George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Traditional American melodies
Photo © Paul Kolnik
Set on a rugged Old West street populated by cowboys and dance hall girls, Western Symphony nevertheless is very much a classical work. The steps Balanchine uses from the traditional ballet vocabulary allude to the steps, formations, and gestures of American folk dancing. The ballet is a striking example of Balanchine’s fascination with American themes. The lively and familiar score consists of classic American folk songs, including “Red River Valley,” “Old Taylor,” “Rye Whiskey,” “Good Night Ladies,” “Oh Dem Golden Slippers,” and “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”
Hershy Kay (1919-1981) established himself as a preeminent orchestrator of musicals with Leonard Bernstein’s On The Town in 1944. His works for ballet include Cakewalk, Clowns, Western Symphony, The Concert, Stars and Stripes, Who Cares?, and Union Jack; his works for musical theater include Peter Pan, Once Upon a Mattress, Candide, A Chorus Line, Evita, and Barnum. A composer in his own right, Hershy Kay also reconstructed Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra, which later became the Balanchine ballet Tarantella. Mr. Kay’s work also includes a children’s record, Mother Goose.