The ballet score Appalachian Spring was composed in 1943 and 1944 for Martha Graham and her dance company, who gave the premiere October 30, 1944 at the Library of Congress’s Coolidge Auditorium. Copland scored the ballet for thirteen instruments, the largest number that could comfortably fit into the pit.
In 1945, he extracted a suite from the ballet, cutting nearly ten minutes of music from the thirty-minute ballet, and scoring it for full-sized orchestra. In addition to a single large cut of about eight minutes, the suite presents the famous “Simple Gifts” variations in a different order, with some variations in a different key as well. For decades, inconsistent nomenclature caused confusion about the exact musical contents of the ballet vs. the suite. A “complete suite” emerged in the 1950s which restored the longest cut but left the changes to the variations and some other cuts in place. Thus, many recordings are incorrectly described as the “complete” ballet when in fact they do not match the 1944 ballet choreography. In 2014, the Copland estate reevaluated the available performance materials, withdrew two from circulation, and re-issued four. Figure 1 below shows the six basic versions of Appalachian Spring. The Extended Suite versions (EC and EO) have been withdrawn. The currently authorized and available versions are the Ballet and Suite versions: BC, BO, SC, and SO.
Set and cast for the first production of Appalachian Spring. Left to right: Martha Graham, May O' Donnell, the four followers, Merce Cunningham (back to camera), Erick Hawkins, 1944 (Photo: Library of Congress)
Martha Graham and Erick Hawkins, Appalachian Spring, 1944 (Photo: Arnold Eagle)
Appalachian Spring, 1945 (Photo: Arnold Eagle)
Merce Cunningham in Appalachian Spring, Martha Graham Company, 1945 (Photo: Arnold Eagle)
Erick Hawkins as the Husbandman in the first production of Appalachian Spring, 1944 (Photo: Library of Congress)
Martha Graham and Erick Hawkins, Appalachian Spring, 1944 (Photo: Library of Congress)
May O'Donnell as the Mother in the first production of Appalachian Spring, 1944 (Photo: Library of Congress)
Martha Graham and Aaron Copland at first performance of Appalachian Spring, 1944 (Photo: Library of Congress)
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