Piano Variations and Adaptations
for Ballet Class
G GERSHWIN, R RODGERS
Waltzes for Center
“Our Schubert, Our Waltz King”
I’m told that all Germans know at least some Schubert lieder if not from direct study and hearing performances then from simply breathing the cultural air in which they live. I think that’s true of most adult Americans when it comes to knowing at least some Gershwin--the melodies, a few lines of lyrics, the rhythms.
A few years ago I was surprised to learn for the first time that George Gershwin himself called Jerome Kern “America’s Franz Schubert.” The surprise for me was that I’d grown up believing that, “as everybody knows,” Gershwin is our Schubert. And in fact I think everybody does know that. If this seems to take something away from Kern then I vote we call Kern our "Robert Schumann of Song."
I love these labels. Both limiting and impossibly vague, yet they honor and express a special affection for a composer. Nazaret is the Scott Joplin of Brazil. Scriabin is Russia’s Chopin. Ted Chapin (President of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Company) called Richard Rodgers “the Broadway Musical’s ‘Waltz King’” and the title fits. Even if Rodgers didn’t write quite as many hundreds of waltzes as Strauss II his output is as familiar, ubiquitous and memorable, and includes some of the finest lyrics in what H L Mencken called “The American Language.” Though not quite to the saturation point of Gershwin, Rodgers is in the air we breathe.
In class I play lots of American Songbook (Berlin, Kern, Styne, Carmichael, Arlen, etc), but I have a special fondness for Gershwin and Rodgers. Like Germans with their Schubert and their Strauss we all have personal emotional associations to our Gershwin and our Rodgers, and that’s the special appeal of playing their songs in ballet class; they get everybody humming and associating.
I'm using "Waltzes" in the title of this album as a catch-all for triple time pieces suitable for centre across the range of Adagio, Pirouettes, Character and Allegro. In keeping with my program of “variations and adaptations” (as opposed to transcrip-tions and arrangements) I’m not including Gershwin and Rodgers waltzes qua waltzes. Except for two instances, all the pieces in this album are songs that are not originally waltzes. The two exceptions are Gershwin’s “By Strauss” (track 2) and Rodgers’ “My Favorite Things” (track 16) excepted on the grounds that I have used those songs as themes for waltz variation sets.
Organization and Indexes
As I explained in my introduction to this library I organize my ballet class repertory into three basic categories: Adagio, 3/4 and 2/4. These categories are subdivided into “Short,” “Long” and “Extended.” For this album my organizing principle is simpler. All the pieces are in triple time with differing tempos and characters. The playlist orders the pieces alphabetically by composer and song title, but I supply an index that orders them into the two broad centre categories of Adagio (slow) and Allegro (fast), each category further ordered according to dance type (minuet, polonaise, petit allegro… etc.)
(click title to link to downloadable pdf score)
Minuet: Rodgers “My Funny Valentine”-- track 17
Adagio Waltz: Gershwin “But Not For Me”-- track 1
Adagio Waltz: Gershwin “The Half Of It, Dearie Blues”--track 4
Adagio Waltz: Gershwin “That Certain Feeling”--track 11
Adagio Waltz: Rodgers “Spring Is Here”--track 18
Barcarolle: Rodgers “It Never Entered My Mind”--track 13
Pirouettes: Gershwin “I’ve Got a Crush on You”--track 6
Pirouettes: Gershwin “Isn’t It A Pity”--track 7
Pirouettes: Rodgers “With A Song In My Heart”--track 20
Polonaise: Rodgers “The Lady Is A Tramp”--track 14
Paso Doble: Rodgers “The Sweetest Sounds”--track 19
6/8 Petit Allegro: Rodgers “Mountain Greenery”--track 15
Mezzo Allegro: Gershwin “Embraceable You”--track 3
Mezzo Allegro: Gershwin “He Loves And She Loves”--track 5
Mezzo Allegro: Gershwin “Somebody Loves Me”--track 10
Mezzo Allegro: Rodgers “It Might As Well Be Spring”--track 12
Mezzo Allegro: Rodgers “To Keep My Love Alive”--track 20
Grand Allegro: Gershwin: “By Strauss”--track 2
Grand Allegro: Gershwin: “Love Walked In”--track 8
Grand Allegro: Gershwin, Porter: “S’Wonderful” and “Wunderbar”--track 9
Grand Allegro: Rodgers: “My Favorite Things”--track 16