Rudy Apffel, piano
Variations and Adaptations for
The great appeal to me of Schumann and Brahms is the power and romantic warmth of their harmonic and melodic writing. Of particular interest to a ballet pianist is Brahms’ many and varied dance and dance-like pieces, while among Schumann’s numerous collections for piano solo there are literally hundreds of pieces readymade for, or easily adaptable to, ballet class, from the very simple items in Album For The Young to individual movements of Kreisleriana and individual variations of the Symphonic Etudes. Brahms’ explicit dance music like the Hungarian Dances and the Op 39 Waltzes recommend themselves, while many of his piano pieces make great classroom music (though usually requiring more squaring-off than do Schumann's). A rich source in Brahms for an accompanist’s repertory is individual movements from his chamber music, but that material requires some know-how to transcribe and adapt to the constraints of ballet class.
Variations, Adaptations and Variation Sets
In my introduction to this library of Piano Variations and Adaptations I explained my process and intention in creating arrangements of composers’ music, but for this album I need to take special note of the Variation Set, that is, the form of music that processes a Theme through a number of discrete Variations played one after the other.
I’ve composed a number of variation sets for ballet class and I’m including four of them on this album. My seven waltz variations on Brahms’ Op 39 #9 (tracks 15 and 16) make a traditional variation set in that each waltz is contrasted with the theme and with its neighbor by means of texture, tempo, mode and character. Each waltz is a short stand-alone piece, and the full set isn’t meant to be played continuously in class. It was incidentally necessary that I divide the set into two tracks because the full audiofile is too large to upload to this site, but on commercial platforms to which this album will be distributed the set will be on a single track
My three Schumann variations sets (tracks 1, 7, 8) are meant to be played in class as continuous variations on a theme, and they illustrate the special challenge to a ballet accompanist creating variations that must not vary too much in character and not at all in tempo. I usually play my Schumann sets for plies that turn to the second side without stopping.
The Playlist and the Index
As noted in my introduction to this library I organize my ballet class repertory into three broad categories, Adagio, 3/4 and 2/4, which are subdivided into “Short,” “Long” and “Extended.” As to Adagio, “Short” means 2 sets of 8 on each side, “Long” means 4 sets on each side, and “Extended” means 8 sets on each side. I don’t find “Short” and “Long” useful for sorting 3/4’s and 2/4’s, but I call them “Extended” when they are long enough to be useful for Centre combinations across the floor.
Also as explained in my introduction, the Playlists order the tracks by composer catalog number, but I provide an index that orders them by Adagio, 3/4 and 2/4, and, within those types, orders them by tempo and length. I give a descriptive title to each entry in the index meant to suggest the arrangement’s relevance to ballet class, and I’ve named some of the arrangements after certain steps and combinations in ballet class. Those names are meant to be loosely descriptive, not prescriptive.
Index by Type
Long 3/4 Adagio: Brahms Op 39 #5, #12--Variation, track 14
Extended 3/8 Adagio: Brahms Op 90, iii--Adaptation, track 21
Extended 3/4 Adagio: Schumann Op 9, Aveu--Variations, track 1
Extended 3/4 Adagio: Schumann Op 13, Anh #5--Adaptation, track 3
Extended 6/8 Adagio: Schumann Op 25 #14--Variations, track 7
Extended 3/4 Adagio: Schumann Op 121, iii--Variations, track 8
Fondus in 6/8 (8 sets of 8): Brahms Op 2, Scherzo-Trio--Adaptation, track 10
Degages in 6/8 (16 sets of 8): Brahms Op 2, Scherzo--Adaptation, track 9
Seven Short Waltzes: Brahms Op 39 #9--Variations, tracks 15 and 16
Pirouettes in Lyrical Style (24 sets of 8): Brahms Op 87, Scherzo-Trio--Adaptation, track 20
Mazurka (8 sets of 8): Brahms WoO 1 #3--Variation, track 24
Extended Mazurka (16 sets of 8): Schumann Op 18--Variation 2, track 5
Polonaise (8 sets of 8): Brahms WoO 1 #1--Variation, track 23
Extended Polonaise (16 sets of 8): Schumann Op 18--Variation 3, track 6
Petit Allegto (24 sets of 8): Brahms Op 36, Scherzo-Trio--Adaptation, track 12
Mezzo Allegro (28 sets of 8): Brahms Op 52 #6, Adaptation, track 18
Grand Allegro (20 sets of 8): Brahms Op 78, i, Adaptation, track 19
Grand Allegro (28 sets of 8): Brahms Op 116 #3, Variation, track 22
Frappes (8 sets of 8): Schuman Op 9, Aveu--Variation, track 2
Frappes (16 sets of 8): Brahms Op 36, Scherzo--Adaptation, track 11
Petits Battements (8 sets of 8): Brahms Op 39 #11--Variation, track 17
Grands Battements in 2 (8 sets of 8): Brahms Op 39 #3, #13--Variation, track 13
Extended Polka (32 setsof 8): Schumann Op 18 Variation 1, track 4
(click on track title to link to pdf score)
12 Brahms Op 36, Scherzo-Trio--Adaptation: Petit Allegro