Colorado Symphony Makes Aaron Copland’s Ballets Their Own

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The Colorado Symphony

The Colorado Symphony's new disc is a vibrant take on a composer whose works are representative of the American West. The album includes two of Aaron Copland's best-known pieces, "Billy the Kid" and "Rodeo," presented in their original ballet form, rather than their more popular orchestral suites.

Image: Copland CSO disc
The Colorado Symphony's disc featuring Aaron Copland's "Billy the Kid" and "Rodeo," released in January 2016.

It's an appropriate choice for Andrew Litton, who became the symphony's music director in 2013. He recently began his tenure as music director of the New York City Ballet. (He's scaling back his Colorado Symphony duties, and serving now as principal guest conductor and artistic advisor.)

The Copland disc bursts with majestic chords played by the orchestra, as well as fun passages that allow Litton to show off his formidable keyboard skills on a honky-tonk piano.

Litton talked with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about the Copland album as well as a new disc of chamber music he recorded with violinist Yumi Hwang-Williams and horn player Michael Thornton of the Colorado Symphony.

Click the audio above to hear the interview. Highlights:

On discovering great moments in Copland's full ballet scores

"A lot of good music invariably winds up on the cutting room floor when you make a suite. And in the case especially of 'Billy the Kid' there's some stunning music that I was just so happy to discover. I had never done the full ballet before."

On Copland's influence as a composer

"He really created singlehandedly ... the sound of the West. You listen to this music and you realize this could be in any cowboy film."

On how the Colorado Symphopny musicians felt about the intense recording process

"I think they felt exhausted but exhilarated. ...There wasn't a single moment where we went, 'Oh well, that's good enough.' This was really always a case of, 'Wow, that's incredible.'"