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Polonaise by Glazunov, piano score
Click on the picture to download the score

In an earlier post on polonaises in ballet class, I mentioned how difficult it is to find a Tchaikovsky polonaise that you can actually use in class – they sound regular but they aren’t. Here’s a polonaise by Glazunov from Scènes de Ballet that would be useful for an exercise that’s slower than you’d like it to be. I wouldn’t play the introduction that’s written, but I  thought I’d put it in there (it’s what’s in the score immediately before the tune comes in) in case you ever used this for an assessment class or something where the class had a chance to learn how it goes.

If you think this doesn’t fall under the fingers easily, don’t blame me: Glazunov’s music has a way of just not translating well on to the keyboard. In fact, this is really awful writing, with the tune running up and down and around three octaves like a dog in a park. It  looks like the writing of someone who didn’t try it out at the piano. But that’s what makes it sound rather exciting if you can be bothered to get your hands round it, because it’s clearly not something that you could just make up on the spot. Nonetheless, I think there’s a way of simplifying it and keeping the tessitura in an easier range, and I’ll probably do a second edition of this in a week or two.

Whether it was conscious or not, it’s suspiciously like the Chopin A Major polonaise, which of course Glazunov had orchestrated for Chopiniana. 

Poor Glazunov. According to the Wikipedia page, his death came as a shock to many people, but not for the reason you were probably thinking as you read that, but because they “had long associated Glazunov with the music of the past rather than of the present, so they thought he had already been  dead for many years.” I think he would probably have taken that in his stride however:  Jack Lanchbery told me once that in a dress rehearsal with orchestra in Russia, a ballerina (a very famous one, shame I can’t remember who) stopped dancing and shouted something to Glazunov about being a “third-rate conductor.” He replied:  “I’m most disappointed to hear that. I knew I was a third-rate composer, but I had always hoped I was a second-rate conductor.”


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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist