Monday, 29 October 2012

Appalachian Spring - Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland
After about a month without posting - I'm back! It's been an exciting month for me, as I've started a new life at University. When thinking about possible pieces to write about - I was particularly struck by a piece that the university chamber orchestra are currently learning called 'Appalachian Spring' by Aaron Copland. Having already written about Copland's piano music, this will definitely be a contrast.

The ballet - which was composed in the early 1940s premiered in 1944, and won Copland a Pulitzer Prize for Music. In 1950 however, Copland rearranged the ballet as an orchestral suite. The extract of the piece that I enjoy the most is the introduction merely titled: 'very slowly'. Here in the ballet, we see each of the characters introduced one by one in a suffused light. Copland used these introductions to create a musical metaphor by setting each of the characters a line from various solo instruments, the first being a clarinet; followed by a flute, and so on and so forth, with each of the solo lines accompanied by the soft chords of strings and harp.

Appalachian Mountains
The harmonies in a lot of the suite are made up of stacked fourths, which make a particularly nostalgic and natural sound - mimicking the Appalachian mountains. This is actually completely ironic, as Copland was unaware of the title when composing the work, and is said to have found it amusing that so many critics admired his ability to capture the feeling of being in the Appalachians. As well as having arranged the work beautifully for all kinds of instruments, one of the smaller touches in this movement is that Copland instructed the strings that only half of them should play - giving a less intense and more delicate tone to the music.

The music that then follows the slow movement is much more upbeat, with the addition of the rest of the orchestra - that are given developed and repeated motifs - yet Copland still manages to keep a sense of peace and spring in the tone of the music. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for another great post. Glad to see you are back and getting settled in. I seem to be getting a musical education, from your posts. I had only really heard of Aaron Copland in the context of Fanfare for the Common man, but after reading this I will definitely make more of an effort to seek out his other work. The piece is very beautiful.