This is day 22 in my 2007 Advent Calendar. This year, I’m
giving the story behind some of the music that I’ve collected for
ballet classes. All the pieces are on Studio Series Vol. 4 published by RAD.
This is a prime example. Instead of just lumbering from one oom-pah to another, this gorgeous, magical variation writes its tune in the air like sparklers swirled by invisible hands on firework night. It’s so rhythmical and stylishly articulated, you can’t help but feel impelled to do things on the music (like a rond de jambe en l’air or two, for example). And yet the metre is all implied by the rhythmic gesture, not by chords which serve the function only of establishing metre (i.e. an ‘oom-pah-pah’). It makes your average waltz look like a building where the builders never turned up to take the scaffolding away.
But I have to own up that Coppélia is also a score that I love unconditionally and eternally, as it was one of the first records I ever heard as a child. I could listen to it and play it every day for the rest of my life, and I wouldn’t tire of it. The mazurka happened to be in my Standard Album of ballet tunes as a child, and I played it so many times that I can still play it from start to finish from memory today. In Music & Movement at school, we had to jiggle around being washing machines to the ‘musique des automates’ in Act II, which I thought (and still think: I can’t help it) was the most thrilling and magical music I’d ever heard, even though it was coming out of a mono speaker on the school radio at 11 o’clock in the morning. There were fleeting chords in the Dawn solo which seemed to express everything I wanted in the world at that age, and if I had to choose eight chords to take with me on Desert Island Chords, I’d be happy if six of them came from this piece.