Dances at an Opening
Alberto Ginastera (b. Buenos Aires, 11 April 1916; d. Geneva, 25 June 1983)
The Spring, which is like a newborn baby, He's in his cradle…spouting, spinning, wiggling, gurgling, squirming, squealing, making faces, reaching for his nipple or bottle, turning, tossing, and tinkling all over the placeSpring includes an improvisatory piano solo that playfully uses interesting, varied scale patterns that keep the listener suspended between major and minor tonalities. Meander begins with a long, lush flute cadenza and then uses blue notes and chromatic harmonies to suggest the child venturing into the vast outside world. In Giggling Rapids the child's exploration is represented by the syncopated rhythms of a jazz waltz. Lyrical melody above an easy, lazy accompaniment in Latin rhythms represents the child's slow maturing in Lake, while storm-like, heavy xylophone and low brass runs suggest the hazards of life each man must face in his own private Vortex. Riba is a standard blues, while Village Virgins presents a variation on that blues, symbolizing the choices to be made in any life.
Meander where he is undecided whether to go back to the cradle or pursue his quest. There he is, rolling around from one side to the other on the floor, up and down, back and forth, until he sees the kitchen door, and looks out into that big backyard. "This must be the biggest world in the world," he says ...So he dashes out of the door and now he is into the
Giggling rapids and he races and runs and dances and skips and trips all over the backyard until, exhausted, he relaxes and rolls down to…
Lake. The lake is beautiful and serene. ...people come—people who are God-made and terribly touched by the beauty of the lake They, in their admiration for it, begin to discover new facets of compatibility in each other, and as a romantic viewpoint develops, they indulge themselves. The whole situation compounds itself into an emotional violence ...until, suddenly, they are over the top and down…
Vortex. A whirlpool, itself an experience in which of course, you must really immerse yourself to appreciate the hazards. From the whirlpool we get into the main train of…
Riba, which ...broadens and loses some of its adolescence. Becoming ever more mature, even noble, ...it moves on with rhythmic authority. At the delta, there are two cities, one on each side, and there is always something on one side of the river that you cannot get on the other. Sometimes it's bootleg booze, or hot automobiles, or many other things.
Village Virgins. One of two cities the river passes through before plunging into the mother, her majesty, the sea.
Praising The River, the Saturday Review wrote that it is "flooded with the glow of humanity, the beacon of brotherhood, carefree, frolic, both reverence and irreverence and mass moments of great architectural splendor." The audience at its premiere gave the work a standing ovation, and the jazz idiom entered the concert hall at last as a welcome and distinguished equal. In 1965, Duke Ellington was denied a Pulitzer Prize because jazz compositions were not considered 'serious' music. In 1999, the Pulitzer Prize Committee awarded him a posthumous citation to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Serge Prokofiev (b. Sontsovka, Russia April 23, 1891; d. Moscow, Russia March 5, 1953)
Excerpts from the Orchestral Suites from the ballet Romeo and Juliet
The Montagues and Capulets from Suite 2, Op. 64ter, No. 1
The Child Juliet from Suite 2, Op. 64ter, No. 2
Dance from Suite 2, Op. 64ter, No. 4
Romeo at Juliet's before Parting from Suite 2, Op. 64ter, No. 5
Romeo at the Grave of Juliet from Suite 2, Op. 64ter, No. 7
Morning Dance from Suite 3, Op. 101, No. 2
Aubade from Suite 3, Op. 101, No. 5
Folk Dance from Suite 1, Op. 64 bis, No. 1
Tableau from Suite 1, Op. 64bis
Death of Tybalt from Suite 1, Op. 64bis, No. 7
Just as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tells the story of star-crossed lovers, the history of Prokofiev's ballet of the same title involves intrigue and an element of star-crossed destiny.
In 1934 Prokofiev began discussions with the Kirov Ballet about composing a lyrical ballet for them. The Kirov requested that he use Romeo and Juliet as his subject matter, but before the work was completed, the company backed out, citing the "overwhelming complexity" of Prokofiev's music. The next year Prokofiev began discussions with Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet to produce the work, and completed the composition that summer. However, true to the plot of its story, troubles continued to plague the work Most controversial, according to the traditional story, was Prokofiev's determination to retain the story's tragic ending. The choreographers protested, until finally the Bolshoi refused to perform the work, calling the composer's music 'impossible to dance to.' Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet seemed destined to remain unknown. (Recently, additional music has been found that suggests a different history, with Prokofiev first writing a happy ending.)
The composer nevertheless persisted, opening discussions with the Leningrad ballet school and later the Brno Opera in Czechoslovakia. Ultimately the ballet opened in Brno in 1938, and the work was not staged in Russia until 1940. Rehearsals at the Kirov were marked by shouting matches with the choreographer and curses from the dancers, baffled by the score's tricky changes of meter. Audiences, however, recognized the power of the music and the work was an instant success.
Meanwhile, Prokofiev had decided to arrange some orchestral suites from the ballet to help disseminate the music. All three orchestral suites, concert pieces performed with a large orchestra, were created by Prokofiev himself, Suites 1 and 2 in 1936, Suite 3 in 1947. The movements in each were arranged into well-balanced sequences with no attempt to retain the order of the ballet's story. Some of the movements are heavily edited and some include elements of two or three different scenes from the ballet, with newly composed transitions. For today's performance our conductor has chosen to incorporate movements from all three suites.
Prokofiev was particularly good at composing music to portray character. The Montagues and the Capulets comes from Suite 2 and portrays the feuding between two powerful families. The music, danced by the knights and ladies of the two families, is imposing, almost intimidating. Its big, bold musical gestures are interrupted only by a short interlude of quiet grace where Juliet Capulet dances with her betrothed amidst the mayhem.
In The Child Juliet from Suite 2, Juliet begins as a shy, naïve youngster depicted with playful, skitterish scales, and develops through a pensive solo for the flute into a young woman in love. The broad, expansive melody for the strings suggests a more complex woman, capable of tragic depth of character. The next movement, a Dance from Suite 2, is taken from the music played during the arrival of the guests at the Capulet's party.
Next we hear Romeo at Juliet's before Parting from Suite 2. For this movement of the orchestral suite, Prokofiev combined several segments of the ballet, encapsulating the music heard after Romeo and Juliet wake from a night spent together, their farewells before Romeo leaves, and the melancholy scene in which Juliet takes the poisonous potion.
Romeo at Juliet's Grave from Suite 2 follows, taken from the Epilogue. Romeo, ignorant of the Friar's plot and believing his true love to be dead, secretly visits the Capulet family tomb and sees Juliet's seemingly lifeless body. In despair, he commits suicide. This is followed in today's performance by several more scene-setting movements taken from the three suites. The performance ends with a particularly powerful moment, The Death of Tybalt from Suite 1. In a shattering crescendo of dramatic tension, Prokofiev portrays Romeo avenging the death of his friend Mercutio by killing Juliet's brother Tybalt. Romeo is sentenced to exile while Tybalt is carried off in a solemn funeral procession.
Star-crossed though it was in the beginning, Prokofiev's version of Romeo and Juliet has remained a huge favorite with audiences as both a ballet and an orchestral concert piece since it finally and triumphantly entered the repertoire.
Program notes by Dr. Beth Fleming