Aaron Copland

Appalachian Spring, concert suite for full orchestra

    Description by Rovi Staff

    Long after its composition, Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring remains both the composer's quintessential masterpiece and one of the definitive ballets of the twentieth century. Written on commission from dancer/choreographer Martha Graham, Appalachian Spring depicts the lives of a newly married pioneer couple in nineteenth century Pennsylvania. The scenario that emerges in the course of the dance "narrative" includes a house-raising, a sermon, a festive party, and the couple alone in a moment of hopeful reflection. Throughout, Appalachian Spring unfolds with a spirit of unfailing optimism (though, as is clear from the Hart Crane poem from which the ballet's name was derived -- after the music was written -- the "Spring" of the title actually refers to a wellspring, not the season).

    The music of Appalachian Spring is at once characteristic of Copland's "Americana" style of the late '30s and the 1940s. The harmonic language, based largely on triadic and other, mildly dissonant sonorities, is marked by an overall spareness and simplicity; at appropriate moments, though, Copland employs fuller, more luxurious textures. The melodic material varies according to the ballet's episodic nature: the introduction, for example, is ethereal and almost non-melodic, but is immediately followed by leaping, spiky lines in which melodic fourths play a prominent role. What is undoubtedly the most famous tune from the ballet is not Copland's own: The composer presents the traditional Shaker hymn Simple Gifts, masterfully spinning a set of variations that progress toward the climax of the entire work, a final tutti statement of the theme marked by a particular dignity and grandeur. In keeping with the nature and purpose of the score, the rhythmic language is particuraly lively, even breathtaking, making Appalachian Spring among the most kinetic of any of Copland's works. Irregular, changing meters are a particularly notable feature; even when the music remains in a single meter, shifts of accent ensure a distinctive sense of constant motion and rhythmic surprise.

    Practical and economic constraints led Copland to score the original version of the work for an ensemble of 13 instruments. Within a short time of the ballet's premiere, however, Copland arranged the music into a concert suite for full orchestra, in which form it is most fequently performed today. Many purists prefer the original instrumentation, which has, it must be said, a striking austerity and rawness that is largely smoothed over in the version for full orchestra. The latter, at the same time, presents its own beauties not present in the smaller-scale original. In any event, Appalachian Spring continues to flourish as a perennial favorite and remains Copland's most beloved contribution to the pantheon of twentieth century classics.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Very Slowly
    2. Allegro
    3. Moderato (The Bride & Her Intended)
    4. Fast (The Revivalist & His Flock)
    5. Subito Allegro (Solo Dance of the Bride)
    6. As at first (Slowly)
    7. Doppio movimento (Variations on a Shaker Hymn; Simple Gifts)
    8. Moderato - Coda

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon
    2017 ABC Classics
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295974930
    2016 Recursive Classics RC 2057008
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon B002475402
    2016 Urania WS 121169
    2015 Warner Classics 2564632791
    2014 ABC Classics 4810863
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843003502
    2013 Decca 4785437
    2012 Decca
    2012 Decca 4783353
    2012 Decca / Mercury Living Presence 001653302
    2010 Digital
    2010 Virgin Classics 50999070193
    2010 Decca / London 4307052
    2010 Sony Classical Essential Classics / Sony Music Distribution 88697599782
    2009 Sheridan Square Records 28410
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921522
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920663
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4395282
    2007 Virgin Classics 3913392
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 000851802
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000658302
    2006 Decca 000752912
    2006 Decca
    2006 Decca 000767072
    2005 Virgin Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Regis Records 1004
    2004 Artemis Classics ATMCD1272
    2004 Artone 222344
    2004 Brilliant / Brilliant Classics 6151
    2003 Sony Classical 90403
    2003 Decca 000097002
    2003 Telarc Distribution 60596
    2003 Telarc Distribution 80596
    2002 Naxos 8 559069
    2002 Arte Nova 37854
    2002 Brilliant 6169
    2001 Vanguard 504
    2001 History 205259
    2001 Nimbus 1737
    2001 Seraphim UK 74503
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 469 277-2GP2
    2000 RCA Red Seal 63720
    2000 Sony Classical 89041
    2000 Rca Red Seal 63511
    2000 Virgin 61702
    2000 Reference Recordings 93
    2000 Tring 040
    1999 Penguin Classics 460 656-2DP
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon / PolyGram 463465
    1999 Virgin 61612
    1999 RCA 634672
    1999 Angel Records 573653-2
    1999 Decca / Polygram 466909
    1998 Dutton Laboratories 5021
    1998 Intersound 3845
    1998 Biddulph Recordings WHL050
    1998 BWE Records 0194
    1997 Pearl GEMMCD9279
    1997 Koch 7403
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80339
    1997 Intersound 1730
    1996 Decca
    1996 London 448 261-2DF2
    1996 Nimbus 4002
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 47543
    1995 Delos DE3154
    1994 RCA 68020
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 413324
    1993 RCA 61505
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 439521
    1992 Pro-Arte Records / Yell Records 3436
    1992 Nimbus 5246
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 64315
    1991 RCA 60837
    1991 Mercury 434301
    1991 London 430705
    1991 Decca
    1991 RCA Victor 60837
    1991 Sony Classical 46559
    1990 RCA 6802
    1990 CBS Records 42430
    1988 CBS Records 37257
    1983 Telarc Distribution 80078
    Pro-Arte Records 846
    Deutsche Grammophon 427335
    BBC Music Magazine 272
    Pro-Arte Records 3429
    Virgin 59520
    Bescol 537
    CBS Records 39443
    As Disc 543
    Collins Records 1097
    MusicMasters 67055
    CBS Masterworks 42265
    As Disc 546
    London 417716
    Deutsche Grammophon 431048
    History 205264
    Atlantic 90766
    Sheffield Lab 27