ballet music

ballet music
   Tchaikovsky is by far the most well known ballet composer in 1990s Britain, and his ballet scores form a large part of most companies’ repertory. Attending a performance of The Nutcracker, which has a seasonal story, has become a Christmas tradition for many. Audiences becoming familiar with ballet music in this way has assisted ballet’s current popularity, ensuring that many pieces originally written for ballet productions have a life of their own away from the theatre, being performed live in orchestral concerts, recorded and used in advertising. Classical ballet’s short, attractive movements are also suited to use as advertising jingles, and through these have reasserted their own popularity, drawing a new audience to the repertoire. This is clearly illustrated by Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Mirlitons, nicknamed ‘Everyone’s a Fruit and Nutcase’ after being used in a television advertisement. Advertising’s influence is perhaps most readily apparent in the compilations released of music popularized through commercials. Such ‘bite-sized chunks’ also found an eager audience in 1990s Britain through Classic FM’s output of shorter pieces, such as Herold’s Clog Dance from La Fille mal gardée.
   Certain pieces are played as mainstream concert hall material more often than they are danced, with staged performances naturally requiring greater resources. Scores from Diaghilev’s ballets such as Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and The Firebird or Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloë draw audiences into concert halls due to the strength of the music; they are powerful alone, though more so when danced. Conversely, scores are taken from concert hall to theatre and choreographed. Scottish Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1993) employed Mendelssohn’s original music expanded into a full-length ballet score by Barrington Pheloung and choreographed by Robert Cohan, who also choreographed Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (1996) for the company.
   Even composers of the stature of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev were beholden to choreographers, choreography having a higher profile than composition. Christopher Gable, artistic director of Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) maintains that this can prevent the composer from providing particular skilled input. NBT has worked in a more cooperative way with composers, with Gable himself collaborating with composer Carl Davis on A Christmas Carol (1992). NBT has developed its music provision from the use of recordings and occasional chamber ensembles, to having its own regular orchestra which performs and records in its own right.
   See also: ballet
   Further reading
    Volkov, S. (1993) Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky, London: Faber & Faber (choreographer on composer).
   ANDREA MARTIN

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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