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!”
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