Ballet/Suite composed by Aaron Copland (1942)
The music for the ballet/suite was commisioned in 1942 by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge
for the Coolidge Foundation
's annual fall festival at the Library of Congress
other commisions went to Darius Milhaud
and Paul Hindemith
The scenario for Copland's ballet, written for dancer
/choreographer Martha Graham
originally was called House of Victory, and was full with biblical quotations and Civil War references.
Later the score was 'fleshed out' by Copland, centering on the tale of a pioneer celebration
of a new farmhouse built in the Pennsylvania
hill country at the beginning of the 19th century.
Martha Graham renamed the ballet to Appalachian Spring, after a line in a poem by Hart Crane
after it was was completed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, June 1944.
The first performance in Washington (October 1944) became a hugh success,
and the score eventually received the Pulitzer Prize
for music and
the Music Critics Circle Award
as the outstanding theatrical work of the 1944-45 season.
The Suite arranged from the ballet consist of the following sections (without interruption):
- Very slowly. Introduction of the characters, one by one, in a suffused light.
- Fast. Sudden burst of unison strings in A Major arpeggios starts the action.A sentiment both elated and religious gives the keynote to this scene.
- Moderate. Duo for the Bride and her Intended, scene of tenderness and passion.
- Fast. The Revivalist and his flock. Folksy feelings, suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers.
- Still faster. Solo dance of the Bride, presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and fear and wonder.
- Very slowly (as at first). Transition scene reminiscent of the introduction.
- Calm and flowing. Scenes of activity for the Bride and her Farmer-husband.
- Moderate. Coda. The Bride takes her place among her neighbors. At the end the couple are left `quiet and strong in their new house.' Muted strings intone a hushed, prayer-like passage. We hear a last echo of the principal theme sung by a flute and solo violin.