- 1. Swan Lake Suite
- 2. Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
- 3. Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo
1. Swan Lake Suite
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Tchaikovsky's three great full-length ballets – The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake – still hold the stage as the zenith of classical ballet and mark him out as arguably the greatest composer for that medium. But his gifts for melody and orchestral colour also make his ballet scores immediately appealing as pure music.
Tchaikovsky completed his score for Swan Lake in 1876 to a commission from the Imperial Opera in Moscow. It was the first of the three and suffered a disastrous première. Thankfully, its reputation was rescued by triumphant performances after Tchaikovsky's death, in 1894 and 1905. For Swan Lake Tchaikovsky extended music written five years earlier for a children's show.
The ballet tells the story of Odette, a young woman transformed into a swan by an evil magician and able to live as a human only between the hours of midnight and dawn. One night, Prince Siegfried meets her in human form and falls in love with her. The ballet unfolds how, after many adventures and much plotting by the magician and his daughter Odile, the prince eventually breaks the magician's spell and married Odette. The ballet consists of 33 individual numbers, and many suites have been extracted from it. This selection contains the following five movements:
1. Scene. The oboe gives out the leitmotiv associated with Odette, and with the initial appearance of the swans flying overhead.
2. Waltz in A major – the second number of the first act.
3. The well-known Dance of the Cygnets.
4. Scene: Pas d'action from Act II. This movement, in the key of G flat, features solos for violin, 'cello and harp.
5. Hungarian Dance or Czardas, from Act III.
Programme notes provided by Euan Fairbairn, August 2010
2. Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
Ravel composed this music for solo piano in 1911 and orchestrated it the following year. It was first performed in the original piano version on 9th May, 1911, with the first concert performance of the orchestral version given on 15th February, 1914.
Franz Schubert was the first important composer to write the word ‘waltz’ on a score. By then the early 1820s – waltzing had lived down its reputation as a scandalous demonstration of excessive speed and intimate physical contact on the dance floor. Schubert knew the waltz (from the German walzen, to turn about) as a charming social dance, more upbeat than the traditional ländler. From his seat at the piano, Schubert observed the life that eluded him. (He improvised waltzes throughout the wedding festivities of his dear friend Leopold Kupelweiser, letting no one else near the piano; by a fortuitous stroke of fate, one of the tunes remembered by the bride and passed down through her family was sung to Richard Strauss, who arranged it for piano in 1943.) In the last years of his pitifully brief life, Schubert published many of his waltzes, including the thirty-four Valses sentimentales and twelve Valses nobles that Maurice Ravel would play some seventy-five years later.
Ravel had little in common with Schubert, aside from the slight stature that disqualified both of them from military service. Ravel had the social graces and the wardrobe to shine at parties, as well as the money to enjoy the fine life, and to collect antiques, mechanical toys, and endless bric-a-brac. This same sensibility encouraged a passion for Viennese waltzes at an early age. In 1911, after Ravel discovered Schubert’s piano waltzes, he decided to write his own set of noble and sentimental waltzes, taking his cue from the title and classic simplicity of his predecessor’s pieces. He dedicated the score to the “delicious and ageless pleasure of a useless occupation.”
The eight 'Valses nobles et sentimentales' for piano were first performed in May 1911, at a ‘Concert sans noms d’auteurs,’ a kind of concert quiz show not unlike Name That Tune, where audience members were asked to guess the composer of each piece on the program.
Ravel’s Valses were variously attributed to Kodály, Satie, Chopin, and Gounod, among others, although apparently no one suggested Schubert. However, according to Ravel, “a minute majority” correctly identified his music.
The following year, Ravel agreed to orchestrate the waltzes as a ballet score for which he supplied the title – 'Adelaide' – and the scenario – a series of fleeting romantic encounters during a party in Adelaide’s Paris salon. 'Adelaide' is no longer staged, but Ravel’s music, newly attired in shimmering orchestral colours, quickly found a home in concert halls.
