By Aaron Sherber
This article appeared in Volume 33 (2017) of the Journal of the Conductors Guild and is reproduced here by kind permission of the International Conductors Guild. A portion of this material originally appeared in a different form as a note prefacing the 2016 score for Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring: Ballet for Orchestra,” published by Boosey & Hawkes. It is used here by permission of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.
Aaron Copland’s ballet score for Appalachian Spring was premiered by the Martha Graham Dance Company on October 30, 1944, in the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress. Owing in large part to space and budgetary constraints, the ballet was scored for an ensemble of thirteen instruments: flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano, double string quartet, and bass. In the months that followed, Copland transformed his ballet score into a suite for full orchestra. This version was premiered by Artur Rodzinski and the New York Philharmonic almost a year later, on October 4, 1945, and it quickly became one of Copland’s best-known works. Copland described the suite as “a condensed version of the ballet, retaining all essential features but omitting those sections in which the interest is primarily choreographic.”1Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha), B&H 9054 (New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1945). (In 1970, Copland transferred his edits back onto the original ballet, resulting in the thirteen-instrument suite.) To create the suite, Copland made changes in twelve areas of the ballet; these changes are identified in table 1.
|Ballet Measures||Suite Measures||Action||Description of Change|
|A||155–190||155–173||Husband||Several small cuts of repeated music, totaling seventeen measures|
|B||305–309||288||Preacher and Followers||Five measures cut|
|C||330–332||307||Pioneering Woman||Three measures cut|
|D||341–362||316–332||Bride intro||Small cuts and alterations at the beginning and of the passage|
|E||428–442||398–410||Bride #48||Measures 428–433 cut; measures 434–442 transposed to different key|
|F||455–456||423||Bride #51||Two repeated measures cut|
|G||494–500||460||After Bride #55||Seven measures cut|
|H||507||466||Transition to Sunday Walk||One measure cut|
|I||529–536||487||Bridge to theme||Eight measures cut|
|J||537–670||487–586||Theme and variations||The ballet has a theme and four variations; the suite omits the second variation and place the fourth variation before the third variation, transposing it to a different key. It also changes some of the linking material between variations.|
|K||671–678||587||Bridge to Fear in the Night||Eight measures cut|
|L||679–897||587||Fear in the Night||219 measures cut|
In October of 1954, Eugene Ormandy approached Copland about the possibility of restoring all of the cuts to the suite, in order to yield an orchestral version of the complete ballet. This was done with an eye towards a November performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Graham Company (since Graham’s choreography could not be used with the suite), as well as a planned recording. Ormandy wrote to Copland, “In order to record the ballet as Miss Graham does it, it will become necessary to fatten up the winds in the last section. Would you be willing to do this in the next week or so, or would you rather have me do it? … I feel this shouldn’t take you longer than an afternoon…”2Eugene Ormandy to Aaron Copland, 4 October 1954, Aaron Copland Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. It’s not quite clear what Ormandy meant by “the last section” because the final section of the piece, beginning at rehearsal 99 (rehearsal 67 in the suite), uses winds only sparingly; he may have been referring to section L, the last of the sections which were changed between the ballet and the suite.
Three weeks later, with Eugene Lester, Graham’s music director, at his side, Ormandy wrote again with more urgency: “[T]here are nearly 100 bars which will have to be rewritten and recopied in the orchestration of Appalachian Spring…Please hurry! S.O.S! There is no time to lose.”3Eugene Ormandy to Aaron Copland, 28 October 1954, Aaron Copland Collection. In fact, the total number of measures which differ between ballet and suite is far greater than Ormandy indicated. It’s possible at this point that Copland had already completed (or at least committed to) orchestrating section L—219 bars on its own—and that Ormandy was referring to the other, smaller, nips and tucks, which total around 100 measures.
Despite all the above efforts (and published claims to the contrary), the performance seems ultimately to have used the original thirteen-instrument version of the ballet (possibly with expanded strings, as the Graham Company has often done);4Graham’s choreography could not have been performed with the extant orchestral materials as outlined below. Correspondence and conversations between the author and surviving members of the 1954 cast confirmed that no alteration was made to the choreography, and none of the dancers could remember the addition of brass and percussion, which would have indicated an orchestral version rather than the thirteen-instrument version. Ormandy’s 1957 recording of Appalachian Spring restored only sections I and L to the orchestral suite.5Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring (Complete Ballet) and Billy the Kid (Ballet Suite), The Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, released in 1957, Columbia ML 5157.
