View Full Version : OTF - Cowboy Classics

January 30th, 2014, 01:37 AM
For today's OTF, we pick from our podcast vault:


The popular perception of the Western is a story that centers on the life of a semi-nomadic wanderer, usually a cowboy or a gunfighter. The Western depicts a society organized around codes of honor and personal, direct or private justice (such as the feud), rather than one organized around rationalistic, abstract law, in which social order is maintained predominately through relatively impersonal institutions.

The cowboy genre is well-engrained in North American cinema and television, and it’s pretty easy to find fine examples of this by the likes of John Williams, Elmer Bernstein and other well-travelled film and TV score composers. I also sprinkled in some Ennio Morricone, who scored most (if not all) of Sergio Leone’s string of made-in-Italy “Spaghetti” westerns.

Aaron Copland, who is as well-known for his film work as he is for his concert and stage work, wrote many pieces that fall within this genre. His music for The Red Pony (1949) and The Tender Land (1954) come to mind, but most notably two ballets: Billy the Kid (1938) for Eugene Loring and for Agnes De Mille, the one I chose - Rodeo (1942).

Calixa Lavallée, composer of the music for O Canada, provides a cute "indian march", set for wind band by John Beckwith.

A love triangle between the Sheriff, the outlaw and the lovely saloon keeper – that seems to be the common plot of every B-western coming out of Hollywood. But it’s also the plot of a play written in 1905 by David Belasco, who also penned Madame Butterfly in 1900. Same as for Butterly, the play, The Girl of the Golden West, was also adapted into an opera by Giacomo Puccini and was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1910 under its Italian name La fanciulla del West. One might call this one the first ever Spaghetti Western…

The work is a very strong example of the verissimo style of the late 19th-early 20thcentury Italian opera, though it doesn’t have a lot of stand-out “hit arias” like other Puccini operas. The one exception is a two-minute aria mid-way into the third act. The entire final act from a 1958 recording featuring Mario del Monaco and Renata Tebaldi is featured in the podcast. The synopsis of the third act (from the Metropolitan Opera website) is as follows:

Again on the run from [Sheriff] Rance and his men, [Dick Johnson] is eventually captured in the forest. As the miners prepare to hang him, Johnson asks for one last mercy—that Minnie believe him free and far away (“Ch'ella mì creda [libero e lontano]” [Let her believe I’m far away and free]). Rance is enraged, but the men hesitate. At that moment, Minnie rides in, wielding a pistol. When her pleas to spare Johnson prove fruitless, she reminds the men how much they owe her. The miners finally give in and release Johnson. He and Minnie ride away to start a new life together.

If you want to follow along, the libretto in Italian is available at this location (Act III starts at page 42):

The last selection on our podcast is taken from the Blues Brothers soundtrack, the unforgettable rendition of the theme from Rawhide at Bob's Country Bunker, the inside joke that the composer is a Ukrainian-born Jew being lost on the crowd at the cowboy bar. The scene is "classic"


John WILLIAMS (*1932)
Theme from The Cowboys (1972)
Orlando Pops Orchestra
Andrew Lane, conducting

Elmer BERNSTEIN (1922-2004)
Theme from The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Cincinnati Pops
Erich Kunzel, conducting

Ennio MORRICONE (*1928)
Man With a Harmonica from C'era una volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West) (1968)
(Uncredited soloist and orchestra)
Ennio Morricone, conducting

Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Rodeo (1942) [Complete ballet]
Saint-Louis Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, conducting

David ROSE (1910-1990)
Theme from Bonanza (1959)
(Uncredited performers)

Calixa LAVALLÉE (1842 –1891)
Marche indienne ('Military March,' no. 6 from The Indian Question Settled at Last). (1891)
(Orch: John Beckwith, ca. 1991):
The Hannaford Street Silver Band
Stephen Chenette, conducting

Ferde GROFÉ (1892-1972)
“On the Trail” from Grand Canyon Suite (1931)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Antal Dorati, conducting

Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Act III from La Fanciulla del West (The Girl from the Golden West) (1910)
Renata Tebaldi, soprano
Mario Del Monaco, tenor
Cornell MacNeil, bass
Rome Santa Cecilia Academy Chorus, and Orchestra
Franco Capuana, conducting

Dimitri TIOMKIN (1894-1979)
Theme from Rawhide (1959)
The Blues Brothers Band
Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, vocalists

Podcast URL: https://archive.org/details/CowboyClassics