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A year of ballet playing cards #44: A long, jolly polka/galop from Le Diable à quatre (5d)

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galop for ballet class by Adam

Click to download the score of this galop for ballet class (pdf)

Something about this galop for ballet class is so similar to a piece by Shostakovich (I think it’s in Moskva Cheremushki) that if I’d heard snatches of this on the radio, I would have sworn it was by him, not Adam. That sold it to me, because sometimes you need something long and jolly for those fast exercises at the barre, and to be honest, nothing beats an accented  G flat in the middle of a sea of B flat major: it’s the musical equivalent of a whoopee cushion, and I expect composers will still be doing it a hundred years from now when they want a laugh at the Proms. In the clip below, it begins at 51:00 – clicking on it should take you there automatically, but if it doesn’t, drag the slider to that time.

Recipe for a galop for ballet class: 95% diatonic blandness, and 5% fun

To me this is a text-book example of how to be cheeky, funny, good-humoured, or call it what you will, in music. It requires 95% diatonic blandness spiked by the occasional funny face poking out from behind a doorway (accented wrong notes, or syncopations), sudden changes of direction (key or dynamics, but not at the same time  – less is more), mock-seriousness (minor keys), sleight of hand (repeating the same thing so many times you know what’s coming next – and then changing the ending), and then – how can I put this? – there even seems to be a little bit of national stereotyping going on, when a krakowiak suddenly appears just when you thought the whole world was a galop. This music has to be at a silly tempo – not show-off speed, but just slightly too fast.  I reckon about 121 bpm should do it. Too slow and it’ll sound leaden, too fast and it’ll just sound like showing off. Fast is rarely funny, unless it’s this kind of fast (thank you Gavin Sutherland for drawing my attention to it), the Circus Galop by Marc André Hamelin for player piano:

A year of ballet playing cards #43: A csárdás-like Nocturne by Schubert (D4)

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Schubert Notturno for piano solo: click to download the free score

Schubert Notturno for piano solo – click to download the file

A csárdás by any other name, almost

I didn’t mean to keep finding csárdáses everywhere, it just seems to have happened. I don’t know if anyone else would call this Schubert Notturno (nocturne) a csárdás, but even if it isn’t, it fills that slot in class where a csárdás can work really well: battements fondus, or one of those slightly ceremonial walky adages. The opening chords sound like the Raymonda principal girl variation, or the Monti Csárdás, which is how I made the connection. That introduction makes the meter indubitably a four of some kind. That lack of ambiguity is quite rare in introductions.

This is a piece that you’ll probably only find a use for once a year, but when you do, it’ll be gorgeous. It has obsessed me all week, the first 16 bars playing on repeat in my head everywhere, like a meditation (I can do without hearing the rest of it, that’s how obsessional I’ve become about it).  I first came across it when Christopher Hampson used it for a pas de deux for Thomas Edur and Agnes Oaks. At the time, it never occurred to me to use it for class, probably as I’ve explained before, slow music and me don’t really get on.

The importance of the turnaround – even in a Schubert notturno

It has a lot of things that are hard to find: restful yet with a forward drive, grandeur without being bombastic, dramatic but relatively simple and concise, and – this is the really big one – it has a lot of action at the end of the bar. Now, they teach you in music classes that 4/4 goes 2 3 4 2 3 4, with a fat accent on the beginning of the bar. What they don’t tell you, is that most of the music that we like has a lot going on at the end, not just the beginning of bars or phrases: think of the “turnaround” at the end of a phrase in a song, the dramatic drum solo announcing  the EastEnders theme, the famous drum fill In the Air Tonight – they all happen at the end of a phrase, anticipating the big tune. Although “1” has an accent, think about the energy you invest in the “8” when you count “5, 6, 7, 8” into an exercise.

