Composer: Aaron Copland
Arranged: Robert Longfield
- Performed by the West City Concert Band
Copland composed Appalachian Spring in 1943–44 as a ballet for Martha Graham, on a commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation. The work was first performed on October 30, 1944, at the Library of Congress (with a cast that included Martha Graham as the Bride and Merce Cunningham as the Preacher). At these concerts, the suite from the complete ballet is performed in Copland’s original ensemble version for thirteen instruments, not his later orchestral arrangement.
No Copland score more perfectly captures the vast open spaces, the homespun plainness, and the bracing pioneer spirit of the United States than Appalachian Spring. “I felt,” he wrote, “that it was worth the effort to see if I couldn’t say what I had to say in the simplest possible terms.” Appalachian Spring was written for Martha Graham, the doyenne of American dance—the score’s working title was Ballet for Martha, replaced only at the last minute by the now-familiar phrase Graham found in Hart Crane’s poem “The Dance,” from his epic cycle The Bridge. (Crane meant spring as a source of water, not a season.)
When the score was first published, Copland offered this summary of the ballet’s action:
A pioneer celebration in spring around a newly built farmhouse in the Pennsylvania hills in the early part of the last [nineteenth] century. The bride-to-be and the young farmer-husband enact the emotions, joyful and apprehensive, their new domestic partnership invites. An older neighbor suggests now and then the rocky confidence of experience. A revivalist and his followers remind the new householders of the strange and terrible aspects of human fate. At the end the couple are left quiet and strong in their new house.
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