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Composed: 1943-1944

Length: c. 25 minutes

Orchestration: 3 flutes (3rd = piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani, percussion (bass drum, claves, orchestra bells, snare drum, suspended cymbal, tabor, triangle, wood block, xylophone), harp, piano, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: February 28, 1946, with Alfred Wallenstein conducting

About this Piece

Legendary American music patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge commissioned Aaron Copland to compose a ballet for dancer/choreographer Martha Graham. “After Martha gave me this bare outline, I knew certain crucial things—that it had to do with the pioneer American spirit, with youth and spring, with optimism and hope,” Copland wrote. He had no idea what the title would be, and it’s unlikely that any of them suspected the resulting collaboration would become such a beloved icon of American culture. The original complete ballet was written for only 13 instruments. Copland extracted a suite and scored it for full orchestra, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1945. Here we play the suite (shorter than the ballet by 10 minutes) in the edition for 13 musicians.