Aaron Copland: Rodeo

Choreographer Cecil B. DeMille’s niece Agnes cut her teeth with Marie Rambert’s ballet company in England.

It was at the American Ballet Theatre, though, that she made her big mark, both in terms of commissioning and dancing. However, she made her name from this 1942 commission from Aaron Copland – telling the story of a cowgirl who comes to realise the importance of femininity in her role – for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Indeed, luckily for her, Messrs Rodgers and Hammerstein were at the premiere of Rodeo, and asked her to provide the choreography for their next project, entitled Oklahoma!

What is less well known about the Rodeo score is that Copland’s role was more that of arranger than composer. Here he shows his genius for orchestration, using several familiar American folk melodies, with which his 1942 audience would certainly have been more familiar, such as the railroad tune ‘Sis Joe’, the cowboy song ‘If He’d be a Buckaroo’ and, most notably, in the Hoe Down section, an instrumental classic, 'McLeod’s Reel'. Even less well known is the fact that Agnes DeMille had chosen a number of the folk tunes herself before Copland arrived on the scene.

Recommended Recording

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra; Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor). RCA: 09026635112.