Copland / Rodeo (Four Dance Episodes)





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Published on May 14, 2012

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes (1942)

00:00 - Buckaroo Holiday
08:02 - Corral Nocturne
11:27 - Saturday Night Waltz
15:33 - Hoe-Down

Peformed by Antal Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. Recorded by Mercury in 1957.

"The ballet Rodeo was danced by its choreographer, Agnes de Mille, and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1942 and soon became a standard work in the repertory of the Ballet Theatre and other companies. The orchestral suite from Rodeo, first performed at a Lewisohn Stadium summer concert in 1943, is made up of Four Dance Episodes.

It tells the story of a young Cowgirl who has always been a tomboy. Suddenly aware of men and romance for the first time, she seeks the attention of the Head Wrangler, her favorite, and the Champion Roper, trying to impress them with her prowess as a rider. After the sweeping opening, in which the Western scene is immediately set by Copland's 'open' harmony and exposition of rhythm, we find the Cowgirl in the corral with the men. They pay no attention to her cavorting, concentrating on their own riding and ranch work. They finally gallop off without even a parting glance, and she in turn rides away in anger and in tears. The exuberant movements of the men and the slightly awkward jogging of the girl in 'Buckaroo Holiday' are done to music deriving from the folk tune 'If He'd Be a Buckaroo By His Trade.' There is a pause in the rhythm of one of the measures of the tune, and Copland enhances its syncopated effect by making the pause longer. 'Sis Joe' is another authentic song in the episode; both it and 'Buckaroo' were taken from the collection Our Singing Country, by John A. and Alan Lomax.

The music in 'Corral Nocturne' is all Copland's own. Girls from the city, wearing pretty dresses instead of dungarees, have come to visit the Rancher's Daughter and to enjoy the Saturday night dance. Once more the Cowgirl is ignored; she cannot compete with feminine frills. A tranquil, somewhat sad mood pervades the scene as darkness falls. The couples move off, eager for the dance. The Cowgirl is left behind again.

Saturday night at the ranch is the time for dancing. The Cowgirl, still in dungarees and boots, sits alone, watching the festivities. The Roper and the Wrangler take pity on the wallflower and ask her to dance. She is too shy and misses her opportunity. As the 'Saturday Night Waltz' begins (the song 'Old Paint' is recognized), the Roper insists that the Cowgirl dance. She starts to, then sees the Wrangler dancing with the Rancher's Daughter. Jealous, confused, she stands seemingly paralyzed amidst the dancers. Annoyed, the Roper turns and leaves her. The Cowgirl runs from the dance floor.

The dancing reaches a climax in the hilarious 'Hoe-Down' (based on the old tune 'Bonyparte,' which Copland found in Traditional Music of America by Ira Forbes). Suddenly the Cowgirl reappears, this time wearing a party dress. She is vivacious, pretty, the center of attention. The Roper again asks her to dance. Though she would rather have the Wrangler, she wisely accepts the Roper and joins the others in the wild dancing as the ballet ends. It is interesting to note that whereas 'Buckaroo Holiday' is a rather complex symphonic movement, the 'Hoe-Down' is presented in an almost photographic copy of the original dance." - Eugene Bruck

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