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Letter from Home

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Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland (arr. Brian Belski)

General Info

Year: 1944 / 2017
Duration: c. 6:50
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Hal Leonard
Cost: Score and Parts - $85.00


Full Score
Flute I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Timpani Percussion II, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Glockenspiel
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Commissioned by Paul Whiteman and the American Broadcasting Company for a radio performance, Letter From Home was composed in late 1944 while Copland was in Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico and was often written by candlelight as there was no electricity in the small town. Over the course of his extended trip, he had received a series of letters from his sister, Laurine, with news of the sudden death of their mother (whose funeral Copland missed because of the delay in receiving the letter), their father’s decline into senility, and also stories of close family members serving in the armed forces during World War II.

In letters written on this trip to Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Berger, Copland said that he felt depressed, alone, and homesick. It is easy to understand how these feeling and events influenced Copland as he composed this piece.

The result was a seven-minute-long essay for small orchestra that possessed moments of subtle beauty and simple charm. It is a portrayal of the melancholy and pleasant nostalgia that one might feel upon receiving a distant communication from one’s family, sentiments with a timely and obvious relevance to the scores of American servicemen then stationed in distant lands. As the piece builds to its climax, one can experience the anguish that would accompany the disconnected realities of pleasant stories and well-wishes from the home front and the very tragic realities of war that would surround a soldier as he takes a break from the action to read his mail.

The very real pain that Copland was feeling following reading of his mother’s death, combined with his fond, sweet memories of her, lead to a true feeling of tragic loss and feeling of helplessness in the build to the climax. After a thoughtful pause, the anguish is gone and Copland’s return to using simple folk-ish melodies conveys a sense of wistfulness and reflection

- Program Note from University of Texas Symphony Band concert program, 2 May 2018


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State Ratings

  • Louisiana: V
  • Texas: V


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Works for Winds by This Composer