Dark Tales and Happy Endings

Arthur Szyk, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone loves a good fairy tale, featuring dashing heroes and heroines, evil villains, and imperiled protagonists, navigating their way towards a hoped-for happy ending. Shared from one generation to the next, these cautionary tales occupy a special place in popular culture and they have inspired some of the most appealing and memorable music ever written.  

Here are a few of our favorite examples, including an extract from Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose), which was originally written for piano for a pair of Ravel’s precociously talented sibling piano students, aged just 6 and 7. The orchestral version of the suite is on the program for FRENCH IMPRESSIONS—Saturday and Sunday, March 26 & 27 at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek. 

1.     Sleeping Beauty Waltz—Tchaikovsky 

Master of melodies Piotr Tchaikovsky penned one of the most glorious beginnings to any ballet, performed here by the Kirov Ballet. 

2.     Cinderella Suite Waltz— Prokofiev 

Dark and enchanting, Prokofiev’s unexpected harmonies and dissonance add a wisp of unsettling malevolence to his music for Cinderella’s appearance at the grand royal ball. 

3. Beauty and the Beast Overture—Philip Glass 

Glass’s Beauty and the Beast is based on the iconic 1946 film by Jean Cocteau, La Belle et la Bête. The three-and-a-half-minute overture runs the gamut of emotions, hinting at the drama that unfolds in the story… 

4.     The Swan of Tuonela—Sibelius 

As featured in our February concert, TAKE FLIGHT, Sibelius’ tone-poem takes its inspiration from Finnish folklore about the black swan that guards the entrance to the underworld. Richly atmospheric and beautifully orchestrated, it’s one of four stories in the Lemminkäinen Suite, based on Finnish legends. 

5.     Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas from the Mother Goose Suite—Ravel 

Ma mère l’Oye is French composer Maurice Ravel’s take on several beloved tales from the Mother Goose series of stories for children, including Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, and the Beauty and the Beast. In this extract, Chinese princess Laideronnette is shipwrecked in the island of the pagodas and the little porcelain people take her as their queen… 

6.     Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy—Tchaikovsky 

The soundtrack of the holidays every year… The tinkling sound of the celeste plays a starring role in music for the ruler of the Land of Sweets in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, danced here by members of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose) is featured in FRENCH IMPRESSIONS on Saturday, March 26 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, March 27 at 4 PM at the Lesher Center for the Arts. Tickets are $44 to $74. Buy tickets online or call or visit the Lesher Center Ticket Office at 925.943.7469, Wed – Sun, 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm.


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