It wasn’t until the time of Tchaikovsky that ballet scores took on a sophistication that defined them as works of art in themselves. Thus the pleasure we get today from listening to these scores, minus the dancers, yet still able to appreciate the narrative and deeper psychology of the plot.
Music review: The RSNO - A Night At The Ballet ****
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
The RSNO’s A Night At The Ballet, under New York City Ballet music director Andrew Litton, was a case in point. With Tchaikovsky as the historical starting-point, and further wonderful examples of the orchestral genre by Prokofiev, Ravel and Stravinsky, the trick was to close one’s eyes and marvel at the rich stream of musical invention that classical ballet has inspired. A warm up process was detectable, leaving the concert opener – selected movements from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, including the movement known better today as the theme tune to The Apprentice – not quite as vital as it should have been. But by its end point – the stabbing brutality of The Death of Tybalt – the Litton-RSNO partnership had found surer footing.
The transformation in Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty – a substantial selection assembled by Litton himself – was immediate. Expansive flowing gestures gave flight to the music’s sensuous charm, coloured by its bejewelled instrumentation.
Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite told the same story, but this time with delicate French nuances and exotic flavourings. Then a glorious finale, Stravinsky’s Firebird (the 1945 suite), and a truly iridescent performance, exquisite in its finer detail and colossal in its intense conclusion.