TCHAIKOVSKY Dance Of The Reed Pipes

This month Brid­get Mer­mikides tack­les one of the most fa­mous pieces by per­haps the great­est of all Rus­sian com­posers, the in­com­pa­ra­ble Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Even if the name’s not fa­mil­iar you’ll def­i­nitely recog­nise the theme to TV’s The Ap­pren­tice. Brid­get ar­ranges and tran­scribes it here.

Py­otr tchaikovsky’s tort ured life feels some­what at odd s with the almost child-like in­no­cence in his wor ks

Tchaikovsky had an ex­tra­or­di­nary knack of writ­ing pieces that were at once com­pletely ac­ces­si­ble, the­atri­cally apt and tech­ni­cally bril­liant. This skill ex­plains his en­dur­ing in­ter­na­tional ap­peal to con­cert, opera and bal­let au­di­ences, and mu­si­cians alike. De­spite be­ing plagued by per­sonal is­sues, crit­i­cal reception, self-doubt and de­pres­sion through­out his life (which may well have con­trib­uted to his sui­cide aged 53), he was re­mark­ably pro­lific pro­duc­ing mu­sic for 11 op­eras, three bal­lets and six sym­phonies among a large body of works for a wide va­ri­ety of in­stru­men­ta­tion. Many of his works are im­me­di­ately recog­nis­able in­ter­na­tion­ally and are so per­fectly crafted to a par­tic­u­lar mood or scene that they are used ex­ten­sively in TV, film and other me­dia. Tchaikovsky’s ap­par­ently tor­tured life feels some­what at odds with the almost child-like mag­i­cal in­no­cence in his works. This child-like won­der is no more ev­i­dent than in his The Nutcracker bal­let (1892) – with much of the mu­sic adapted to an or­ches­tral work Nutcracker Suite Op.71a. De­spite mixed re­views at its premiere, The Nutcracker is now a hugely pop­u­lar bal­let and con­cert work.

The bal­let tells the tale of a Christ­mas gift to a child (the pro­tag­o­nist, Clara) of a wooden nutcracker which comes to life and trans­ports her to a mag­i­cal king­dom, the Land of Sweets. Here she is greeted by a pro­ces­sion of treats from around the world. Among th­ese mag­i­cal scenes in­clud­ing choco­late, cof­fee, tea and candy canes is marzi­pan which in­cludes a Danse des Mir­li­tons where the flutes of the orches­tra are fea­tured. In­ci­den­tally, a Mir­li­ton is a ka­zoo-like in­stru­ment – but also a French pas­try re­sem­bling its shape. The English trans­la­tion of Dance Of The Reed Pipes loses this clever dou­ble mean­ing, and is con­fus­ing given there are no reed pipes, ei­ther on stage or in the mu­sic.

As ever, trans­lat­ing this large or­ches­tra­tion down to solo gui­tar is a tech­ni­cal chal­lenge and in­volves some ju­di­cious omis­sions, but I’ve main­tained the orig­i­nal key of D ma­jor with drop D tun­ing and the power of its bril­liant melodic and har­monic writ­ing. Fur­ther­more, key fea­tures such as the jaunty bassline fig­ure (bars 1-2), melody har­mon­is­ing in 6ths (bar 3) and arpeg­giated ges­tures (bar 4) are very id­iomatic. Still there are tech­ni­cal chal­lenges in­volv­ing stam­ina, co­or­di­nat­ing the melody and ac­com­pa­ni­ment; plus there are some tricky po­si­tion shifts to ne­go­ti­ate. The tab cap­tions will guide you through th­ese var­i­ous chal­lenges so be pa­tient and you will be re­warded with a re­ally beau­ti­ful and muchloved melody in your reper­toire.

NEXT MONTH Brid­get ar­ranges Rhap­sody on a Theme of Pa­ganini by Rach­mani­nov

Py­otr Tchaikovsky, one of the all-time great com­posers

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