Aaron Copland's The Tender Land (1954) and Leonard Bernstein's Candide (1956) both comment sharply on McCarthyism, but their broader political implications are less clear. While the story of each may be read in terms of postwar liberalism, a position itself informed by anticommunist ideology, two crucial ensembles reflect a decidedly leftist perspective. ““The Promise of Living,”” which ends act 1 of The Tender Land, and ““Make Our Garden Grow,”” the finale of Candide, celebrate a grand, utopian ideal——the politically outmoded, progessive ideal of community as a collective forged through common experience and shared labor——in musical terms that evoke the era of the Popular Front.
Despite their similarities, however, ““The Promise of Living”” and ““Make Our Garden Grow”” arrive at structurally distinct points in their perspective works and announce different dramatic as well as political ends. Ultimately one community comes together while the other falls apart, and these divergent trajectories speak to the experiences of the composers themselves as representatives of separate political generations. Using achival research, cultural history, and music analysis, I argue that at these moments The Tender Land and Candide reject the conservative and liberal anticommunism of their mutual Cold War context to remember or imagine the possibilities of a vital Left.
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