Performance Review: Copland’s Rodeo

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Performance Review: Copland’s Rodeo

The Jacksonville Symphony presented “Copland’s Rodeo” this weekend, a generous and energetic program featuring four works by American and Mexican composers under the baton of guest conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto.

Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes by Aaron Copland

Opening the evening was the Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes by Aaron Copland.  Extracted from the 1942 ballet Rodeo, these pieces are characterized by driving energy, lyricism and a whimsical sense of humor that conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto exploited to the fullest. The orchestra was highly engaged and their visceral enjoyment in playing this music immediately spread to the rapt audience. A highlight for me was the more introspective third movement, “Saturday Night Waltz,” in which the winds brought out the melodies with ethereal lyricism.

Interested in learning more? Explore a full set of Program Notes.

Symphony No. 2, “Sinfonía india” by Carlos Chávez

Next on offer was Carlos Chávez’s Symphony No. 2, “Sinfonía india.” The name derives from the fact that the composer sought inspiration from the musical traditions of various indigenous peoples of Mexico. Though short in length, this symphony was notable for its complex rhythms and unorthodox instrumentation, supplemented by several percussion instruments that are not typically heard in a symphony orchestra. As Mr. Prieto noted at the outset, Aaron Copland and Carlos Chávez were close friends and colleagues, and my ear definitely picked up on some harmonic and melodic parallels between the two composers.

Symphony No. 3 in C minor by Florence Price

Following intermission, the audience was treated to Florence Beatrice Price’s Symphony No. 3 in C minor. Price was the first African American woman to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra. Her Symphony No. 3 evidences a unique, yet unmistakably American, musical voice. One could detect echoes of southern spirituals and Appalachian melodies throughout, and for a brief moment here and there I even picked up a whiff of George Gershwin. As with the other pieces on the evening’s program, energetic dance rhythms were prominent, particularly in the final two movements. Price was a contemporary of both Copland and Chávez, and this performance clearly left the audience eager to hear more from this unduly neglected composer.

Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez

Wrapping up the evening was Danzón No. 2 by contemporary Mexican composer Arturo Márquez. Before beginning, Mr. Prieto noted that a Danzón is a highly stylized dance form that originated in Cuba in the 19th century. This piece was characterized by extremely colorful orchestration combined with an infectious rhythmic ostinato that made it nearly impossible to not tap your feet. Once again, the fun the musicians were having performing this music was clear to all.

“Copland’s Rodeo” was a fresh and invigorating welcome to the New Year. This was some of the most well-conceived programming I’ve yet seen at the Jacksonville Symphony and showed how much wonderful music there is to be heard when one is willing to venture just a bit outside of the sometimes overly-familiar repertoire symphony audiences are so accustomed to. Throughout the concert, Mr. Prieto engaged with the audience several times, speaking about the music with a spirited wit and sense of humor that was as informative as it was endearing. “Copland’s Rodeo” painted a convincingly authentic musical portrait of the North American continent as a whole.

Tim Tuller is the Canon for Music at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jacksonville, Florida. Tuller formerly wrote for the Florida Times-Union as the classical music reviewer. 

Watch, Listen and Read

Interested in joining the Jacksonville Symphony for another innovative and engaging season? Please visit our 2022/23 Season page to learn more about the upcoming season programming. Additional content for this performance includes a full set of Program Notes. Looking for more content? Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to watch concert archives, interviews, behind the scenes content and more.

The Jacksonville Symphony would like to give special thanks to Florida Blue for sponsoring the Classical Series. Additional thanks are given to Tim Tuller for attending the performance and writing this performance review: Copland’s Rodeo.

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