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.