Dance of the Knights (Prokofiev 1935)[5:44]

Mahler's music intimidates me. It has scale, it has scope, it is compositionally complex and it also uses some really odd instruments (as I suspect) just to keep the audience on their toes throughout. This type of flighty compositional notion isn;t something you might associate with a composer like Sergei Prokofiev, but you'd be surprised; in Romeo and Julie (and in Dance of the Knights in particular) he scores in a tenor saxophone. Unbelievable! That's like finding a ukelele in the middle of a Bach cantata, or an ocarina in the middle of one of Bartok's more strenuous works.

Even more unbelievably, when the original synopsis for the ballet of Romeo and Juliet was given to Sergei it had a happy ending. Happily for us this never saw the light of day as Russia's main critical publications saw this the result of degenerate modernists. When the Bolshoi took possession of the music they declared it to be 'undanceable', something that the following snippet ought to (I hope) demonstrate is just rubbish:


I love love LOVE this piece of music. It's unashamedly massive. It seems discordant at first, but it's not really - it's just covering a huge range (which doesn't do the Mellotron any favours, it must be said) and it plods along at the sort of pace you might expect at a Brontosaurus' hoedown, but it is scored at pesante (which is Italian for Brontosaurus' hoedown) and feels enormously imposing, as though it's setting down a challenge to anyone listening to it. The thumping chords are a real trademark of Prokofiev, demanding the attention of the audience, which may explain why so many football clubs walk onto the pitch to this music. I'd prefer it if they leapt on like Nureyev, but maybe that's my prejudice showing. Why three teams that are associated directly with Brian Clough should walk on to ballet music is a weird thing to ponder.

I've taken some liberties with arrangements for (ahem) Mellotronic tuning reasons, particularly in the third section where some of the woodwinds might not quite mesh with the subtle string voices beneath. I've also used the oboe instead of any attempt to play a tenor sax as there isn't a decent sax sound available for the Mellotron, despite there being about half a dozen candidates to choose from. Everything is upfront when it matters, and it matters often and a lot.

Nice one, Sergei.

Instrumentation: Mellotrons M400 and Mk V Playing

plus harp, timpani, bass drum and snare drum samples

FLAC version here.