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Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring Suite

Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring Suite

Appalachian Spring Suite (1943-44), composed by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) The Boston Conservatory at Berklee Conductors' Orchestra Michael Bednarsky, conductor American composer Aaron Copland wrote Appalachian Spring as a ballet for the choreographer Martha Graham and her ballet company. When the ballet was first performed in 1944 in Washington D.C., the score called for only thirteen instruments due to space restrictions in the theater’s pit. A year later, Copland set out to arrange the ballet music so that it could be performed by a full symphony orchestra in a concert setting. This led to the Suite, which contains much of the same musical material as the ballet, but subtracts the parts of the ballet where choreography is the main focus. The ballet is set in rural Pennsylvania (Graham’s childhood home), where a soon-to-be-married couple celebrate their hopeful future. The music opens with a slow introduction of each character, which later bursts into a flurry of excitement. The couple exhibits exuberant joy for their new lives together. The jaunty music is superimposed with a chorale exhibiting a religious tone. As the music becomes more disjointed and the harmonies turn to the minor mode, the couple begins to express worry for problems that might lie ahead. A preacher and his followers enter, accompanied with an uplifting folk-like tune. Additionally, an older neighbor offers support based on experience. As the couple heeds encouragement, the mother continues to exhibit both joy and anxiousness over the idea of becoming a mother. The couple nonetheless continue on with their lives and return to their daily household activities. At this point, the music borrows from a Shaker melody, “Simple Gifts.” Several variations of the tune ensue, ultimately resulting in a final, insistent statement from the entire orchestra. The music immediately subdues and returns to a prayer-like section that is reminiscent of the opening music. The couple now feels confident in their path forward and are “left quiet and strong in their new house.” Copland’s music is known for its tremendous depiction of American landscapes and the American pioneer spirit. This is so much so that Copland is often regarded as the definer of American music. One quality that enables this American sound is Copland’s wide spacing of chords, which stretches from the bottom to top in the orchestra’s range. Another unique quality of this music are the folk-like elements; the music is melodically and harmonically simple, yet there is a sense of strength behind these simple, sometimes understated melodies. Michael Bednarsky is an American orchestral conductor of classical and contemporary music. Bednarsky was the Music Director of the Buckeye Philharmonic Orchestra (Columbus, OH) during the 2017-2018 season. Prior to this appointment, Bednarsky served as the orchestra’s Associate Conductor from 2015-2017. During this tenure, Bednarsky led the orchestra through a period of substantial growth. As an advocate of new music, Bednarsky organized a campaign to fund the orchestra’s first-ever commission. This successful campaign resulted in the completion of Echoes of Scarlet by Jason Wyse (Instructor of Music, Malone University). Bednarsky has most recently collaborated with composer Andrew Maxfield on a new work for brass ensemble. As a music educator, Bednarsky has worked with numerous middle and high school bands as a guest clinician for contest preparations and summer music camps. Bednarsky is currently a Master’s candidate at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where he studies with Maestro Bruce Hangen. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University, where he received the Kinnan Music Education Award and Excellence in Ensembles and Conducting Award.
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