Aaron Copland (1900-1990) is well known for his highly accessible, melodic compositions that helped define the sounds of American music. In El Salón México, Copland captures the liveliness and complexity of the country he frequently visited in the 1930s. The melodies, based on Mexican folk music Copland picked up in his travels, evoke an imaginary dance hall in Mexico City and the variety of people to be found there.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was one of the most popular and celebrated American composers. His Violin Concerto, completed in 1939, gained rapid popularity and quickly become one of the most frequently performed concertos of the 20th century.
Michael Daugherty (1954- ) is one of the most performed American composers working today. His Strut for String Orchestra was inspired by the legendary actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson, famed for his rendition of “Old Man River” in Showboat. The vigorous rhythms of Strut reflect echos of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance.
Perhaps the best known American composer in the second half of the 20th century, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) helped bridge the gap between classical and popular music. Bernstein composed in numerous styles, creating music for everything from ballet and chamber music to Broadway musicals and choral works. His score for On the Waterfront perfectly encapsulates the tension and melancholy hope of the classic 1954 film.
Hailed by Opus Magazine as “a stunning musician”, violinist Livia Sohn performs widely on the international stage as concerto soloist, recitalist, and festival guest artist in North America, Europe, and Asia. Livia attended the Julliard Pre-College Division from the age of seven, and gave her first public performance at age eight. She plays on a J. B. Guadagnini violin crafted in 1770, and a Samuel Zygmuntowicz made in 2006. She has been on faculty at the Music Department of Stanford University since 2005, and makes her home in the Bay Area.