Work: Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes
About This Work
The essential spirit of Aaron Copland's music is embodied perhaps nowhere so well as in his ballet scores, which are among his best-known works. Copland wrote Rodeo (1942) for Agnes de Mille, and it proved to be the choreographer's most enduring
success. The scenario tells the story of a young woman, accomplished in all the skills of a cowpoke, who hopes to attract the attentions of the head wrangler on a ranch. In a decidedly pre-feminist resolution, he is unimpressed by her skill but succumbs to her charms when she trades her cowboy duds for a dress and shows a more "womanly" side at the rodeo dance. Both the ballet and the popular concert suite derived from it are divided into four musical scenes. The opening "Buckaroo Holiday" incorporates two cowboy tunes, "If He Be A Buckaroo By His Trade" and "Sis Joe"; this section is marked by the use of ever-changing rhythms and unpredictable turns of harmony. The "Corral Nocturne," in an asymmetrical 5/4 meter, is a plaintive portrait of a cowgirl's loneliness. "Saturday Night Waltz" makes use of another cowboy song, "Goodbye, Old Paint", to which Copland adds his own stamp by the employment of cross-rhythms. "Hoe-Down" is undoubtedly the ballet's best-known episode, largely through its use as the music to accompany the words "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" on television. Written in the midst of Copland's "populist" period, Rodeo is distinguished throughout by the composer's exuberance, evocative sense of orchestral color, distinctive harmonic language, and singular expressivity. Rodeo was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House on October 16, 1942. To make the suite called Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo Copland shortened four of the main dance scenes of the ballet and dropped some connecting music, including a delightful ricky-ticky barroom piano solo reputed to have been written by the young Leonard Bernstein for insertion into the ballet as a gift to his mentor.
-- All Music Guide
Select a specific Conductor, Ensemble or Label or browse recordings by Formats & Featured below