The Score of Giselle

A page from the autograph score of Giselle by Adolphe Adam


The music written for the ballet Giselle has been present for all to hear since its composition in 1841. But are we hearing the score as the composer left it to us?

Adolphe Adam’s score has been subjected perhaps more than most from cuts, additions, recomposed endings and numerous re-orchestrations. Fashions and taste change. Today, there is a keen interest to return to composers' original versions.

The autograph score held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, revealsAdam's methods of unfolding the drama of the story, its composition dictated throughout by some 140 enlightening annotations, many of them copied verbatim from the libretto. It also reveals that provision was made in Act One to include Friedrich Burgmüller's familiar “Peasant” pas de deux whilst the ethereal sound of harps was not to be heard from the orchestra until the darker mood of Act Two. 

Research and reappraisal of these earliest sources have resulted in a new engraving of rehearsal score and orchestral material which remains faithful to the composer's original intentions. This publication was happily made available for Pacific Northwest Ballet's new production of Giselle.

Lars Payne
Cellist and Music Librarian, English National Ballet
London, April 2011

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