Ray

Balanchine Ballet Game

31 posts in this topic

I was thinking that a handful of Balanchine's ballets are made to music whose composer is explicitly referencing, if not outright adapting, the music of another. Can you name them? Some are easy...and I've left out Hershey Kay's nods to Sousa and Gershwin.

1) Tchaikovsky's nod to Mozart

2) Stravinsky's nod to Tchaikovsky

3) Schoenberg's nod to Brahms

4) Bizet's nod to Gounod

5) Webern's nod to Bach

6) Stravinsky's nod to Gesualdo

7) Ravel's nod to Couperin

8) In a very popular seasonal ballet, Tchaikovsky makes a nod to Schumann.

Are there others I'm forgetting?

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Stravinksy's Pergolesi

Stravinsky's Rimsky?

Gounod's Delibes?

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I thought of Pulcinella ("Stravinsky's Pergolesi") too, but I think it was the Stravinsky scholar Richard Taruskin who showed that much of what Stravinsky attributed to Pergolesi was actually original material. That nutty genius.

For IS's Rimsky, do you mean Firebird?

And the Delibes--are you referring to the Faust music (Walpurgisnacht)? In that case wouldn't it be Delibes' Gounod?

Interesting!

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If this is a quiz show, can I be Kitty Carlisle?

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Of course Agon is Stravinsky's nod to Webern, Marsenne and others. But that is how composers often work - in 'conversation' with other admired composers and their themes. Still, I like your list.

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i'm unclear on the Pergolese & Stravinsky connection to Pulcinella but i think there's also an additional, less known composer in this mix, who may have composed the bits attributed to Pergolesi.

yes, i find FIREBIRD quite Rimsky-like.

as for the Gounod/Delibes equation, there is some suggestion that the ballet music for FAUST was written by Delibes but here is further suggestion that it is indeed Gounod's work but w/ help? inspiration? from Delibes who worked at the Opera Comique when Gounod was asked to add ballet music to his opera for Paris.

but, none of this is, as far as i understand it, definitive...

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Yes, pherank, I was trying to limit the list to more explicit nods. Otherwise it would be, as you suggest, endless.

And re Pulcinella: Stravinsky was quite explicit about using Pergolesi as his source; I didn't know about who Pergolesi might have been borrowing from, though.

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If this is a quiz show, can I be Kitty Carlisle?

Only if I can be Dorothy Kilgallen..:)

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I've left out Hershey Kay's nods to Sousa and Gershwin.

For which I am grateful.

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I've left out Hershey Kay's nods to Sousa and Gershwin.

For which I am grateful.

Me too.

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The real Sousa is so great when played with the original band instruments and without sappy violins, that it's criminal not to have used them, and the Kay arrangements make me want to attack him with a pitchfork.

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Mozart's nod to Gluck (Making it Gluckiana instead of Mozartiana)

Schumann's nod to Clara Wieck in Davidsbundlertanze

Fred Allen

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As balletomanes, do you find watching orchestras sufficiently entertaining, elucidating, or satisfying, in the absence of viewing a physical interpretation through dance?

Did music bring you to ballet or ballet bring you to music?

How did you educate yourself about music?

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For number 8) isn't the nod debated?

Amy I want to know more about this. The similarity of the melody in the Act 1 dance of Nutz to one of the short Schumann pieces (Papillons?) is undeniable to me; but is Tchai. referencing Schumann, or are they both referencing a common source?

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Mozart's nod to Gluck (Making it Gluckiana instead of Mozartiana)

Schumann's nod to Clara Wieck in Davidsbundlertanze

Fred Allen

So by Mozart's nod to Gluck, you mean Mozart's Variations on Gluck's Unser dummer Pöbel meint in G (K.455), which Tchaikovsky in turn uses in the Thème et variations in Mozartiana, right?

Here's a clip; a bit ponderous for my taste, but skillfully played by Emil Gilels: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0SzXLj80jY

Does Schumann cite Clara directly in Davidsbundlertanze? Fascinating!

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As balletomanes, do you find watching orchestras sufficiently entertaining, elucidating, or satisfying, in the absence of viewing a physical interpretation through dance?

Did music bring you to ballet or ballet bring you to music?

How did you educate yourself about music?

Yes--I feel no absence (if it's a really good orchestra, that is!).

Music brought me to dance. And as much as I love dance, loved to dance, love to watch dance, many times dance to me pales in comparison to music; often I feel the composer is up to so much more in a work than a choreographer is. No aesthetic agenda here; it's just how I feel.

My father was a professional classical musician, so I got to hear a LOT of playing. I also studied music as a kid (violin, piano, drums, voice), and the knowledge never left me (well, some of it did, of course).

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The real Sousa is so great when played with the original band instruments and without sappy violins, that it's criminal not to have used them, and the Kay arrangements make me want to attack him with a pitchfork.

Helene, as the son of a brass player, I couldn't agree more!