One of the problems of finding music for fondus is that you need something that has equal energy in the second half of the bar as in the first, rather than a dead, flaccid sink after the initial accent while you wait for the next bar to come along. This nocturne by Schubert is almost the opposite of that, and hence great for fondu exercises, I think: there’s energy and drive right on what is supposed to be the weakest beat of the bar (supposed to be, but don’t believe everything they tell you in theory classes, unless those theory classes are taken by top-notch theorists – see my Meter & Rhythm Page for some names to look out for).

Cutting options

The theme is beautiful, but it doesn’t resolve conveniently for class. I’ve given several options for ending it. The more dramatic version – using the coda – retains more of Schubert’s composition, but it might be just a bit too dramatic, and in addition, the rhythmic flow changes in a way that might work for some exercises, but not all. Handle with care. In the second part, I’ve put the violin pizzicato chords up an octave to get them out of the way of the tune, and so make it easier to differentiate between tune and accompaniment. I’ve also put in more notes than you might want to play, but I prefer to have them there so you can choose what to play and what to leave out.

A year of ballet playing cards #42: Diable à Quatre male variation – big 2/4 jumpy thing (D3)

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Male solo from Diable à quatre piano score: a big two for allegro

The male solo from Diable à quatre: an example of a “big two for allegro”

3_of_diamonds

Click here to download the score of Diable à Quatre male variation  or click the score above. There’s the full solo (pages 1-2) then on page 3, an adaptation for class – it’s not entirely even, and there’s a lot of waffle at the end.

See here for more about my “A year of Ballet Playing Cards”

One of my “ballet problems” is finding a big two for allegro: music for those medium/big allegros in 2/4 like sissonnes (see previous post on the “dreaded 2/4 sissonne“). I suppose the canonical version is the male “Black Swan” variation.  In this post I’ve solved two problems at once – I’ve found a piece of music that does exactly what I want, and  settled something (in part, at least) that’s been nagging at me for over a decade.

The search for Diable à quatre

It’s about 14 years ago that I got a phone call from Dance Books in the middle of a summer afternoon, saying that they’d got Yosvani Ramos in the shop:  he wanted to know if they’d got the music to Diable à Quatre. They didn’t, so they put him on the phone to me.  I was so pleased to be asked, and so wanted to help, but I couldn’t. It’s bugged me ever since, because it ought to be out there somewhere, but it doesn’t seem to be, even though I’ve been checking all the sources I can think of.

So, like the Black Swan solo issue, if you want something done, do it yourself: I set about finding a youtube clip, and transcribed the male solo –  both in deference to Yosvani since he put me onto the idea in the first place, and because it’s the right kind of music.  What’s really good fun about having stuff like this in your repertoire is to play it for class, and see who recognises it.  For me, there’s nothing so gratifying as when someone turns round and says “Oh that’s such and such a piece, isn’t it?” when you’ve played one of your favourite ballet musical shibboleths.

You can see a version of the solo in the clip below – it starts at 8.40 – but it should start there automatically if you click on the video. If you know who the dancer is in the clip, let me know (or put it in the comments on Youtube).

Other examples of the big two for allegro

I’ve found it hard not to mix this up with one of Medora’s solos in Le Corsaire (not one of those that’s in the ENB production, but it’s in the Corsaire piano score  at IMLSP, on page 20, in A flat). It’s in the same kind of tempo and style, but it also has the same way of starting with a dotted rhythm, and finishing up in a scale of triplets:

corsaire

phrase ending of Medora solo from “Le Corsaire” by Adam – from IMSLP, on page 20

Then that got me thinking that the rhythm of the first line is almost identical to the Polichinelles music in Drigo’s Les Millions d’Arlequin (Harlequinada) on page 80 (No. 11). Put these three solos (Corsaire, Harlequinada and Diable à Quatre) and you can begin to see a model emerging.

harlequinade-1

 

Here’s a clip from that section of  Harlequinada performed at the Whitehouse in 1979 (starts at 4:41 if the clip doesn’t start there automatically).

Recordings of Diable à quatre

If you want a recording, hurry: as of today there are only three second-hand ones left at Amazon.co.uk (at £6.96). It was recorded by Richard Bonynge and the LSO, but this album wasn’t included in the Decca 10-CD re-release.

