Billy the Kid is a 1938 ballet written by the American composer Aaron Copland on commission from Lincoln Kirstein. It was choreographed by Eugene Loring for Ballet Caravan. Along with Rodeo and Appalachian Spring, it is one of Copland’s most popular and widely performed pieces. The ballet is most famous for its incorporation of several cowboy tunes and American folk songs and, although built around the figure and the exploits of Billy the Kid, is not so much a biography of a notorious but peculiarly appealing desperado as it is a perception of the pioneer West, in which a figure such as Billy played a vivid role.
It was premiered on 16 October 1938 in Chicago by the Ballet Caravan Company, with pianists Arthur Gold and Walter Hendl performing a two-piano version of the score. The first performance of Billy the Kid in New York City occurred on 24 May 1939, with an orchestra conducted by Fritz Kitzinger.
Thinking like a mountain is a term coined by Aldo Leopold in his book A Sand County Almanac. In the section entitled “Sketches Here and There” Leopold discusses the thought process as a holistic view on where one stands in the entire ecosystem.
This work was premiered in October, 1994 by the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra; Roanoke, VA
Co-commissioned by: Shanghai Symphony (China), Billings Symphony (MT), Elgin Symphony (IL) and Explore Park (VA).
A selection of music from the show.
The Symphony No. 5 in D major/D minor, Op. 107, known as the Reformation, was composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1830 in honor of the 300th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. The Confession is a key document of Lutheranism and its Presentation to Emperor Charles V in June 1530 was a momentous event of the Protestant Reformation. This symphony was written for a full orchestra and was Mendelssohn’s second extended symphony. It was not published until 1868, 21 years after the composer’s death – hence its numbering as ‘5’. Although the symphony is not very frequently performed, it is better known today than it was during Mendelssohn’s lifetime.
Alexander Arutiunian’s Trumpet Concerto in A-flat major (1950) is the Armenian composer’s sixth major composition, a “virtuoso showpiece” composed in 1949-1950. According to J. Sundram, “it is an energetic powerhouse of Eastern European lyricism and harmonic textures”.
Arutiunian’s engaging and idiomatic trumpet concerto was “quickly assimilated into the standard trumpet repertoire worldwide, earning highest international praise from audiences, critics and performers”. In an interview with Allan Kozinn of The New York Times, Philip Smith, the principal trumpeter of the New York Philharmonic, observed that Arutunian’s Trumpet Concerto was frequently chosen as an audition piece at Juilliard. “One of the reasons this piece has become so popular…” Smith said, “is just that it’s a flashy piece. It has a very gypsyish, Russian, Armenian kind of sound, with very soulful, beautiful melodies and plenty of exciting rapid-tonguing kind of things.'” * Professor Anatoly Selyanin related in 2004, “In January I headed the jury of an American competition devoted to the Arutiunian trumpet concerto. 34 trumpeters played only this concerto.” Selyanin said that “even a dog”, if admitted to a performance, would recognise the musical structure at once and “know that in eight steps the concerto will be complete”…
Brahms composed his violin concerto in the last half 1878, close on the heels of his second symphony. He worked on it closely with the Hungarian violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim (in fact, Joachim also wrote the cadenza most often heard in contemporary performances).
While originally conceived in four movements, this concerto has three — an opening Allego non troppo, a middle movement Adagio, and the final Allegro giocoso. It is practically symphonic in scope, with alternating passages by the orchestra and soloist designed to fully explore the rich thematic material.
The first movement opens with a lengthy orchestral exposition which contains most of the thematic material used by both the soloist and orchestra — a calm rising and falling triad (faintly reminiscent of the second symphony); an intense rising chromatic passage played in unison; a mysterious and soft descending three-note pattern; and an agitated and jagged dotted-note passage setting up the first entrance of the solo violin. The violin picks up on these themes and expands them, both in fiery passagework and lush melodies. The lengthy cadenza is a masterwork by Joachim, a tour-de-force of virtuosity and melody.
The second movement Adagio begins with a hushed wind choir, featuring a notable oboe solo, which is echoed by the solo violin. After an impassioned development, the opening theme returns with a violin obbligato on top of the original wind theme. The last movement is a gypsy-like rondo, ending with the theme restated as a march.
After an early career as a child prodigy, the 22-year old Mozart traveled to Paris in 1778 seeking his musical fortune. While his job search was ultimately unsuccessful, he did compose a number of works that have come down to us, particularly his splendid 31st Symphony, the “Paris.”
This work was commissioned by the Concert Spirituel, the foremost performing organization in Paris, founded in 1725, during the reign of Louis XV. This was a great opportunity for the young composer. It gave him the chance to write a work for the largest orchestral forces he had encountered to date — a full complement of winds (including clarinets), brass, timpani and strings. Mozart was very much aware of the contemporary French taste in music and wrote his new symphony to meet the expectations of his audience.
It has just three movements (Allegro assai, Andante, Allegro); unlike German works, it did not include a minuet. Most striking, he incorporated the Parisian taste of starting a symphony with a “coup d’archet,” a rising passage played in unison by the entire orchestra. Not only did he start the symphony with it — he made it a recurring theme in the first movement! He also used this technique in the opening of the last movement.
Of note, Mozart composed two versions of the Andante middle movement. We are performing the version which is presumed to be the final one — a lyrical rondo-like movement in 6/8 time.