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Ray, I found this on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grossvater_Tanz

"The Grossvater Tanz (Grandfather's Dance) is a German dance tune from the 17th century. It is generally considered a traditional folk tune. Its real author has been claimed to be Carl Gottlieb Hering (de) (17661853),[1] but this attribution seems not to be generally supported."

And

Robert Schumann quoted the Grossvater Tanz in two works:

- the final section of Papillons, Op. 2 (1831)

- the final section ("Marche des Davidsbündler contre les Philistins") of Carnaval, Op. 9 (183435), where he labels the theme "Thème du XVIIème siècle" (Theme from the 17th century).

And

"Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky also quotes the tune in act 1 of his ballet The Nutcracker (1892). It appears at the end of the Christmas party. Tchaikovsky was a great admirer of Schumann's music, but it is not clear whether this was meant as some sort of tribute to Schumann or simply as an appropriate tune to use in music depicting the winding up of a happy family event.[3]".

------

With which I have quoted practically half the article.

It does work nicely as a plot device... So perhaps it was a little of both... Something appropriate that easily came to mind because of Tchaikovsky's fondness of Schuman. Somewhere I read the ballet was composed under a flood of childhood memories of his sister whose death he belatedly learned of while he was abroad... Not sure where I got that info and my memory is mutable. Will see if google can help.... Yes, it appears that I did not make that bit up... But with my brief review, I find no particular source worth quoting here. I have wondered how a Russian's childhood memories would serve fir a German christmas, but as a child he had a "French nanny" he was very close to, French, but with the name Fanny Dürbach, who taught him fluency in German as well as French. Doesn't look like a French name to me. She was from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montbéliard. This is an interesting site: http://wiki.tchaikovsky-research.net/wiki/Main_Page

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[...]

It does work nicely as a plot device... So perhaps it was a little of both... Something appropriate that easily came to mind because of Tchaikovsky's fondness of Schuman. Somewhere I read the ballet was composed under a flood of childhood memories of his sister whose death he belatedly learned of while he was abroad... Not sure where I got that info and my memory is mutable. Will see if google can help.... Yes, it appears that I did not make that bit up... But with my brief review, I find no particular source worth quoting here. I have wondered how a Russian's childhood memories would serve fir a German christmas, but as a child he had a "French nanny" he was very close to, French, but with the name Fanny Dürbach, who taught him fluency in German as well as French. Doesn't look like a French name to me. She was from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montbéliard. This is an interesting site: http://wiki.tchaikovsky-research.net/wiki/Main_Page

Amy, I strongly believe the German influence comes through music. In addition to admiring Schumann, Tchai. also admired Schubert and of course Beethoven. Musical training and repertory are very Germanic at that time too, of course; Germans are, after all, such powerful innovators in the nineteenth century. The sobriquet for his 6th Symphony ("Pathetique") is sometimes attributed to the Beethoven sonata w/the same nickname (No 8 In C Minor Op 13); the chord progressions at the beginning of the symphony uncannily mirror those of the sonata.

Cool Tchai. website, thanks!

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Did music bring you to ballet or ballet bring you to music?

Music and dance came from separate spheres for me and came together at some point. Dance does tend to trump music when I go to dance performances. Though for one performance of Stravinsky Capriccio for Rubies with the Mravinsky orchestra in 2003, the pianist (it was Sveshnikova Liudmila) was so free and wild and improvisional-sounding, I found myself looking into the orchestra pit to figure out just what was going on as much as watching the stage.

But Balanchine (and Helgi Tomasson, too) had the good taste to use music that didn't call attention to itself over the dance, that were perfectly matched. No Mahler, and if Beethoven, something from the Bagatelles.

Here's another recording of Mozart k.455 Gluck variations, with Wilhelm Kempff, somewhat subdued but he does some interesting and sly, maybe Suzanne Farrellish things to say once he gets going.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvYYU2V6-Is

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As balletomanes, do you find watching orchestras sufficiently entertaining, elucidating, or satisfying, in the absence of viewing a physical interpretation through dance?

Did music bring you to ballet or ballet bring you to music?

How did you educate yourself about music?

For me, you've already captured the distinction. I watch dance, but I listen to music.

As a critic, I don't spend too many nights in the theater that aren't dance-related, but when I'm at a music performance, I'm always struck with the idea that I don't have to watch!

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Here's another recording of Mozart k.455 Gluck variations, with Wilhelm Kempff, somewhat subdued but he does some interesting and sly, maybe Suzanne Farrellish things to say once he gets going.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvYYU2V6-Is

Thanks for the Kempff--love to have a variety of interpretations!

That said, though, my taste in Mozart definitely is on the original-instrument side (sometimes in watching clips of B's Divertimento #15 I find the musical interpretation painful leaden). But this is not out of any sense of purity; I really like the way original instruments sound better for the baroque and before repertory--and I would extend that forward to Beethoven and Schubert, too. Here's the Gluck variations on Fortepiano:

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