.

Although Williams chose to¬†use¬†the Copland material because¬†President Obama counts that composer among his classical favorites, there’s another significant point here. In 1953, a pre-inaugural concert by the National Symphony Orchestra at Constitution Hall, a concert attended by then president-elect Eisenhower, was to have included a performance of one of Copland’s most popular works,¬†A Lincoln Portrait. But a Republican congressman (from Illinois, by the way) objected, suggesting that¬†Copland was too liberal and¬†maybe even Communist-friendly, so the piece was pulled from the concert. Inserting the touch of Copland into the Obama inauguration, Williams told¬†Variety¬†last week, offers “a completed circle of events that is nice to think about.”¬†

Tim Smith (Baltimore Sun)

Without further ado, here is the video, and, if that’s not enough, you may download the mp3 file here!

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