Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Ari

Poll: Best Ballet Composer

  

  1. 1. Poll: Best Ballet Composer

    • Copland
      1
    • Delibes
      8
    • Glazunov
      2
    • Minkus
      10
    • Prokofiev
      17
    • Stravinsky
      23

Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

24 posts in this topic

Who do you think is the best composer of ballet music? (I'm talking about scores specifically written for dance.) Since I think most of us would vote for Tschaikovsky, I've left him out. :) But after him, who would you vote for?

Since we're limited to six choices in a poll, I haven't had room for "Other," but if you think that someone not on the list is best, please name him and explain why in a post. And the rest of you who do vote, please tell us why you voted as you did.

Share this post


Link to post

I voted Prokofiev for a couple reasons. Most of my exposure to full-length ballets has been through dancing in them! I've only done four full-lengths with the civic company I'm in but two of those have been Prokofiev: Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet. I love Prokofiev because he shows so much emotion in his music. Taking R&J as an example, think about the village scenes. Very different from the regal sounding of the Capulet's party and the great passion and beauty in the balcony scene. Also, He uses a different mix of instruments than most composers. A lot of composers in ballets it often seems to me use a quite predictable and "normal" blend of sounds. But Prokofiev, I think, uses and blends different instruments in different parts of the score in different ways than most. Think of Delibes' Coppelia. It's a beautiful score, but other than the toyshop scene, I don't think there is any variation in the way the music sounds. Whereas in Prokofiev scores each piece of music for each section of the ballet is singular and extremely unique. Best example: the four seasonal fairies in Cinderella. Each season has its own sound and personality. Also, Prokofiev's use of meter is so different from typical ballet music. Rather than using the ubiquitous 3/4 or 4/4 his scores are filled with pieces that go from 3/4 to something else that is nearly impossible to count to 4/4 to 10/4, etc. It is difficult to dance to but it makes the choreography more interesting!

I guess I tend to go with the atypical example. I don't know if Prokofiev is the "best ballet composer" but he's my favorite.

Great Topic!

Share this post


Link to post

Stravinsky is the easy winner here for me, and he would still be even if Tchaikovsky were included in the poll. Other composers may be more tuneful or easier to get into, but his combination of intellect and power is unrivaled in ballet.

If the next poll is "who is the worst composer of a ballet still performed?" I think I know who'd win.

Share this post


Link to post

Minkus seems out of place to me. I can think of any number of composers I'd rank above him, from Shostakovich to Satie to Donald York.

In any event, Stravinsky tops my list simply because the composer's wonderful sense of rhythm makes the spirit of dance part of all his music, even in styles as varied as The Fairy's Kiss and Agon.

Share this post


Link to post

But for sheer serviceability, I'm going to put in a good word for Uncle Ludwig - not that Uncle Ludwig, the other Uncle Ludwig. But only if he gets to bring his pigeonhole desk along!;)

Share this post


Link to post

My vote goes to Prokofiev because his scores have the drama and rich melodism that is essential in a ballet score. 'R&J' is a masterpiece in which the music propels the story and captures the mood of the play perfectly. 'Cinderella', though a very different score, has the same dramatic effect and perfect fairytale mood essential to the story.

Share this post


Link to post

I know that I am in the minority here, but I vote for Minkus. There are many wonderful qualities and pieces from all the composers; therefore, I found it to be a difficult decision. In the end, there is nothing of Minkus that I dislike, but I can think of a few moments of Prokofiev that hurt my ears a bit. Only a few, mind you.

My vote extends only to ballet music and this poll. Overall, I believe the best composer was JS Bach. I can hardly wrap my mind around the idea that he was even human - his music so moves me. Every note is so unpredictable and yet so inevitable at the same time. I know that's a bit off topic, but I had to mention him.:)

Share this post


Link to post

I think I am more in the minority than you, dmdance! I voted for Copland. I did so, because I never tire of listening to his scores, and they are frequently played on the radio. I never find him trite. There is a clean, lyricism in his style and it always sounds new to me.

Share this post


Link to post

In musical terms, I would say that Mozart was the best ballet composer, but he only wrote one ballet, and it is no longer performed. I voted for Minkus because he provided the music for some of the greatest and most enduring classics: Don Quixote, La Bayadere, and Paquita, among others.

Share this post


Link to post

Hi CygneDanois, it's great to see that you're back! :)

I voted for Stravinsky, because he wrote so many scores for 20th century masterpieces, with such a diverse range.

Share this post


Link to post

Stravinsky is wonterful, but so are Romeo and Juliet.. hard one...

I think I just dont vote... if I cant vote for more htan one... :)

Share this post


Link to post

Minkus feels really good to dance to -- though I find some of his music as ugly as Prokofieff's (the entrance of the Brahmans, in Bayadere Act I, is just hideous, and there's not even a good reason for it to be so blatty -- whereas the way Prokofieff piles up dissonances to express the duke's wrath DOES correspond to the sight of dead bodies in hte street.....)

