23 March 2010

Disc 5 - Ballets vol 5

Playing this for the first time, I think, we begin with a discord of strings to open Scènes de Ballet. 

1. Introduction 0:52
2. Danse (corps de ballet & ballerine) 4:14
3. Pantomime 2:06
4. Pas de deux 2:49
5. Pantomime 0:31
6. Variations: danseur & ballerine 2:24
7. Pantomime 0:27
8. Danses (corps de ballet) 1:03
9. Apothéose 2:12

Played by the CBC Symphony Orchestra recorded 28 March 1963. This piece was written in 1944. After the attention-grabbing opening it's a perfectly nice piece of music.

Next is Bluebird - pas de deux played by the Columbia SO in 1964. Thanks to this site (new to me) I know it is an arrangement of part of Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty ballet made by Stravinsky in New York in 1941 for a small orchestra with prominent flute part in the adagio. Variation 1 is a brisk waltz. Variation 2 has the flute featuring again. And the coda sounds a little jazzy. A very short but very enjoyable piece, with clever instrumentation.

10. Adagio 2:00
11. Variation I 0:48
12. Variation II 0:41
13. Coda 1:37

The final work is The Fairy's Kiss, with the Columbia SO in 1965. Obviously this is the major work on the disc, written 1928, revised 1950. Apparently it's a homage to Tchaikovsky.

Scene 1
14. Prologue 8:14
Scene 2
15. A village fete 11:18
Scene 3
16. At the mill 6:55
17. Pas de deux 1:34
18. Adagio 3:02
19. Variation 1:21
20. Coda 2:11
21. Scene 4:49
Scene 4
22. Epilogue 6:16
The lullaby of the land beyond time and place

19 February 2010

Disc 3 - Ballets vol 3

I've been away from this blog for too long, so now, inspired by failing to recognise an extract on Only Connect, I'm looking at Les Noces, the first work on this disc.

The tracks are:

1. The Bride's Chamber 5:12
2. At the Bridegroom's 6:06
3. The Bride's Departure 3:11
4. The Wedding Feast 10:23

A starry line-up includes Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland on pianos. It was recorded in December 1959. The musical forces are four pianos and a percussion ensemble, as well the soloists and chorus.

I don't think I've ever heard this before. So these notes are naive and contemporaneous. The first scene is a strange mixture of the Russian style, with its simple driving rhythms, and serial melodies, which manage to evoke religious (presumably orthodox) chant. The second scene is similar, with a chorus of women's voices behind the bridegroom's songs. (The text is in English, but usually hard to make out.) In the third scene the use of percussion makes the music sound even more eastern. The final scene is again musically similar. There's not, on first hearing, much musical development here, although as I type that, there's some more relaxed ensemble and solo singing.

Now, I've looked up the wikipedia entry.  The work was premiered in 1923, so my mention of serialism is premature. The wikipedia notes the influence of the piece on minimalism - the use of ostinato percussion certainly prefigures Reich, for example.