Saturday, 31 December 2016

In praise of Prokofiev, and in particular his Cinderella ballet music

I love the music of many composers, from Bach/Scarlatti to modern day composers like John Williams, and of course many different styles of music too.

But a particular favourite is Prokofiev:



His music is so original, so vastly different from the arpeggio/scale based music that many of his predecessors (e.g. Beethoven - think of the Appassionata piano sonata which starts off with an F minor arpeggio, or the Clair de Lune with a C# minor one) that it is hard to imagine Prokofiev ever being accused of copying any other composer. (I'm sure he would have been perfectly capable of doing that if he had wanted to, but I'm equally sure he would have treated the suggestion with contempt, preferring to write in his own - at the time probably inimitable- style ...).

Some examples of frequent uses of arpeggios in Beethoven:



A recent favourite of mine is the music Prokofiev composed for the ballet Cinderella:



This is full of wonderfully quirky tunes, with great humour (e.g. the Duet of the ugly sisters with their oranges), or sadness (the Gavotte, or Cinderella dreams of the ball, or the Grand Waltz when Cinderella and the Prince first dance together), or menace (the clock scene, and of course as midnight approaches at the ball).

Prokofiev also produced piano transcriptions of parts of the ballet, e.g.:





And there is even a two piano transcription by Mikhail Pletnev, here performed at its premiere by Pletnev and Martha Argerich:



I have greatly enjoyed listening to the different versions of this, over and over, and also having a go at playing some of the piano transcriptions.  If you've never heard the piece before, it's well worth a listen - I hope you enjoy it too!

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