OF hte composers NOT on hte list, I'd have to say that Bach is very danceable, Mozart is not -- Concerto Barocco is proof, but even in class, the well-tempered clavier preludes are almost all based on dance forms and feel great to dance to -- as dancey as Strauss polkas...

It takes a good pianist to make Bach FIT classroom combinations, though, for his music is not in standard 4's and 8's -- though it doesn't sound unbalanced, it is not square at all --

One of the pianists where I take class does wizard things with Bach -- I have a CD of his I use to give myself a barre at home,

it's a good alternative to Lynn Stanford -- and it's because the rhythms are right and hte music is dansante in its conception.

Actually, Rudi's CD is great -- i'll give him a plug. Our teachers use it a lot when a pianist can't make it, and the grand allegros are great. You can get it from the Capezio stores in Oakland and SanFrancisco..... Rudy Apffel

Also Stravinsky -- it's amazing how danceable his music is ,and how -- even when it sounds strange -- how strong hte SPIRIT is in it. I just got home from the ballet, and the last piece on hte program was kind of a spoof of socialites in the audience -- it's called Black Cake, and is in modern evening dress, good-looking black dresses and high heels for hte ladies -- and it had a big funny pas de deux to Stravinsky's Scherzo a la Russe -- which sounded a lot in places like music from Petrouchka, and the couple dancing were a lot like puppets, droll, sad-funny, and Yuri Possokhov actually reminded me of Petrouchka, sort of irrepressible and kicked-around at the same time, unstoppable.... It was raucous, but it was perfect music for dancing........

Share this post


Link to post
Originally posted by Paul Parish

OF the composers NOT on the list, I'd have to say that Bach is very danceable, Mozart is not -- Concerto Barocco is proof

Gosh, and Divertimento No. 15 isn't? ;)

In all seriousness, I think that even when the composer is long dead, there is a partnership between the choreographer and composer, and it's that suitability that we judge, thinking we're only looking at the composer. Balanchine pronounced Beethoven unchoreographable, and for him, indeed it was, his heaviness was completely unsuited to Balanchine, ditto Les Noces, another piece Balanchine said was unchoreographable.

Share this post


Link to post

I take it back, Divertimento is -- well, I've only seen it once, and it wasn't an inspoired performance, the variations were so-so, except for Stacey Cadell, who was fantastic -- but I believe everybody...........

Mozart is fantastically singable..... and whistleable, I used to whistle hte little ordeal-march from hte MAgic Flute when I'd go for lte-night walks, it would attract dogs, they'd lik,e to walk with me, and then I'd feel safe........... but he doesn't make ME want to dance so much as sing.....

Share this post


Link to post

What about Rossini! Anna Laerkesen, Danish ballerina turned choreographer, said in an interview, "When you hear Rossini, your feet just start moving." For a Danish ballerina, yes. I wonder if a New York or a St. Petersburg ballerina would have the same impulse?

I'd also nominate J.P.E. Hartmann, whose work is barely known outside of Denmark, as an excellent composer of ballets. He's somewhere between Delibes and Tchaikovsky. Not in quality -- I'm not attempting to rank -- but on the light-dark/deep scale.

Share this post


Link to post

Well, Rossini's the guy behind Bournonville's wonderful WIlhelm Tell pas de deux -- What a wonderful ballet!!!

Share this post


Link to post

May I raise a modest objection to the trend in this conversation?

Ari originally specified "scores specifically written for dance," which obviously excludes works like "Concerto Barocco" and "Divertimento #15." On the other hand, it limits consideration of Prokofiev to "Romeo and Juliet" which is a wonderful piece of music, but one that ties the hands of any choreographer. His Violin Concerto inspired Robbins' "Opus 19: The Dreamer," and "Peter and the Wolf" has also been turned into ballets by several choreographers.

Thanks largely to the influence of Balanchine, most American ballet today is based on music (as opposed to the narrative, theatrical, and visual sources preferred in Europe). Young choreographers are more likely to seek inspiration in a record store than in a museum or theatre. In this context, it might be more interesting to ask members to select a composer whose music has inspired the most interesting dance, rather than rank narrowly-defined "dance composers."

Share this post


Link to post

I voted for Minkus.... the ballets he wrote have been around for such a long time. In all honesty, I could have voted for Prokofiev just as easily, but I guess it seems that Minkus doesn't always get his due credit.

I feel the same about Mozart as Paul, interestingly enough. This is probably because somewhere in the back of my head I remember hearing a story about how Balanchine felt that his music was "perfect" and that he would not be able to do it justice with choreography. Divertimento #15 was considered "lesser" Mozart- if you can believe that. I find that music sublime. Anyway- forgive me if my memory is faulty about the story- but I have heard this somewhere.

Share this post


Link to post

Liebling, for finding Mozart too "perfect" for choreography, Balanchine sure tried hard, didn't he? He choreographed parts of the Divertimento in B-flat twice (Caracole and Divertimento No. 15), parts of the g-minor string quintet (Resurgence), Sinfonia Concertante twice, and Mozartiana - Mozartiana! - more than twice. So maybe what the story you heard means is that he considered his efforts inadequate to the challenge. (Farrell writes of his making the last Mozartiana, "...he found it necessary to try once more ...")

