Air de Ballet Opus 24 No. 2 in D Minor
Uploaded on Oct 5, 2018
Air de Ballet Opus 24 No. 2 in D Minor is the second of two pieces in the set called “Gigue et Air de Ballet”. It was publicated in 1844 and dedicated to his brother Napoléon Alkan.
In his book “Charles Valentin Alkan: His Life and His Music”, William Alexander Eddie states that: The craggy uncompromising style of the Gigue contrasts sharply with its companion piece, the Air de Ballet which is less inspired. Here the model is the opéra ballet of Rameau, thus illustrating Alkan's subtitle to this piece “dans le style ancien”. This “ancient style” in Alkan's Opus 24 is exemplified by square harmonic modular phrase structure, a quasi chanson rhythm and a persistent use of the Dorian mode with its characteristic flattened seventh and an omission of the third of chord at cadences thus blurring the major/minor tonality. All these factors combine with Alkan's characteristic use of the five bar phrase, his liking for tonic-centred melodies and a romantic reinforcing the lower bass octaves. Despite the length of the piece (207 bars) which contains much simples repetition of ideas, Opus 24 has considerable charm from the direct opening D Minor rondeau theme in pungent octaves designated “très carrément” to the delicacy of the first couplet with its soprano tenor delicate texture. A delightful harmonic surprise is the sudden move to B Minor via a D Major and an inner use of melodic chromaticism. This couplet theme is picked out as part of the triplet melodic variant. After a reprise of the rondeau theme, Alkan announces the second couplet in the dominant key which in its heavy use of tonic/dominant harmony, self-contained sequences and incessant use of right hand octaves is more reminiscent of his early style. His dense use of chordal and heavy left hand octave textures indicates a move towards a more uncompromising massed style.
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