PROkOfIEv Dance Of The knights

This month Brid­get Mermikides tack­les a dark sound­ing piece used as the theme from TV show The Ap­pren­tice. But even if you don’t get it right first time you won’t hear those dreaded words, “You’re fired!”

Guitar Techniques - - CON­TENTS -

Also known as Mon­tagues & Ca­pulets or Romeo & Juliet, Brid­get Mermikides tabs this de­light­ful piece from the Rus­sian mas­ter.

Ama­jor fig­ure of 20th cen­tury mu­sic, the Rus­sian com­poser, pi­anist and con­duc­tor Sergei Prokofiev (18911953) had a unique and vi­brant mu­si­cal voice. His star­tling and rad­i­cal mu­si­cal in­di­vid­u­al­ism some­how man­aged to ap­peal both to his mu­si­cal peers and ad­mir­ers (in­clud­ing Stravin­sky and Ravel) as well as a wide au­di­ence. The use of har­monic dis­so­nance, poly­tonal­ity, eclec­ti­cism, ex­per­i­men­tal­ism, odd time sig­na­tures, an­gu­lar melodies and in­ven­tive or­ches­tra­tion through­out his huge body of work of eight bal­lets, nine con­cer­tos, nine piano sonatas and seven sym­phonies, places him firmly in the genre of 20th cen­tury ‘mod­ernism’; how­ever, there is a wit, ac­ces­si­bil­ity and flair in his work that has af­forded them an en­dur­ing legacy and in­flu­ence, par­tic­u­larly in the bal­let and op­er­atic reper­toire.

In this issue, we will tackle his ev­er­pop­u­lar Dance Of The Knights (also known as Mon­tagues And Ca­pulets, or The Prince Gives His Or­der) from his bal­let Romeo And Juliet (op.64 pre­miered in 1938) – as well as his later or­ches­tral suite adap­ta­tions of the bal­let’s mu­sic. The bal­let is or­ches­trated for a stan­dard orches­tra, but with the un­usual and in­ven­tive ad­di­tion of tenor sax­o­phone, and the power and epic na­ture of Shake­speare’s tale is per­fectly un­der­pinned by Prokofiev’s mu­sic. In Act I Scene 2 (mu­sic cue no.13), a fight is about to break out be­tween the rival fam­i­lies of the Mon­tagues and Ca­pulets (against which Romeo and Juliet’s for­bid­den love af­fair is set). Prokofiev’s mu­sic is per­fectly and ir­re­sistibly fore­bod­ing and ominous (and it’s hard not to hear its in­flu­ence in John Wil­liams’ Im­pe­rial March).

The two main mo­tifs of the march (bars 2-10 in the ar­range­ment) and (bars 29-35 in the ar­range­ment) join forces to cre­ate an in­tox­i­cat­ing mix as ‘metal’ as it is ‘clas­si­cal’ and the piece has been used ex­ten­sively in theme tunes, sam­ples and events by the likes of Muse, Iron Maiden, Deep Pur­ple, The Smiths, Rob­bie Wil­liams, Emer­son, Lake And Palmer as well as in the TV shows The Ap­pren­tice, Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent, Gotham and ap­pro­pri­ately epic movies like War Ma­chine and the in­fa­mous Caligula.

Re­cre­at­ing this dra­matic or­ches­tral force and the var­i­ous mu­si­cal lay­ers on solo gui­tar is of course an ar­rang­ing and per­for­mance chal­lenge. How­ever, the orig­i­nal key of E mi­nor is id­iomatic and the strength of Prokofiev’s melody, de­li­ciously dis­so­nant chords (bars 9-10) and chordal ‘strums’ all trans­late re­ally ef­fec­tively. The main tech­ni­cal dif­fi­culty is in play­ing the fa­mil­iar melody with the sup­port­ing bassline which re­quires fret­ting-hand pre­ci­sion as well as stamina, par­tic­u­larly in the mod­u­la­tion to less gui­tar-friendly keys. Still, it is pos­si­ble – and in fact very re­ward­ing – with some pa­tient prepa­ra­tion, so use the tab cap­tions and ac­com­pa­ny­ing video for sup­port and en­joy this ab­so­lute gem of a piece.

NEXT MONTH Brid­get tabs Tchaikovsky’s Dance Of The Reed Pipes from The Nutcracker

the main dif­fi­culty is in play­ing the fa­mil­iar melod y with suppo rt­ing bassline which re­quires pre­ci­sion and stamina

Prokofiev, one of the 20th cen­tury’s ma­jor com­posers

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