A year of ballet playing cards #41: A juicy csárdás – Ünneplö (“Festive”) by Rózsavölgyi (D2)

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Click this picture of the csárdás to download the file

Rózsavölgyi’s csárdás “Ünneplö”, rewritten in 4/8 – I like it better this way, but it’s too late now. Click the picture to download the file.

Diamonds: a set of pieces in 4: See the Year of Ballet Playing Cards information page

2_of_diamondsAt the end of the previous post, I said I regretted not transcribing Mark Rózsavölgyi‘s “Festive,” which I discovered right at the last moment, while I was trying to find out who wrote the tune that Liszt borrowed for his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6. The music has haunted me literally for the whole week since, morning, noon and night, and so I have transcribed it for week 2 of the Year of Ballet Playing Cards. 


I’ve transcribed it because I fell in love with the music at first hearing, but also because it happens to be very useful for all kinds of things in ballet class:  that kind of slow, juicy, stretchy tendu exercise where nothing seems to be quite slow enough; a fondu that has been set on a very slow habañera/tango; an adage.

What to play for a slow, warm-up tendu? Try a csárdás for a change

I default to jazz standards for this, or a slow tango/habañera type,  but always wish I had a few other things in reserve. Those styles will do, but they require some fixing and a lot of control to keep them in the right tempo area, the  styles aren’t to every teacher’s taste. What’s great about this piece is that it’s really slow, but there’s a kind of cat’s cradle of notes between the beats that keep a rhythmic tension going, and keep a sense of beat for both you and the dancers. 

Picture of cat's cradle

A cat’s cradle: for me, a metaphor for the kind of springy-tension that you need between beats in when playing for some ballet exercises. Source: wikicommons

One of the hardest things to do is to play very slowly without any intermediate beats, but this plays itself. Slow exercises often have little bits of detail in them that need an occasional fine-tuning of the beat, so music like this which has several levels of metre at once is the equivalent of making sure you’ve got plenty of change for the parking meter (no pun intended) as well as a bundle of notes for your larger purchases.

A juicy csárdás by any other name…

The term that comes instantly to mind for this music is “Juicy csárdás.” I don’t think it is really a csárdás, but I’m just calling it that as a placeholder for something slow and Hungarian. Why juicy? Not sure, but I think it’s because you sort of squeeze the notes out between the beats, you can almost feel a productive tension as you play, as if you’re playing the accordion. I couldn’t think of a tempo/expression word to put at the beginning, but when I played it for class yesterday, the teacher smiled and said, “I like that – moodily East European” and that summed it up. I won’t risk offending moody East Europeans by putting it on the score, but it just goes to show how easily music conveys culturally sedimented meanings. For more on that, see Marina Frolova-Walker’s wonderful article on why we think all Russian music is sad   .

Only when I’d nearly finished did I realise that I should have notated it in 4/8 so that you could see the longer lines, and how beats belong together. The image at the top of this post will give you the idea. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to redo the whole thing (I know there’s a plug-in in Sibelius for this, but it doesn’t copy anything except notes and articulations, so it would have taken ages to edit).

See also

References

Frolova-Walker, M. (2000). “All Russian Music is So Sad”: Two Constructions of the Russian Soul, through Literature and Music. In D. Greer (Ed.), Musicology and sister disciplines: Past, Present, Future: Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of the International Musicological Society, London, 1997. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tari, L. (2012). The Verbunkos, a music genre and musical symbol of Hungary. Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov, 5(54), 81–86.

A year of ballet playing cards: #40 The Csárdás (1D)

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Csárdás for ballet class by Liszt

Click on the picture to download the sheet music for a Csárdás for ballet class

Diamonds: a set of pieces in 4: See the Year of Ballet Playing Cards information page

A csárdás for ballet class: something for everyone

One of most awkward kinds of 4/4 that you need for class is one that is in strict tempo without sounding too boxy; strong but not so strong that it sounds like a march; slow but without being flaccid or adage-like; upright and proud but without sounding pompous or baroque; in four, but with strong off-beats. It’s the kind of music that’s defined more by what it isn’t than what it is: you have to constantly avoid drifting into the music that feels more natural.

