(Arranged in 2002)
The orchestration of two “lost” movements from Prokofiev’s ballet Trapeze.
Commissioned: Prokofiev Archive and Boosey and Hawkes Music Publishers.
ob / clt / vln / vla / db.
Timing: entire ballet: c.25mins.
1. Moderato, molto ritmato (Overture)
2. Allegro (Matelote)
3. Theme and Variations (The Ballerina)
4. Andante energico
5. Allegro sostenuto, ma con brio (Dance of the Tumblers)
6. Adagio pesante
7. Allegro precipitato, ma non troppo presto
8. Andantino (Mourning the Ballerina)
Both Trapèze and the Schubert Waltzes for 2 pianos were commissioned by one of Prokofiev’s former acquaintances from St. Petersburg, the choreographer Boris Georgevich Romanov (1891-1957). By 1924 Romanov was living in Berlin where he had created a new company, the Russian Romantic Theatre, who aimed to represent what ‘was new and wholly dedicated to the propaganda of Russian art.’ Prokofiev the modernist was an obvious choice.
No sooner was the ballet scenario sketched by the two artists Prokofiev set to work, composing six movements scored for the unusual combination of oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and double bass. From the outset however, Prokofiev had conceived this music as a concert piece, and had it soon published as the Quintet Op. 39. But even though the music was ready, the ballet had to be postponed.
Hampered by the economic collapse of Germany, Romanov was unable to stage the ballet as planned during the 1924-25 season. When rehearsals started in the spring of 1925, Romanov revised the scenario, requesting another two movements from Prokofiev, Overture and Matelote. The complete ballet in eight movements was first performed in Gotha, a small German town near Hanover, on 6 November 1925.
During the following spring the company toured in Italy with a large programme that included Trapèze. The tour was a financial disaster and soon after The Russian Romantic Theatre disbanded, its new works following the same destiny: Trapèze went into oblivion, never to be performed again. When the Quintet was published, it did not include the ballet’s two extra movements and, consequently, the complete score of Trapèze was not preserved.
Meanwhile the piano score of the two movements remained in manuscript form until recently, when they were re-discovered among the holdings of the Serge Prokofiev Archive in London. In tonight’s performance of the complete ballet in eight movements, Overture and Matelote are orchestrated by Samuel Becker.
Progamme note by Noelle Mann, curator of the Prokofiev Archive.
- January 2003: Concert performance of complete ballet by members of the Royal Northern College of Music, at the Prokofiev Festival in Manchester, conductor Robin Newton.
- April 2003: The complete ballet was danced for the first time in nearly eighty years by the English National Ballet at the Sadlers Wells theatre, ENB orchestra conducted by Anthony Twiner.
- It is now being performed by ballet companies around the world. See the Boosey and Hawkes website for more information.
“Late at night, the accomplished students of the Royal Northern College of Music New Ensemble tucked into Trapeze, a ballet score for string and woodwind quintet never heard complete since the mid-1920s: garrulously contrapuntal, nostalgic and spiky, always fascinating.”
Geoff Brown, The Times
“Trapeze was commissioned from an émigré Russian ballet company that went bust soon after taking the work on tour. Six of its eight shortish movements, scored for a wacky ensemble of oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and double bass, survived; but two more, added at the ballet-master’s request, disappeared. Their piano drafts were recently rediscovered by Noëlle Mann, curator of the Prokofiev Archive in London, and have been orchestrated by Samuel Becker. Less bizarre than the other movements, they are equally compelling, and the Royal Northern College of Music’s New Ensemble, conducted by Robin Newton, did the whole score and themselves tremendous credit in their post-concert appearance.”
David Fanning, The Daily Telegraph