I too find this Divertimento sublime (at its best, in the adagio); and Taper, Balanchine's biographer, writes that Balanchine was "in a kind of rapture" about this music at Caracole's premiere.

Nevertheless, my vote is for Stravinsky - another admirer of Mozart's music, BTW - for the enormous range and superb quality of the scores he wrote for dancing.

Share this post


Link to post

Most names, I admit with reddish shame, I have not heard of. If I have, I also may have forgotten. No doubt if I hear the music that it will strike a familiar chord.

Tsjaikovski is at least a name I know and not just because of Romeo and Julia :) Stravinsky does sound somewhat familiar. The rest, I really have no clue.

A few years back I saw a tv production of the four seasons by of course Vivaldi. It was during the new year ballet (we seem to have one each year). Though vivaldi may have been tried to boredom, I was really fascinated by the way it was presented. I am still a bit puzzled how they pulled it off. You see, both the ballet and the orchestra were on different locations. Done live, the camera switched between the orchestra and the ballet, sometimes in a mixed view, and turned it into two competitive sides. Its hard to explain, but I was really amazed. Of course I know little of ballet (i know the five positions and plié, demi-plié, relevé and balancé but thats as far as my knowledge goes. Oh, and of course the arabesque :)), so i guess a lot will look great through my eyes :)

Though Mahler might be a bit on the weighted side, I would not mind seeing ballet on Berlioz (symphonic fantastique) for example.

Then again, I dont find it hard to imagine dancers perform on most classical music.

Peace,

Farieda

Share this post


Link to post

Farieda --

Don't be bashful about expressing your opinions. One of the best things about Ballet Alert is that it brings together people from many different places and backgrounds.

Tchaikovsky (as we choose to spell it here in America) is certainly a great place to start. Indeed, I might remind Jack Reed that he was the composer of the Mozartiana suite, based on themes written by the master of Salzburg.

Vivaldi and other baroque composers - Corelli, Bach, Handel - have inspired many ballets with their clear structure and firm rhythms. But very famous works, like Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," are usually avoided, since an audience is likely to bring so many prior associations to the music that a choreographer has a hard time presenting his or her own interpretation.

For instance, the American choreographer Mark Morris had long talked about his desire to choreograph the "Four Seasons." But when he finally had the chance to stage an evening-length Baroque ballet - in Brussells, by the way - he chose a much less familiar work, Handel's "L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed Il Moderato," inspired by the poetry of John Milton. It was (and remains) a marvelous ballet.

If you don't see much contemporary dance in your town, you might check out a local video store. The range of works now available on tape is quite impressive.

Enjoy --

Harry

Share this post


Link to post

I am trying to decipher your words about 'not being bashful about expressing my opinions' and I am not sure what you mean?

I have seen only a few ballet, most are welknown. It is somewhat strange to see that known ballets can be performed over again, yet when famous pieces of music are involved things seem to be different?

You speak of association... this somehow reminds me of another thread where people booed certain performers of stage because that role 'belonged' to someone else. Do we not have that same problem when we go to the same ballets performed by different companies? Or do most choose the ballet performed by the lead cast?

We have a small theatre in our small fishing town, and I unfortunately missed the Arabic Nights last month due to illness. There are not many shows, I cannot even subscribe to ballet (just to plays, music/concerts, and other variety). I also do not have a vcr :), and there isn't much out on dvd yet, but who knows! :D

All is not yet lost though. I keep track of our national ballet, scapino and others so I am certain I will get to see at least a few decent performances this year :) I am in the process of turning my husband into a ballet lover too, and when that happens my chances to see something will greatly improve. If he enjoys watching clumsy old me, I am certain he loves to watch the pros.

Peace,

Farieda

Share this post


Link to post

Dear Moonchilde,

I am so impressed that you can write in a language that is not your native language..... very few Americans can do that. I can (sort of) read French and German, but if i had to , or wanted to, write out what I think , or how I feel, about a ballet in either of those languages, it would be SUCH a difficult task, I think I would give up and go to bed instead....

Your thoughts about new ballets that are set to familiar music are interesting -- of course, you are RIGHT, of course, people are often attached to the ballets they already know. THe ballerina Alicia Alonzo has written that when she first began to dance GIselle, she danced the role almost exactly as Alicia Markova had done it, so as not to disappoint people who already loved the ballet and knew it through Markova's interpretation....

We have a ballet to Vivaldi's 4 Seasons here at San FRancisco Ballet, by Helgi TOmasson -- it is not one of his better ballets, and one problem with it is that the movement is not as loveable as the music --

MArk Morris was very wise to set the unfamiliar oratorio lAllegro, il Penseroso, ed il MOderato -- his ballet is in fact a VERY great ballet -- I was talking to Bernard Taper about it yesterday -- Taper wrote that excellent biography of BAlanchine -- and he thinks l'Allegro is the best full-length ballet of the 20th century....... and it certainly HELPED Morris that the wonderful music was not well-known already and "needed" dancing to fill it out......

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0