Help is at hand: enter the csárdás (pronounced char-dash, and sometimes spelled czardas outside Hungary  – csárdás is the Hungarian spelling), or rather the slow part of that dance, called the lassú  – the fast part is called friss. Liszt’s arrangement of this tune, which is as carefully detailed as something by Percy Grainger, is a good example of the kind of rich chord voicing, varied dynamics, interesting phrasing, careful articulation and accentuation that sounds good for class: it’s less about the tunes, than about how you play them. It also shows that backbeat wasn’t invented in the 1950s, it was alive and kicking (or should we say “snaring”?) at least a century earlier.

Something borrowed, something Hungarian: the bring and buy sale of 19th century music

If this piece sounds or looks familiar, it’s because it sounds suspiciously like Glazunov nicked it for the introduction to the Grand Pas Hongrois in Act 3 of Raymonda. It seems Hungarian music was just up for grabs in the nineteenth century  – Delibes didn’t write the csárdás in CoppéliaLiszt – like Brahms in his Hungarian Dances –  borrowed the tunes for his Magyar Dalok and Hungarian Rhapsodies from somewhere else, from so-called “folk tunes” which nonetheless were written by actual composers such as Jozsef Kossovits and Márk Rózsavölgyi who apparently provided the tune for this dance (well worth downloading the score of a few Hungarian dances by Rózsavölgyi from IMSLP, by the way). Who knows where it originated? You can find it as Jaj de huncut a… on page 103 of Vol 1. of the 101 Hungarian Folksongs, and you can hear it sung in the Youtube clip below (scroll to 1.20 if it doesn’t automatically start there).

jajdehuncut

 


Amongst other things, Glazunov seems to have borrowed at least the first bar or two of this, the folk song “Elmenten én a szölöbe” (page 20 in vol. 2 of 101 Hungarian Folksongs) and also a tune by Hubay for the first coda  (see earlier post on Glazunov, Raymonda and Hullàmzò Balaton). In turn, you’ll find that tune in volume two of the 101 folksongs, as “Én vagyok az aki nem jó” (p.29). Come to think of it, why do we this borrowing in music? It’s not like the composers give it back to the “folk” after they’ve finished with it, and say “There you go, I think it’s all there, I gave it a good wash yesterday.”

raymonda

The opening of the Grand Pas Hongrois in Glazunov’s Raymonda, Act 3. Sound familiar?

I owe this piece to one of the people I learned most from, Woytek Lowski. I recorded it on the first ballet album I ever made, which was to accompany his book, The Art of Teaching of Classical BalletWoytek wanted something for a warm-up that wasn’t stodgy or relaxing: he said that on the contrary, sometimes it was good to have something that was invigorating and strong. When I played it to him, he probably thought instantly of Raymonda. It was only nearly 20 years later that I realised that the Liszt and Glazunov pieces had the same first 2 bars, which shows how important context is when you’re recognising things.

If you’re wondering why the first piece of the year is No. 40, it’s because that’s where it belongs in the deck of cards, but I’m not setting myself the burdensome task of doing them in order as the weeks go by. I’m sure I’ll be cursing at the end of the year when I’m fitting the last piece of the jigsaw, but I’d rather curse then, than every week.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that once I’d heard this lovely piece by Rózsavölgyi, I wished I transcribed that as my csárdás of choice rather than the Liszt, but that’s blogging for you – you live and learn, in that order.

See more about the csárdás for ballet class

See even more

Don’t expect a bibliography like this for every entry, it’s just that Hungarian music raises a lot of issues about nationalism, identity, borrowing, folk music and so on. This is just a small selection of what is a huge field. If the references look a bit weird in places, it’s because half of them are generated with Zotpress – a fantastic plugin for WordPress that enables you to cite-and-write using Zotero with WordPress, one of the best things I’ve seen in years – and the other half by hand. Forgive the untidiness, but I’ve only just installed it, and am still playing with settings.

