Aaron Copland: Buckaroo Holiday


Composed as part of the 1942 ballet Rodeo, this vivacious hoe-down is full of American spirit. Based on the theme from the first bar of William H. Stepp’s interpretation of the folk tune Bonaparte’s Retreat, the famous melody that Copland put together has remained one his most beloved works. The music transports you to the world of cowboys and the American West, with a number of different melodies being introduced in Buckaroo Holiday.

The Music

Opening with a bold and bouncy theme, Buckaroo Holiday opens the ballet. The syncopated theme acts as the base for this piece, with parts of the melody resurfacing both later in the piece and during the ballet. A quiet theme soon sets in, which is primarily led by melodic solos from the woodwind section. This theme is representative of the lone cowgirl who is looking for affection from the Head Wrangler. 

A driven theme then takes over, which is accompanied by strong off-beats from the brass and bassoons. Copland’s full-bodied sound is used to the max here as the orchestra unite for strong tutti passages. A canon begins after the main theme is played by the soloists. This creates a huge orchestral sound that keeps pushing the tempo forward. A comedic trombone solo begins, with a light accompaniment provided by the strings. 

Copland writes a theme based on the tune ‘If He’d Be a Buckaroo’, which is played by a number of soloists including a trumpet and piccolo flute. As the main sections begin to tear apart, Copland revisits each one and adds to them, either by adding instrumentation or changing rhythms. The ending is bombastic, with bouncy timpani leading the rhythm to the final tutti chords that end the piece triumphantly. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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