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Bernstein To Conduct Tribute To His Mentor Aaron Copland

July 24, 1985

LENOX, Mass. (AP) _ Two of the greatest names in American classical music will be reunited tonight when Leonard Bernstein pays tribute to Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, where 40 years ago they were student and master.

Bernstein will conduct an all-Copland concert, to be performed by students at the young musicians’ school here. It is part of a yearlong Tanglewood tribute to the composer.

Copland, 84, who lives in nearby Peekskill, N.Y., will make a rare public appearance at a recpetion with Bernstein and the students. He taught at the Tanglewood Music Center from 1940 until 1965.

Nearly 40 percent of all principal players for American symphony orchestras have studied at the wooded campus and summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, spokeswoman Caroline Smedvig said Tuesday.

Tanglewood was founded by the late BSO music director Serge Koussevitzky, who took an interest in the young Copland and promoted his works. Copland used this relationship to persuade Koussevitzky to perform other composers’ works, earning his contemporaries’ admiration.

″He devoted vast amounts of energy to supporting other young composers. Bernstein is a classic example,″ said Tanglewood musicologist Steven Ledbetter.

Still repaying Koussevitzky’s interest in him, Copland is advising young pianist Bennett Lerner as he prepares for his debut with the New York Philharmonic. The debut, to be part of another all-Copland program, will be Nov. 14, Copland’s 85th birthday, and will be conducted by another star pupil, Zubin Mehta.

Tales of Copland’s generosity with his time for unknown, budding musicians abound.

One involves a man who worked several summers ago as a Tanglewood parking lot attendant and approached Copland after a concert to show him a string quartet he had written.

″He stopped on the spot and conferred with a completely unknown young man about his piece,″ Ledbetter said. ″He was open to be approached by someone who to him was a complete nonentity and to give him his time and advice.″

Ledbetter didn’t know how Copland advised the young parking lot attendant, but said the attendant, Charles Hamm, never forgot the attention from the great composer and is now a musicologist at Dartmouth College.

Copland’s assistant, David A. Walker, said the composer’s friendship with Bernstein dates from the 1930s, before the conductor studied at Tanglewood in 1940-42.

Copland discovered Bernstein was a fan who had memorized his ″Piano Variations″ and asked him to play it, said Walker. ″Lenny just played this like he had written it himself. That was the beginning of their friendship.″

Bernstein repaid his hero and mentor, whose work he has conducted and recorded extensively, when Copland switched from composing to conducting during middle age.

″Bernstein paved the way for his change of careers by giving him dates with the New York Philharmonic when was he was its music director,″ Ledbetter said.

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