See even, even more 

Playing card images by Byron Knoll 
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Ballet Playing Card 40 by Liszt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Happy 2015: A new year’s ramble about Black Swan and other ballet anomalies

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Bet you haven't seen this before: a piano reduction of Drigo's orchestration of Black Swan female variation

Bet you haven’t seen this before: a piano reduction of Drigo’s orchestration of Black Swan. Click on the score to download your free version.

As it’s the first day of a new year, I’ve decided to do something about one of the greatest annoyances in my list of ballet-pianist anxieties: the Black Swan female variation from Swan Lake (see earlier post for the full version of why it’s annoying). After 28 years of only ever knowing the bits that are missing from the score by guesswork, hearsay, memory and oral tradition, I’ve done a piano reduction of Drigo’s orchestration, and here it is as a free download (pdf file). Eduard Langer – who did the piano reduction of the 1895 Swan Lake – put this and other interpolations at the end of his piano score, but left them as Tchaikovsky wrote them (i.e. as piano pieces), rather than as reductions of Drigo’s orchestrations, so they are missing vital detail.

It wasn’t as easy as you might think: although the Drigo orchestration is a published score, and Drigo is out of copyright, the orchestral score isn’t yet available at IMSLP. This is when you need a friendly orchestral librarian to help you, so I asked Lars Payne at English National Ballet, if I could scan the relevant pages from their orchestral score to make the reduction. While I’m at it, let’s just pause to give an internet round of applause to Lars.

naughtin

Matthew Naughtin’s book on Ballet Music: essential

The anomalies of Swan Lake that I blogged about very briefly in that earlier post are multiplied over and over again in ballet music. It’s one of the curious things about ballet that the more well known and popular something is, the harder it is to find the score. Most of the things we know so well from galas are pimped up diverts interpolated in earlier, less interesting 19th century ballets, and if you can find a score of those at all, it doesn’t have any of the interesting bits in at all, or they’re in the wrong place. The pimped-up, hand-written version has to be faxed to you from a cupboard in Minsk, or you give up and get someone else to orchestrate it for you.

Or you ask Lars, because if anyone knows where it might be, it’ll be him; except, don’t waste Lars’s time until you’ve checked whether Matthew Naughtin’s Ballet Music: A Handbook hasn’t already answered your question. Naughtin is music librarian at San Francisco Ballet (see interview with him in the Music References Services QuarterlyAll those questions that no-one else bothers to ask about ballet scores are answered in here, and the answer is often “Lars Payne” (see all 24 mentions in the Google books version for an idea of what I mean), because Lars has been gradually cleaning up all these problems and making decent scores for the ballet world for years.  To anyone who has enjoyed the orchestral music on RAD’s Grades 1-3 or Grades 4-5 (if you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to an 8 minute documentary about the making of the music for that project), you should know that had Lars not been in the middle of it all, answering questions, providing scores, knowing everything, it would never have happened. To you it’s just a CD, but actually, in librarianship terms, it was a bloody miracle.

And finally… I wrote that it was Julia Richter who taught me how to play all the bits that are missing from the Black Swan variation, when I played for my first Genée ballet competition back in 1987.  By coincidence, on Monday this week I passed by the RAD on my bike on my way to ENB to play Swan Lake. It was a clear, bright and freezing cold day which brought back memories of that occasion 28 years ago. By even greater coincidence, when I got to ENB, Julia (who was there too) said “Of course, it was about this time all those years ago we were doing the Genée competition,” and we got chatting about the Black Swan – and I discovered then that Don (Anthony) Twiner was the one who taught her how to play it.  So here, 28 years later, is the score, in case you don’t have anyone to tell you how it goes.

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Black Swan (piano reduction) by Jonathan Still after Tchaikovsky/Drigo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Black Friday – Christmas Carols for Class, Free Download (all 26 tracks)

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I saw this at the museum of broken relationships

My motto.

