Rudy Apffel, piano
Variations and Adaptations for
Ballet Class

INTRODUCTION 

 

In the introduction to my collection “Czerny for Ballet Class: Arrangements and Re-Imaginings” I described the technologies that made it possible for me to create and publish my arrangements of Czerny studies for ballet class: Digital Audio Workstation and Music Notation software.  Those same technologies have made it possible for me to present the five albums of Variations and Adaptations for Ballet Class.  For my Czerny albums the DAW allowed me to make multi-performer arrangements which I called “Idealizations,” and which are not practically performable, but which are intended as experiment and entertainment.  In this collection of Variations and Adaptations there are no “Idealizations.”  The arrangements in the five albums are all practically performable (though, in two cases, not necessarily by me, as is explained in the JS Bach album), and for each arrangement I offer a performance and a PDF of the piano score.

 

ADAPTING AND VARYING

Some people take issue with distorting composers’ music to meet the requirements of ballet class accompaniment. This collection is not for them; I take it as a given that every composer’s music (in the public domain) is available to ballet accompanists to distort for their needs, whether by means of a discreet cut of a bar here or there, or a wholesale change of meter, tempo, harmony, key, structure, character...  My own ballet class repertory includes pieces that I play as written and pieces that I adapt and vary: some slightly altered to make them “even,” and some drastically rewritten, changing meter, tempo, etc.  It’s those pieces in the “drastic” category that make up most of this collection.

 

Not all of my plundering of composers’ music has been so scandalous; I’ve also followed the fully respectable procedure of theme-and-variations, and this is an interesting topic for a ballet accompanist.

 

If you like a certain melody it’s useful and satisfying to fashion variations of it for individual exercises in class.  But it’s another matter to fashion variation sets—that is, multiple variations to be played in succession.  Typically the ballet accompanist is expected to keep the music in the same meter, tempo and character throughout an exercise, so if you want to play multiple variations on a theme for a single exercise you have to sacrifice most of the ingredients that make for contrast from one variation to the next--meter, tempo and character.  I like this challenge, and I’ve included in this library several variation sets that propose ways of meeting it.

 

As a general description, by “Adaptation” I mean an arrangement that preserves the readily recognizable identity of a piece of music but alters as much of it as is necessary to make it suitable for a specific type of exercise in ballet class, and by “Variation” I mean an arrangement that radically alters the meter, tempo or character of a piece of music beyond any necessity to make it suitable for a specific type of exercise in ballet class.

 

ORGANIZING REPERTORY

Among ballet accompanists, those of us who work from scores sooner or later come up with an organizing system for our expanding repertory.  Some of us organize our music according to genre or topic: waltzes, marches, adagios, etc.  After a few years of playing professionally for ballet class and continuously adding to my repertory I began to order my music into three broad categories: Adagio, 3/4 and 2/4.

Under “Adagio” I put all those pieces, whether in duple or triple meter, that are in a slow tempo and have the “temperament” of ballet class adagio, but I also include music that may be more robust than adagio, certain slow, weighty waltzes, for instance, more suitable for ronds de jamb a terre than the typical ballet class adagio.

Under “3/4” I put the great quantity of pieces that are in triple time and are faster than adagio—waltzes and mazurkas, of course, but also polonaises, fandangos, the paso doble, the sicilliano...  Siciliano is something of a borderline case; it’s usually quicker and more lilting than an adagio but many make very beautiful adagios when slowed down.

Under 2/4 I put the even greater quantity of pieces in duple time, music for everything from slow tendus to coda, from grands battements to sautee and petit allegro.

I further subdivide my three categories into “Short,” “Long” and “Extended.”  

Among my Adagios “Short” means the typical ballet class adagio that is two sets of 8 counts on each side, and “Long” means four sets of 8 counts on each side.  I call an adagio “Extended” when it’s long enough for the typical ballet class plies executed without a break between sides: 16 sets of 8 counts.

I’ve found that “Short” and “Long” are not particularly useful in describing my 2/4’s and 3/4’s, but "Extended" is.  I call 2/4’s and 3/4’s “Extended” when they’re suitable for centre (petit allegro, grand allegro, etc) because of their length--at least 16 or more sets of 8 counts and about two minutes or longer.

The playlists for each of the five albums in this library order the tracks by the composer’s catalogue number (Op, BWV, K, etc).  For each album I provide an index that organizes the tracks according to my system of Adagio, 3/4, 2/4 and their subdivisions, as well as a note on their character and length, and each title in the index links to a pdf of its piano score.

 

PERFORMANCE TRACKS AND PDF SCORES

    It will be noticed that my scores have no dynamic, expression or tempo markings.  My performances realize in an ad hoc way dynamics, expression and tempo.  Musicians interested in my arrangements are welcome to play them as they like.