Appalachian Spring Suite : Work information

Aaron Copland ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philip Ellis (Conductor)

This work

Work name
Appalachian Spring Suite
Work number
1944-01-01 02:00:00

This recording

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Alan Peters
Dick Lewzey
Recording date
2000-01-01 02:00:00

Track listing

  • Very slowly 25:45 min


Copland's masterpiece Appalachian Spring was written for Martha Graham's ballet company on a commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation. It was first produced on 30 October 1944 at the Coolidge Festival and received the Pullitzer Prize for music in 1945.

The original ballet was scored for thirteen instruments, but Copland made an orchestral ballet suite in the spring of 1945, and it is in the latter version that the work is generally heard. The suite cuts out the sections of the ballet that are primarily of choreographic interest, preserving the essential features.

Graham's tale of nineteenth century Pennsylvania pioneers is magnificently expressed in some of Copland's most appealing music. The inspired use of the Shaker tune, The gift to be simple, as the basis for a set of variations is just one of the highlights in a great American ballet score.

The Composers

Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1900. He studied music in his home city and also in Paris with Nadia Boulanger between 1921 and 1924, the first of many Americans to do so. He returned to the United States in 1925, and shortly afterwards, his Symphony for Organ and Orchestra was performed. It was in a brash, modern style which he inherited from Boulanger. He also began to include elements of jazz in his music, and developed a distinctively American style, drawing on folk music and ideas. As well as composing, Copland was heavily involved in composers’ organisations and between 1925 and 1927 held a Guggenheim grant, the first of many awards, commissions, and prizes he received.

Between 1927 and 1937, Copland also taught and lectured at the New School for Social Research, and wrote several books, including Music and Imagination (1952). He appeared frequently as a conductor of his own and other composers’ music. In 1964 he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the U.S. government.

Copland is perhaps most famous for his superb ballet scores, such as Billy the Kid (1938), Rodeo (1942), and Appalachian Spring (1944), which are all based on American folklore. The last of these finishes with a set of variations on a Shaker hymn. He also composed two operas, The Second Hurricane (1937) and The Tender Land (1954), as well as choral works and songs. 

Copland was also a leading composer of film music, and wrote scores for Of Mice and Men (1939), Our Town (1940), The Red Pony (1948), and The Heiress (1949). His Piano Variations (1930) and Clarinet Concerto (1948), written for jazz clarinettist Benny Goodman, are the most influential of his many solo and chamber works. Outstanding among his orchestral scores are Music for the Theatre (1925), the jazzy Piano Concerto (1927), El Salon Mexico (1936), and A Lincoln Portrait (1942) with spoken portions from Abraham Lincoln’s speeches. Copland's Symphony No. 3 (1946) is one of his most popular works, and incorporates as one of its movements the famous Fanfare for the Common Man (1942).

Related Composers: Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Bernstein, Sessions