Many years ago, one of my brothers and I were together a lot to watch movies and listen to classical music long-play records (it was a long time ago, so we probably were watching VHS tapes!). He helped me learn who the composers were through their different styles and the periods in which they lived.
On one such evening, we listened to the music for the ballet Cinderella, composed by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Nikolai Volkov (dates unknown) wrote the libretto. The ballet, arranged in three acts and 50 parts, was scored for a large orchestra. Most of the pieces are less than three minutes in length, and several are under one minute. But they are filled with many sounds!
In particular, Act I, No. 18, “Clock Scene” (Allegro moderato) plays just under a minute and a half but goes through multiple tempo changes and visits several repeating melodies in that short time, all the while keeping an urgency about it. The full ballet score contains numerous themes and variations on them; some themes identify the characters, or activities, and these weave throughout the piece in a very compelling way.
Prokofiev’s music for Cinderella, written between 1940 and 1944, is rich, vibrant, and dramatic. I am not always partial to classical music from the 20th century, but Prokofiev is definitely someone I enjoy. He also wrote the symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf — a recording of which features David Bowie (1947-2016) as the narrator, the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and the opera War and Peace, among many other works.
Today, I’m featuring the opening piece, Act I: No. 1, “Introduction” (Andante dolce), as it introduces the themes that repeat through the work. I remembered many other parts after listening to the recording yesterday and today:
Act I: No. 7, “The Dancing Lesson” (Allegretto)
Act II: No. 28, “Mazurka” (Allegro ma non troppo)
Act II: No. 38, “Midnight” (Allegro moderato)
Act III: No. 50, “Amoroso” (Andante dolcissimo)
While much of the music is up-tempo and complex, there are some slower, more contemplative pieces, such as Act II: No. 36, “The Prince and Cinderella”(Adagio).
I think it would be truly marvellous to see the ballet Cinderella danced to Prokofiev’s score.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the audio for Act I: No. 1, “Introduction” (Andante dolce) from a 1983 recording of German-American pianist, conductor and composer André Previn directing the London Symphony Orchestra. The entire recording is on a playlist found on the André Previn YouTube topic channel… check it out, and listen to some of the pieces I highlighted above. And see if you can identify the characters from the musical themes that represent them!