Showcase January-February 2015 - page 29

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Program Notes
finally saw Prokofiev’s score, they called it “undanceable”
and refused to produce it.
Romeo and Juliet
languished in limbo, Prokofiev
transformed excerpts from the ballet’s 52 numbers into
a series of orchestral suites. The first two suites were
premiered in 1936 and 1937—thus much of the music
from the ballet was familiar to audiences long before it
was produced on the stage. The third suite was compiled
in 1946.
a tale of woe?
The premiere of the ballet itself took place not in Russia
but in Brno in 1938. Preparations for the first Russian
performance brought more trouble, including a fight
between Prokofiev and the choreographer, disputes
with the dancers and a threatened walk-out by the
orchestra. When the Russian premiere finally took place
in Leningrad on January 11, 1940, it was a triumph for all
involved. Still, ballerina Galina Ulanova, who danced the
part of Juliet, touched on the ballet’s difficult birth when
she paraphrased the play’s final lines in her toast to the
composer after the opening performance:
Never was a tale of greater woe,
Than Prokofiev’s music to Romeo.
The movements in Prokofiev’s orchestral suites from
Romeo and Juliet
are not in chronological sequence: he
created the suites by arranging movements in sequences
he felt would be effective in the concert hall. Conductors
frequently assemble their own selection of movements
from these suites, as Osmo Vänskä has done for these
music tender and dramatic
The music selected for this concert opens with two
movements from Suite II and then presents two from
Suite I.
Montagues and the Capulets
begins with Prokofiev
piling dissonance upon dissonance, after which the music
forges ahead brutally on the swagger of the rival families.
is a sequence from a carnival the young lovers
attend. The witty
depicts a scene in which Mercutio
and Benvolio talk Romeo into crashing the ball at the
Romeo and Juliet
accompanies the balcony
scene; soaring love music alternates with ominous
interludes marked
2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes,
English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons,
contrabassoon, tenor saxophone, 6 horns, 3 trumpets,
cornet, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, chimes,
cymbals, snare drum, tambourine, triangle, xylophone,
2 harps, piano, celeste and strings
Program notes by
Eric Bromberger
Symphonic Dances from
West Side Story
were first
performed by Lukas Foss and the New York Philharmonic
on February 13, 1961. The dances follow the action of
West Side Story
and incorporate bits of the songs.
A brashly energetic
(which requires finger-
snapping from the orchestra) leads to a section based on
the song “Somewhere,” which envisions a more peaceful
world. A
leads to
, set at the high school
dance attended by both the Sharks and the Jets. In the
(which quotes the song “Maria”), Tony and
Maria dance together; their
Meeting Scene
is depicted
by a quartet of muted violins. Tensions rise in the eerie,
“Cool” Fugue
, and
accompanies the
fight in which the rival gang leaders Bernardo and Riff
are killed. A flute cadenza prefaces the
, which
incorporates Maria’s “I Have a Love,” and—after so much
vitality and violence—the Symphonic Dances come to a
subdued close.
3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes,
English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, E-flat clarinet,
2 bassoons, contrabassoon, alto saxophone, 4 horns,
3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum,
bongos, chimes, congas, cowbell, cymbals, gong, guiro,
maracas, bells, police whistle, tenor drum,
tambourine, timbales, triangle, vibraphone,
woodblocks, xylophone, piano, celeste, harp and strings
Sergei Prokofiev
April 23, 1891, Sontsovka
March 5, 1953, Moscow
Selections from Romeo and Juliet
ate in 1934 the Kirov Theater in Leningrad approached
Sergei Prokofiev with the proposal that they collaborate
on a ballet based on Shakespeare’s
Romeo and Juliet
Prokofiev completed the massive score by the end of
the summer of 1935, but the project came to seem
nearly as star-crossed as Shakespeare’s young lovers.
The Kirov Ballet backed out, and the Bolshoi Theatre of
Moscow took over the project. Prokofiev’s first plan had
been to give the story a happy ending in which Romeo
would rescue Juliet before her suicide—because, as he
explained, “living people can dance, the dying cannot.”
Fortunately, this idea was scrapped, but when the Bolshoi
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