posted by James Reel
At 9 a.m. every weekday this week and into the next, we're surveying the great, full-length, Romantic-era ballet scores. Several qualifiers there, and toward the end we'll be getting into material that strictly speaking is not from the Romantic era but does carry on its traditions.
We'll start today (Aug. 19) with the score that started it all, Adolphe Adam's Giselle. True, Beethoven had written an hour-long ballet score and there was certainly no shortage of dance music for the stage during the next few decades, but it was Giselle in 1841 that solidified the idea that good music--not the insipid material that was often foisted upon dancers--could sustain an evening-length story in dance.
From Giselle we'll move on to the complete scores of Delibes' Coppélia on Tuesday and Sylvia (a rarity on stage now, but sometimes heard in concert suites) on Wednesday. Then comes the greatest ballet composer of the 19th century, Tchaikovsky. His Swan Lake will dominate Thursday morning, with Sleeping Beauty following on Friday. We'll take the weekend off from ballet music, then return next Monday morning at 9 with Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker something that really should not be limited to Christmastime performances.
Then next Tuesday we'll venture into the 20th century with two lush, Romantic-style ballet scores by a composer who started out as a noisy iconoclast: Sergei Prokofiev. His Romeo and Juliet, surely the full-length ballet score of the greatest musical substance, will be featured in its entirety on Tuesday, and we'll conclude the series with extended excerpts from his Cinderella the following day. And after that, you'll just have to sit still while you listen to Classical 90.5.