In fact, section L is the only one for which we have a manuscript in Copland’s hand of an orchestral version; Copland labeled this manuscript “No. 6 INSERT”;6Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring: INSERT – for complete ballet, full score ms., Aaron Copland Collection (ARCO 55-A.1). “INSERT” is in dark ink, matching the music and other text on the page; “No. 6” is lighter and appears to have been added later by Copland. there are five other inserts, numbered 1 through 5, in another hand.7Aaron Copland, manuscript inserts for “Appalachian Spring”, numbered 1 through 5, arranger unknown (Boosey & Hawkes, New York). The author can confirm that the handwriting in these inserts is not that of Eugene Lester, and it was not recognized by Clinton Nieweg as belonging to someone associated with the Philadelphia Orchestra (email correspondence with the author, March 25, 2016). That Copland wrote “No. 6” on his implies that he was at least aware of the other inserts, even if he wasn’t directly responsible for them. All six inserts are identified in table 2.
|2||All music from section B through section D|
In 1988, Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony recorded a version of Appalachian Spring using all six of these inserts.8Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring (complete), Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin, released in 1988, EMI CDC-7 49766 2. Although this recording, as well as the published score which corresponds to it,9Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha): Complete (New York, Boosey & Hawkes, 2010). is described as “complete,” and although the recording contains more of the ballet music than any other orchestral recording to date, there remain textual and structural differences from the original ballet, specifically sections E, H, J, and K, for which no orchestration exists. (A recording made by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in 2000 includes inserts 3, 5, and 6 but is not labeled “complete”.10Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor, Copland the Populist, Recorded May 1999, RCA 09026-635112.)
The new score for the “Ballet for Orchestra”, completed and premiered in 2016, grew out of a desire to finally have an orchestral version of the entire ballet, one which aligns precisely with the original thirteen-instrument score and which could be used to accompany Martha Graham’s choreography. (A note by Copland in his “No. 6” insert implies that this was something he did envision, even if he never brought the project to completion.11Copland, Appalachian Spring – INSERT, p. 2. Under the last five repeats of an ostinato measure, Copland wrote “* for dance accp’t only.”) At the request of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, composer and conductor David Newman orchestrated about fifty measures which did not appear in any previous orchestral version; he also adjusted some passages which needed to be brought back to their original key. The rest of the score is drawn from the orchestral suite and the six extant inserts.
The tempo markings in the new score follow those in the original ballet rather than those in the orchestral suite, which sometimes differ; the intent was to think of it as an orchestrated version of the ballet, rather than simply as the suite with inserts. The score also tacitly corrects some of Copland’s verbal indications of tempo relationships when they are clearly contradicted by metronome markings and other musical evidence.12For danced performances, the Graham Company has traditionally departed from the printed tempi in several places. An example of the Graham tempi can be found on the Criterion Collection’s DVD Martha Graham: Dance on Film, which reissues Nathan Kroll’s 1958 of Graham and her company dancing the ballet. An example of this occurs at m. 799 in the ballet (in section L), where Copland wrote “(^ = %) Twice as fast” in both manuscript sources;13Aaron Copland, Ballet, full score ms., Aaron Copland Collection (ARCO 55), p.80, and Copland, Appalachian Spring – INSERT, p. 14. however, the measures in question are also marked % = 112 while the previous measures are marked % = 96. (Also, ^ = % would actually be twice as slow, not twice as fast.) The new score opts for the marking “Poco più mosso, % = 112.”
The “Ballet for Orchestra” score also includes a table with commentary on places in the score which either differ from other versions of the piece, or which might differ between concert performances and those using Graham’s choreography. For example, the original ballet does not indicate mutes for the strings in the section which corresponds to rehearsal 19 in the suite, and Graham’s choreography does not use the two fermatas which follow rehearsal 6.
One of the most interesting textual changes occurs in the measures just before rehearsal 79 in the ballet (in the middle of section L). In the original ballet, these measures appear as shown in example 1. Note how Copland continues the G and B in the bass, so that the final chord is the stacked dominant-over-tonic sonority which is so emblematic of the piece. Yet in the same place in his “No. 6” insert for orchestra (ex. 2), Copland explicitly cuts off the bass notes in the third measure, so that the final chord is simply a major third, with none of the tension of the original—a big change in color and affect which also has implications for the choreography. The 2016 score follows Copland’s orchestral insert but makes note of the discrepancy in the table, in case conductors want to handle the passage differently.
