When we talk about the ‘best’ or the ‘greatest’ for anything we are always talking about our opinions. With ballet composers, however, there are some that stand out from the crowd, regardless of your taste or preferences.
While ballet can be danced to pretty much any music there are some classic composers that stand the test of time.
Here’s our list of those composers we are sure will always be classified as great ballet composers.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is the composer behind some of the most well-known ballet titles we have – The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. He was born in a small town in Russia called Votkinsk in 1840. He showed talent for music early in life but was going to study to work in the civil service. When the Russian Musical Society was founded in 1859, he went to study there and his career in music really began. While he is most known for the famous works, his creative range was quite broad and included everything from salon works to major symphonies. He died in St Petersburg in 1893 after the premier of his Sixth Symphony.
Adolphe Adam is best known for his ballets Giselle and Le corsaire but completed some 39 ballets and many other pieces during his lifetime. He was born in Paris in 1803 and his father was part of the Paris Conservatoire. Despite resistance from his father, he entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 19 while working in the vaudeville houses around the city. As well as being famous for Giselle, he also created ‘O Holy Night’ which was said to be only the second musical number to broadcast on radio.
Aram Khachaturian was born in 1903 in Tbilisi, Georgia. He grew up around the rich folk music of his home and moved to Moscow aged 18. He attended the Gnessin Musical Institute while studying biology and wrote his first major work the Piano Concerto inn 1936. His ballet Gayane was among his most celebrated work and was heavily influenced by his time in Armenia and Armenian folklore. He then worked on his other most celebrate work Spartacus in 1950.
Sergei Prokofiev was born in 1891 in Sontsovka in eastern Ukraine. His mother was devoted to music and took her son for piano lessons from an early age. He had a series of study periods under other musicians including Reinhold Gliere before joining the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Over his career he was very prolific creating seven operas and eight ballets as well as numerous symphonies concertos for different instruments. Among his most famous work was The Love for Three Oranges, Romeo & Juliet (ballet) and Peter and the Wolf.
Igor Stravinsky was born in 1882 in a suburb of St Petersburg and is seen as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He came from a family with a strong musical background and studied from a young age, much of the time with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. During his career he was known for the diversity of the music that he created. These included The Firebird, Petrushka and later the Soldier’s Tale and Les Noces.