September 29, 2013 7:30 PM
Sterling Centennial Auditorium
September 30, 2013 3:00 PM
Central Performing Arts Center
Copland - 4 Dance Episodes
Saturday Night Waltz
Beethoven - Symphony No 5
in C Minor, Op 67
Allegro con brio
Andante con moto
Like his Russian contemporary Igor Stravinsky, American composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990) owed much of his honored reputation to works composed during a twelve-year period of intense creativity. Stravinsky produced his most accessible compositions from 1909 to 1921; Copland acquired his 'people's composer' moniker for his folk-inspired compositions from 1938 to 1950. And, it's interesting to note, the scores that have fared so well for each composer have been three ballets written on subjects familiar to each composer's heritage, and all written in a relatively brief period of time. From 1909 to 1913, Stravinsky composed The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913); from 1939 to 1944, Copland produced Billy the Kid (1939), Rodeo (1942), and Appalachian Spring (1944).
While Copland did not have a close relationship with Stravinsky, the American composer spoke of his Russian counterpart as his 'hero,' and he considered Stravinsky the finest composer of the twentieth century. He particularly relished Stravinsky's "jagged and uncouth rhythmic effects," "bold use of dissonance," and "hard, dry, crackling sonority."And one can hear echoes of Stravinsky's influence in much of Copland's early- and middle-period music, especially in the ballets. In Rodeo, as in no other work, is Stravinsky's influence more apparent - yet the piece is all Aaron Copland.
Choreographer Agnes de Mille approached Copland about writing a new ballet for her troupe Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo which had relocated to the United States at the outbreak of World War II. She had become intrigued with the Old West of American legend after seeing Copland's ballet Billy the Kid and had devised a western-themed scenario based on cowboy-cowgirl ranch life and love. Copland was reluctant to compose "another cowboy ballet," and, at their first meeting at a New York restaurant, as de MIlle tried to persuade him that her proposed venture would be a decided, but not a drastic, change from his previous work, he laughed aloud at her outline of the plot and action. Her goal was to incorporate folk elements such as tap dancing and square dancing into the fabric of traditional ballet movements. One feature Copland found startling was that the male dancers were to move as if they were riding horses. Leaving the café, de Mille was sure Copland would decline her invitation. The next morning, he called and accepted the commission.
The American Ballet Notes for its 1950 premiere performance state:
Rodeo ... is a love story of the American Southwest. The problem it deals with is perennial: how an American girl, with the odds seemingly all against her, sets out to get herself a man. The girl in this case is a cowgirl, a tomboy whose desperate efforts to become one of the ranch's cowhands create problems for the cowboys and make her the laughingstock of womankind.
Of the twelve works de Mille choreographed for her dance troupes, Rodeo has proven the most popular, the most requested, and the most enduring. Her troupes and her legacy companies have performed Rodeo more than any other of her creations.
Copland composed a score with five movements, each picturing an element of ranch life. This first truly American ballet, entitled Rodeo, The Courting at Burnt Ranch contains the following sections: Buckaroo Holiday, Corral Nocturne, Ranch House Party, Saturday Night Waltz, and Hoe-Down. The symphonic suite Copland immediately drew from the score contains four of the movements, omitting Ranch House Party. The sections are taken straight from the ballet with a few note modifications for symphonic clarity. Hoe-Down, easily the most recognizable section from the suite, is Copland's arrangement of 'Bonypart' or 'Bonaparte's Retreat,' as played by fiddler William H. Stepp on a recording of the period, as notated by folklorist and composer Ruth Crawford Seeger in her book of frontier music. Copland incorporated Stepp's unique flair and added a few touches of his own.
Rodeo premiered on October 16, 1942, at the Metropolitan Opera House to much critical and public acclaim. Agnes de Mille, Aaron Copland, and the dance troupe received twenty-two curtain calls. The symphonic suite (only three of the four pieces) from the ballet was presented first by the Boston Pops with Arthur Fiedler conducting on May 28,1943.