Aaron Copland

Clarinet Concerto

    Description by Rovi Staff

    Copland began work on his Clarinet Concerto while traveling in Latin America in 1947. After setting it aside when he was unable to come up with a suitable theme for the second movement, Copland completed the work during his annual sojourn at Tanglewood in the following year. The concerto, commissioned by the prominent clarinetist Benny Goodman, was premiered by Goodman and the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a broadcast of November 6, 1950. Though the initial critical reception of the work was less favorable than what had greeted a number of Copland's other works, the concerto gradually caught on with performers and audiences alike. It received a substantial boost in the year following its premiere, when choreographer Jerome Robbins adopted it as the musical setting for his ballet The Pied Piper.

    Copland drew inspiration for the Clarinet Concerto from a number of sources. The work took shape under the influence of the Brazilian folk music Copland heard during his travels, while the second movement in particular was tailored to fit Goodman's own playing style and skills. (Copland's manuscript drafts, in fact, indicate a number of alterations made expressly to accommodate Goodman's technique.) The work is divided into two movements, the first marked "Slowly and expressively," the second, "Rather fast"; the two are connected by an extended cadenza for the soloist. The first movement is meditative and rhapsodic, combining dramatic leaps in the solo clarinet line with an unhurried, waltz-like accompaniment in the strings and harp. A more restive and harmonically adventurous section interrupts the lilt of the the triple meter, and the movement is rounded out by a return to its original mood.

    The cadenza between the movements acts as a transition, extending the mood of the first movement and introducing the lively melodic and rhythmic material of the second. The piano, which sits silent during the first movement, is freely employed in the second, assuming both soloistic and less obtrusive textural roles. After a mysterious introduction, the clarinet introduces the melodic material of the movement, which is altered and recombined in a variety of jazzy contexts as the movement unfolds in a rondo-like form. The clarinet often declaims its line over an ostinato accompaniment, and at one point Copland heightens the jazzy atmosphere by directing the basses to play in a "slap-string" style. A concluding virtuosic coda has the clarinetist wailing in the upper ranges of the instrument and bringing the work to a close with a long glissando (in jazz, a "smear"), accompanied by the ensemble.


    1. Slowly and expressively - Cadenza
    2. Rather fast

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Brilliant Classics 95787
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2017 Decca Gold
    2017 Decca Gold B002730602
    2016 Indesens INDE 078
    2015 Sony Classical 88875026162
    2014 Warner Classics 2564626220
    2013 Chandos CHAN 10756
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 BIS BISSACD 1863
    2010 Naxos 8559667
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 SOMM 244
    2010 Sony Music Distribution 8869770047
    2009 Numbus 2522
    2009 Navona Records 5812
    2008 EMI Classics 34439
    2008 Teldec 4696734
    2007 EMI Classics 97727
    2007 Sony Music Distribution / RCA 714370
    2006 Teldec
    2006 COE Records 811
    2004 Oehms 504
    2004 XLNT Music 18011
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000218402
    2003 Summit Records DCD 1019
    2003 Warner Classics 7497082
    2002 Naxos 8 559069
    2002 ASV 8504
    2002 Pan Classics 510144
    2001 CBC Records 5096
    2000 Chandos 9848
    2000 Accord 24385
    2000 BIS 893
    1998 Caprice Records 21591
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 556652-2
    1998 Supraphon 3348
    1995 WVH 102
    1995 Centaur Records 2212
    1993 RCA 617902
    1993 Denon Records 75289
    1992 Chandos 8618
    1992 Koch Schwann 1035
    1992 BMG 61360
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 431672
    1991 Sony Classical 46559
    1986 CBS Records / Columbia MK-42227
    Teldec 884822
    BBC Music Magazine 272
    Erasmus 102
    RCA 61677
    RCA Victor Red Seal 7762
    Collins Records 1097
    Legend 122
    Agora Musica 026
    MusicMasters 67005
    Musical Heritage Society 5169811
    Panton Records 810884
    ASV 568
    ASV 811
    As Disc 628