Image of Copland's <i>Canticle of Freedom </i> Copland's Canticle of Freedom
Canticle of Freedom

For the 1955 dedication of Eero Saarinen’s landmark buildings—the MIT Chapel and Kresge Auditorium— MIT celebrated with a Fortnight Festival (April 30 to May 14). The highlight of this event was the world premiere of Aaron Copland’s Canticle of Freedom. MIT commissioned this work at a time when Copland was under a great cloud of political suspicion. His famous A Lincoln Portrait had been withdrawn from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inaugural concert, and many believed he was a communist sympathizer. Canticle of Freedom was his first major piece following the FBI’s retraction of his blacklisting status. Copland used the words from a poem written around 1375 by the Scottish poet John Barbour to extol the virtues of freedom and make a not-so-subtle point. Klaus Liepmann, MIT’s first full-time music professor, conducted the MIT Choral Society, Glee Club, and Symphony Orchestra on this memorable occasion of art, architecture, and politics.

Canticle of Freedom, Sound Recording
Aaron Copland
Recording courtesy of MIT Lewis Music Library.

photo: MIT Museum Collections

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