In 1942, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo commissioned the choreographer Agnes de Mille to create a ballet for its 1942-43 season. De Mille came up with a concept for a ballet based on a western theme: a gathering of cowboys and ranch hands at a Saturday afternoon rodeo, together with neighbors and a lonely cowgirl.

She chose Aaron Copland, already a recognized master of the American idiom, to write the music.

The ballet was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera that same year and was an instant hit. A few years later Copland fashioned the ballet music into an orchestral suite. The suite is in four movements: Buckaroo Holiday, Corral Nocturne, Saturday Night Waltz, and Hoe-Down.

Copland used a number of American folk tunes in Rodeo. These include “If He’d be a Buckaroo” and “Sis Joe” in the opening lively Buckaroo Holiday; “Goodbye, Old Paint” in the Saturday Night Waltz; and “Bonaparte’s Retreat” and “McLeod’s Reel” in the exuberant Hoe-Down.

Rodeo, The suite from Aaron Copland's 1942 ballet score.
By Aaron Copland
Composed in 1942