Classical Music | Music for Viola

Sergei Prokofiev

Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet  Play

Jennifer Stumm Viola
Kuang-Hao Huang Piano
Bartholomew Lafollette Cello

Recorded on 07/29/2008, uploaded on 01/20/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

With a single stroke, Prokofiev placed himself in the company of Tchaikovsky with his ballet Romeo and Juliet. True, it was not his first ballet, as three other works preceded it, but it was his first full-length ballet. Today, besides being ranked among Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker, it is also one of Prokofiev’s greatest creations, matched only by its successor, Cinderella.

While based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name and a synopsis created by the Russian dramaturge Adrian Piotrovsky, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet originally had a “happy” ending. However, the ballet’s composition took place at the beginning of a troubling time for the Soviet Union’s artists. Prokofiev completed the ballet in the latter part of 1935, only a few months before fellow composer, Dmitri Shostakovich, was officially condemned in the first of two scathing editorials in Pravda. Shostakovich, however, was not the sole target of these public rebukes. Other “degenerate modernists,” which included Piotrovsky, were also called out. Hoping to avoid a similar denunciation, Prokofiev, at the strong urging of conductor Yuri Fayer, restored the traditional tragic ending, before his original conception had even received a public performance. The ballet’s premiere took place on December 30, 1938 in Brno, Czechoslovakia, but it is best known in the revised version used at its Leningrad premiere on January 11, 1940.

Besides its many memorable melodies, which includes the “Dance of the Knights” and the love theme of Romeo and Juliet, the ballet is also interesting in Prokofiev’s choice of instrumentation. A tenor saxophone is used, both as a solo instrument and as part of the ensemble, lending a distinct timbre and modern feel to the score. On the other hand, the presence of two mandolins and a viola d’amore (an instrument not used with any frequency since the Baroque period) add not only an Italianate sound, but a touch of antiquatedness in keeping with the story’s setting.       Joseph DuBose

Listeners' Comments        (You have to be logged in to leave comments)

Great performance!

Submitted by Comp1089 on Fri, 01/29/2010 - 11:09. Report abuse