Tone Poem Tuesday

There’s something particularly fascinating about the composers who labored in the Soviet Union in the 20th century. These artists had to walk a very fine line between personal expression and the creation of art that would earn the approval of the State’s apparatus, and many composers found themselves drifting into and out of favor. (Shostakovich in particular had to deal with this.)

Dmitry Kabalevsky was one such composer, and he managed to pretty much avoid internal controversy, perhaps by being more conservative and less adventurous than some of his musical colleagues. Nevertheless, you listen to his music and you can’t place it anywhere other than 20th century Russia.

Kabalevsky’s suite The Comedians is one of his most popular works. A ten-movement musical depiction of clowns, the piece abounds with invigorating rhythms and with plaintive melodies. The second movement, the Galop, gave me pause when I listened to the work this weekend. I’m certain that I actually got to perform it at some point, but digging a little deeper, I’m not sure if that’s the case or if it’s just the fact that the Galop is itself one of Kabalevsky’s most popular compositions. Sometime I’ll have to dig out all my old orchestral programs and see if I did in fact play this piece.

Meantime, here is The Comedians by Dmitry Kabalevsky.


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2 Responses to Tone Poem Tuesday

  1. Roger says:

    The Galop was INCREDIBLY familiar to me. I went to the Internet Movie Database under the composer: And I’m betting it’s been used FAR more often than those listed here. I’ll bet you heard it on some, probably SEVERAL, TV episodes or movies, maybe cartoons.

    My wife suggests it could be used in circus acts, comedic bits, or the like – think Ed Sullivan, et al. This also tracks. It’s that incidental music lots of people have used, generally without attribution.

    There’s a citation that it was a theme for the game show What’s My Line? but it had to be before 1960, because the subsequent themes on YouTube are not this.

    Soundtrack (13 credits)
    2015 Los héroes del mal (writer: “The Comedians, Op. 26: I. Prologue, II. Galop, V. Pantomime, VIII. Gavotte, X. Epilogue”)
    2002 Baby Genius (TV Series) (writer – 1 episode)
    – Baby Genius: A Trip to the San Diego Zoo (2002) … (writer: “The Comedians: II. Gallop: Presto”)
    2002 Ice Age (writer: “The Comedians”)
    2000 FLCL (TV Mini Series) (writer – 1 episode)
    – Maruraba (2000) … (writer: “The Comedians Suite, Op. 26: II. Comedians’ Galop (Presto)”)
    1961 Rencontres de septembre (Documentary short) (music: “Comedians’ Galop”)
    1961 The Jack Benny Program (TV Series) (writer – 1 episode)
    – Variety Show (1961) … (writer: “Commedians’ Gallup” – uncredited)
    1952 Masquerade Party (TV Series) (music: “Comedian’s Galop”)
    1951 Footlight Varieties (music: “Galop”)

  2. Roger says:

    My wife points out that about a minute of the tune was used on the Tuesday (8/30) America’s Got Talent, in the middle of a story about a weird British act. It’s at the 70 minute mark.

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