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This is day 4 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.

I used to think Giselle was a stupid  score – boring, sub-Beethoven, too slow, harmonically dull, and childish.  It only took me 20 years to love and cherish it, and to understand just how hard it is to play effectively.

It was Nina Brzorádová at the International Ballet Masterclasses in Prague who first suggested to me the famous D-major pas de deux music for, of all things, a tendu exercise.  Very Balanchine, very articulated and very musical.  It had never occurred to me to do it before, but it works like a dream. Space, elasticity, different articulations, expectation; it’s well known, and well loved.  You can play with it, the dancers can play with it. It’s quiet, it’s controlled, gentle, with boundless possibilities for phrasing and tempo changes. 

It’s the space, above all. Like most musicians, I came to ballet wanting to play as many notes as I could to show that I could play and to keep my fingers occupied. It took years to realise that you have to leave space for the dancing to happen. This is the perfect piece – there’s more space than notes! –  and that’s why Adam knew what he was doing when he wrote it.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist