Valentine’s Day with Mandolins

The Mandolin Dance from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Ballet
The Dance with Mandolins from a Royal Ballet production of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

 

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here is the quirky Dance with Mandolins from Act II of Sergei Prokofiev’s 1935 ballet score, Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64. Given this ballet’s multitude of powerful, dramatic music, this excerpt may seem slightly off the beaten path. But the Dance with Mandolins is so wacky, irrepressible, and fun that, in a strange way, it becomes sublime.

Growing up, I heard this music every Saturday morning during my hour-long commute to the Eastman School of Music, where I studied violin. For years, it was the unlikely opening theme for Simon Pontin’s classical radio show, Salmagundi, on WXXI-FM in Rochester, New York.

One Orchestra’s Eye Opening TV Ad

Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Ward Stare is featured in the Eye Openers ad.
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Ward Stare is featured in the Eye Openers ad.

Orchestras belong to their communities. Like sports teams, art museums, and theater, they are important components of the cultural and economic fabric of a healthy city. It’s always exciting when an orchestra is able to shed a popularly perceived ivory tower image and engage the community in new and creative ways.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has found a fun way to do this with a recent lighthearted TV commercial produced by Eye Openers Optical Fashions, a local business specializing in eyeglasses. Eye Openers features local celebrities and organizations in its ads. The RPO’s ad shows a handful of the orchestra’s musicians as well as Music Director Ward Stare and Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik. Eye Openers owner Richard L. Levy tries to sneak to the podium and ends up in the percussion section:

In 1993 the Seattle Symphony got a rare opportunity to venture into the world of TV news. Amid a rebranding effort, Seattle CBS affiliate KIRO used music for its newscasts performed by the Seattle Symphony and written by its Music Director, Gerard Schwarz. Listen to the music for the newscast’s open and close.