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George Copeland (1882 - 1971)


Copeland’s father was a businessman who disapproved of his son becoming a musician, but his mother, who was Spanish, encouraged her child, and young George began piano lessons at the age of five with Karl Baermann who had studied with Liszt. Frequent trips to Europe with his mother enabled George to study with Teresa Carreño in Berlin, and he later had lessons with Harold Bauer; but it remains uncertain what formed Copeland’s unusually clear piano tone, or his penchant for the music of Debussy.

Copeland played recitals and chamber music in Boston from the late 1890s, and his performances of Debussy in 1905 and 1906 were notable events. The famous Boston critic Philip Hale (1854–1934) wrote that Copeland’s best attributes were ‘…his touch of crystalline clearness; his exquisite sense of rhythm; his intimate variety of tonal colors’. Hale championed French music, and in Copeland must have found an ideal performer.

After playing in Vienna, Rome and Milan in 1911, Copeland travelled to Paris to meet Debussy. After hearing ten of his pieces played for him, Debussy responded, ‘It is not my habit to pay compliments. But I wish to say, Mr Copeland, that I never thought to hear my music played as well as that in my lifetime.’

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