Toward the end of the piece, a series of metronome markings provides a subtle indication of how the “meaning” of parts of the music can change on its trip from ballet to suite and back again. Table 3 shows original and revised markings at three places in the last section, after the final reprise of “Simple Gifts”. The markings in the third column appear in Copland’s manuscripts for both the original ballet and the orchestral suite, and they were used in the initial printing of the Boosey & Hawkes pocket score of the suite; however, in a copy of this score on which Copland wrote “Composers’ [sic] Corrected Copy”, he crossed out these markings and changed them to the ones in the fourth column.14Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha), B&H 9054, “Composers’ Corrected Copy” (New York, Boosey & Hawkes, 1945), Juilliard Manuscript Collection, The Juilliard School, New York. These revised markings were then used in later printings of the score.
|Ballet Rehearsal Number||Suite Rehearsal Number||Original Metronome Marking||Revised Metronome Marking|
|99||67||% = 96||% = 66|
|101||69||% = 104||% = 80|
|103||71||^ = 69||^ = 54|
The slower tempi reflect Copland’s experience conducting the music in its suite form and his thoughts about what sounded appropriate in that context. But in the ballet, the music in section L, which comes in the middle of the “Simple Gifts” variations, drastically changes the arc of the second half of the piece, making for a much more complex structure. In this context, the slower tempi arguably give the denouement too much dramatic weight. The “Ballet for Orchestra” score therefore returns to Copland’s original tempo markings in this section.
In addition to authorizing this newly-completed version of Appalachian Spring, the Copland Fund decided at the same time to withdraw from circulation the various “extended” versions of the suite (thirteen-instrument and orchestral versions with inserts), so that there are now just the ballet and the suite, each in thirteen-instrument and orchestral versions.15The original ballet has never been published, although it is available for rental from Boosey as copies of Copland’s manuscript score and of copyist’s parts. The author and Jennifer DeLapp-Birkett are currently editing a critical edition of this score for MUSA/A-R Editions, and engraved performance materials based on that edition will be made available by Boosey. It is hoped that the “Ballet for Orchestra” will allow concertgoers to experience Copland’s original conception of the work with the full orchestral textures that most audiences have become familiar with.
Aaron Copland Collection. Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Copland, Aaron. Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha). B&H 9054, corrected ed. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1945.
____. Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha). B&H 9054. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1945.
____. Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha). B&H 9054. “Composers’ [sic] Corrected Copy.” New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1945. Juilliard Manuscript Collection, The Juilliard School, New York. http://juilliardmanuscriptcollection.org/manuscript/appalachian-spring-ballet-martha/
____. Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha): Ballet for Orchestra. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 2016.
____. Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha): Complete. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 2010.
____. Appalachian Spring (Ballet for Martha): Suite, Version for 13 Instruments. B&H 19979. London: Boosey & Hawkes, 1972.
____. Appalachian Spring (Complete Ballet) and Billy the Kid (Ballet Suite). The Philadelphia Orchestra. Eugene Ormandy. Released in 1957. Columbia ML 5157, 33⅓ rpm.
____. Appalachian Spring (complete). Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Leonard Slatkin. Released in 1988. EMI CDC-7 49766 2, compact disc. .
____. Appalachian Spring: Ballet for Martha. Ozalid ms. Aaron Copland Collection (ARCO 55-A). Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
____. Appalachian Spring: INSERT – for complete ballet. Full score ms. Aaron Copland Collection (ARCO 55-A.1). Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
____. Ballet. Full score ms. Aaron Copland Collection (ARCO 55). Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
____. Manuscript inserts for “Appalachian Spring”, numbered 1 through 5. Arranger unknown. Boosey & Hawkes, New York.
Copland, Aaron and Vivian Perlis. Copland Since 1943. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Graham, Martha. Martha Graham: Dance on Film. New York: The Criterion Collection, 2007. 2 DVDs.
Pollock, Howard. Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1999.
Tilson Thomas, Michael, conductor. Copland the Populist. Recorded May 1999. RCA 09026-635112, compact disc. Includes Copland’s “Billy the Kid”, “Appalachian Spring”, and “Rodeo”.