1. Modéré, très franc (G major)
2. Assez lent, avec une expression intense (G minor)
3. Modéré (E minor)
4. Assez animé (A major)
5. Presque lent, dans un sentiment intime (E major)
6. Vif (C major)
7. Moins vif (C major/A major)
8. Épilogue. Lent (G major)
Notes by Phillip Huscher, program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Reprinted with permission. © 2020 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association
3. Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo
Aaron Copland (1900 – 1990)
The disaster of Pearl Harbour and America's entry into the Second World War in 1942 brought about a great heightening of the country’s national consciousness. Aaron Copland reacted immediately with his Lincoln Portrait and Fanfare for the Common Man and thereby became further established as one of America's leading composers. More mundane aspects of American life were portrayed in such works as the ballet Rodeo, commissioned in 1942 by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. With choreography by Agnes de Mille, it received its first performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, on 16 October of the same year.
The traditional Western Saturday afternoon rodeo sets the scene for the ballet, sub-titled The Courting at Burnt Ranch, and it deals with woman's age-old problem: how to catch a suitable man. The young cowgirl has always been a tom-boy and when she becomes aware of the opposite sex tries to impress the Head Wrangler and the Champion Roper with her prowess as a rider. She is left in tears as both men ride away quite unaffected by such advances. In contrast, when a group of girls from the village arrive dressed in party frocks, they soon attract the men and the young cowgirl learns that she must divest herself of riding boots and dungarees and follow suit. She turns up in the middle of the evening dance, immediately attracts the men's attention and triumphantly takes the Roper as her partner.
From the ballet Copland extracted the Four Dance Episodes as an orchestral suite, omitting only five minutes of the full score. Three of the Episodes were performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, in May 1943, but the first complete performance was given by the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, under Alexander Smallens, in the Lewisohn Stadium, New York, in June 1943.
A number of traditional tunes are used in the score and presented with Copland's inimitable treatment. Twenty-three bars of vamping precede the first, Sis Joe, and then we hear If he’d be a buckaroo by his trade, both tunes coming from the Lomax collection, Our Singing Country. The second has a simple, ragtime accompaniment with the humorous punctuation of silent bars, and with a brusque and satirical character pokes masculine fun at the sad figure of the cowgirl. Buckaroo is a corruption of the Spanish word for cowboy, vaquero.
After her rejection by the cowboys the isolation of the heroine is mirrored in the contrasting sadness of Corral Nocturne. No folk tunes are quoted here, but the music is typical of Copland's pastoral vein. The strings, playing open notes, imitate the fiddle tuning up as Saturday Night Waltz begins. In slow tempo it includes references to the traditional song Goodbye Old Paint.
Hoe Down is based on the tune Bonyparte which Copland found in Ira Ford's Music of America. Despite its apparent American pedigree, the title of the tune suggests that its origin must have been in Europe. There is another Old World connection in the piece with a brief reference to the Scottish tune McLeod's Reel, but the jazzy treatment of the material makes the whole movement distinctly New World.
1. Buckaroo Holiday
2. Corral Nocturne
3. Saturday Night Waltz
4. Hoe Down
Programme notes provided by John Dalton, July 2010
Esther Morris *
Rowan Hollis *
Issie Raisin - Moss
Clare Bhabra - 1st Violin
Claire Seedhouse - 2nd Violin
Paul Skinner - Cello
Matt Barks - Double Bass
Roisin Hickey - Harp
Nicola Popplewell - Woodwind
Ian Taylor - Brass
Robert Parker - French Horn
Jay Robinson - Percussion
NYO would like to thank the Danny Morris Memorial Trust Fund for their support.
Peter Horril Scholarship
We are very grateful to the Horril family for their donation in memory of Peter Horril. Peter was a local schoolmaster and music lover.
Friends of NYO
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Mr & Mrs A Foster
Mr R Hammond
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Professor S & Mrs H Hodkinson
Mrs F Keetley
Mrs Emily Kenefeck
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Mr & Mrs R Nicolle
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Prof & Dr Polnay
Mr & Mrs K Pryer
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Drs A & M D Smith
Mr H & Mrs E Watkinson
French Horn Chair - In memory of Don and Betty Adamson
Double Bass Chair - In memory of Corin Long and Pam Thomas