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The Dying SwanWhich instruments affect which movement?


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#1 artist

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 11:37 AM

Thinking back on something Maya Plisetskaya said in a doc./interview about how each instrument is different to how she felt when performing The Dying Swan - the cello, violin, piano, harp.

And listening intently to the music while focusing on Vera Karalli's Swan, I noticed this may have been true for her, too.

Do certain body parts and movements reflect on certain instruments?
If so, which instruments affect which movement/part of the body?
And perhaps they are different from one dancer to the next.


I thought maybe the piano reflected the arms.
And perhaps the violin was the bourrees.
And the cello as the movement of the upper body, bending certain ways.

What are your thoughts?

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 11:51 AM

I don't think most dancers or choreographers think that way, although it might be interesting to see what would happen if the solo were performed with the melody in a trombone....

On the other hand, with Massine, Riabouchinska was always dancing to the flute line of the music!

#3 scherzo

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 02:40 PM

I don't really know about this, but dancing (in my head :rolleyes:) seems to me to be more about the melody and its line/phrasing than certain instruments.

That said.... :) I like the idea of the harp (in Dying Swan) as rippling bourees. And yes, definitely the cello as a pliant, gorgeous upper body.

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 04:12 PM

I was the Designated Tuba one night in my instrumental period, and being "Carnival of the Animals", I was offstage, there being no tuba part in the arrangement we used. Our conductor, though, wanted to show off something a little different. So, from offstage, our first chair double bass entered, and took his place in a spotlight to play "The Swan" - hey, swans are BIG birds. The lights dimmed, and there were Jerry and his bass being Pavlova - well, the music part anyway. They got a huge ovation for it, as it was beautifully played, and nobody expects a bull fiddle to sing!

#5 ania

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Posted 27 May 2007 - 07:00 AM

Major Mel

Could you say a bit more about the Double Bass playing the Dying Swan ? Was it re-scored for Double Bass ?

thanks

ania

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 May 2007 - 06:08 PM

As I understand it, Saint-Saens only permitted the publication of the entire score of "Carnival of the Animals" to take place after his death. "The Swan" was the sole exception, it being generally released by 1905. Apparently the composer kept the score around as a sort of family entertainment, the cello part being occasionally transcribed into the bass clef from the tenor. It all depended, apparently, on who was free to do the family musicale, cellist or bassist. The bassist must play the part with the left hand VERY far down the neck and fingerboard of the instrument, but the sound is unique, and leaves me, at least, wanting the part to be played on the larger instrument.

#7 leonid17

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 12:26 AM

I was the Designated Tuba one night in my instrumental period, and being "Carnival of the Animals", I was offstage, there being no tuba part in the arrangement we used. Our conductor, though, wanted to show off something a little different. So, from offstage, our first chair double bass entered, and took his place in a spotlight to play "The Swan" - hey, swans are BIG birds. The lights dimmed, and there were Jerry and his bass being Pavlova - well, the music part anyway. They got a huge ovation for it, as it was beautifully played, and nobody expects a bull fiddle to sing!


Mel, interesting scoring and undoubtedly effective.

I know the original scoring for "Carnival of the Animals" included: flute/piccolo, clarinet, glass harmonica, xylophone, 2 pianos and strings, but what was the original scoring for ‘The Swan’?

Like most people I am used to hearing it performed with cello and harp or cello and piano.

What Saint Saens wanted to achieve was a direct contrast to the other animals in what was a fun piece written for a Mardi Gras celebration. What Fokine and Pavlova wanted to achieved matches the music perfectly but perhaps from a different set of values to Saint-Saens? The music for me catches the elegaic movements of a swan and when I observe them in nature I always hum the music to see if it really matches the movements of this bird and for me it always does.

In the dance, is the swan really dying or is it an anthropomorphic study of the struggles of life for a beautiful bird that always seems humanly feminine in nature?

Saint-Saens might well have approved of "the Swan" having a second life as a ballet, as he was very fond of the genre composing 20 minutes of ballet music in his opera "Henry VIII". Later in life(1896) he composed the ballet "Javotte" (recorded by one time SF Ballet Music Director Andrew Mogrelia).

Whilst on a visit to Russia in 1876 he had danced an improvised ballet with Tchaikovsky (Galatea and Pygmalion) in the Moscow Conservatoire Hall accompanied by Nikolai Rubinstein on the piano. The established friendship however did not last.

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 03:39 AM

I have a 1906 sheetmusic set for one piano and tenor instrument, suggesting cello as the solo melody (in America, though, a lot of men played the tenor horn). As I understand it, the movement was suggested by a poem in a newspaper or magazine of the time. It was supposed to be a feuilleton, a throwaway, but it inspired a durable piece of music which has the power to move, even without a dancer. In the "full" version, it's just the solo cello and the two pianos.

#9 ania

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 01:20 PM

Thank you Major.
A double bass player friend and I are enjoying exploring the piece together.
Your insights are always a great help.

ania

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 03:32 PM

Thank you for trying it this way. I'm sure that you'll find a few acoustical surprises and challenges along the way. And the version with cello will never sound quite the same way to you again.


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