For last year’s Advent Calendar, I did 26 sketches of Christmas Carols for class. I’d love to make the album properly one day, but in the meantime, if you would like to use any of these for class, please be my guest. Some are a bit silly, some aren’t in straight sets of 8 bar phrases (that’s Christmas carols for you), and some are a bit rough round the edges, but you might find something in there you like.

If you want to read the background, see last year’s Advent calendar as a list 

The worst ballet class music in the world #1

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mejor-small

A long time ago, my friend and colleague Susie Cooper and I had a lot of fun trying to think of the worst possible music for certain exercises in a ballet class. First in our list was  the Song of the Volga Boatmen for battements fondus, since it’s so leaden, minor, low, and weary, just like heaving barges is, I guess. I think it would be a shame not to share this awfulness with the world. I’ve tried to make it as bad as possible. If you have any terrible ideas that I could help realise an album for The World’s Worst Ballet Class, do let me know.

Can’t see the media player? Download the file here:

And to Eddie who commented on this post with a personal view on “the worst ballet class music in the world” – sorry I can’t publish your post, but I agree with you entirely!

Advent calendar day #26: Those extra fouettés and turns in 2nd – Good King Wenceslas

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santa-hat

Sir David Wynne’s ‘Boy with a Dolphin’ near Albert Bridge, festively adorned on Christmas Eve 2013

To download the song, either right-click (Mac: ctrl+click) the player above and select ‘save audio as’, or right-click (Mac: ctrl+click) this link and select ‘save link as‘.

It was only last year that I realized that St Stephen’s day, celebrated by the carol Good King Wenceslas (who looked out ‘on the feast of Stephen’), is the 26th December.

To reflect real ballet classes, where enthusiasts ask you if you would mind playing some music for their fouettés and turns in 2nd after the class has officially finished (I never mind, by the way), here’s a coda-by-request that appropriately celebrates St Stephen’s day, the coda or afterthought to Christmas, if you like.

If you’re wondering why I chose to put a pedal G all the way through this piece, it’s because I have a theory about fouetté music, based on two of the most famous ones in the ballet repertoire (Don Quixote and Black Swan) that the less the bass moves, the more of a stable (harmonic) floor the dancer has to turn on.  It also ‘desaturates’ the harmony, so to speak, so that your attention doesn’t get distracted, either as performer or audience.

Hold on tight and fly… 

I took the picture above on my way home from class (where I got the idea for this post). I’d never really stopped to look properly at this sculpture, but I’m glad I did. There’s so much élan, and vitality in it. Looking for details of the sculptor and the proper name of the statue, I discovered from A view from the mirror – A taxi driver’s London, this great quote from Sir David Wynne, the sculptor:

“the boy is being shown that if you trust the world, the thrills and great happiness are yours… if one meets a dolphin in the sea, he is the genial host, you the honoured guest.”

What more could you wish for 2014?  Happy Christmas, and a thrilling, happy 2014 (and now this class really is over). Here’s a sequence of pictures of the statue including some from angles you can’t see from the street.

A christmas carol ballet class day #25: Révérence – Quem pastores

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Today’s the last in my advent calendar for 2014, in which I’m giving away downloads of Christmas carols for ballet class.

Tooting Bec Common, Christmas Day 2013

Tooting Bec Common, Christmas Day 2013

To download the song, either right-click (Mac: ctrl+click) the player above and select ‘save audio as’, or right-click (Mac: ctrl+click) this link and select ‘save link as‘.

Happy Christmas. I’m using the term ‘révérence’ in the American sense of ports de bras/cool down, rather than a florid obeisance to real or imagined audiences.  I like this tune when I think of it as Quem pastoresdislike it if I think of Jesus, good above all other, the hymn that the tune often used for. 

This Advent Calendar has been a meditation on music and copyright. You might not have noticed it except as a little recurring theme in the posts, but it’s there. I was going to write a whole post on that subject  today, but my head hurts, I’m tired, and it’s Christmas. But another day, I will. Meanwhile, happy christmas, happy dancing.