The renowned jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman asked Copland to compose a work for him. The result was a two-movement concerto: the first section is one of Copland's most lyrical and melodious creations; the second is in an all-out jazzy style replete with a glissando or jazz "smear" at the end. The movements are connected by a cadenza for the soloist. Benny Goodman said in an interview, "I always felt good about that commission and about playing the Concerto with Aaron conducting." Since then, many of the foremost clarinetists worldwide have performed the piece.
-Vivian Perlis, 1998