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Classical Notes

The Skaters Waltz

Posted at 12:20 PM on February 26, 2010 by Alison Young (5 Comments)
Filed under: In the media

As Fred Child pointed out Friday on Performance Today, while the classical music chosen for many of the Olympic ice skaters was wonderful, the music got so chopped up it almost loses its meaning.

It's hard to fit a 45-minute symphony into a 4 ½ minute program, but for me the skaters that used bona-fide classical music in their presentations really made an artistic statement - and I think it just might have given them the edge they needed to win.

I already wrote about Evan Lysacek skating to Stravinsky's Firebird, and then he went on to win gold with selections from Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade." Yu-Na Kim pulled off the highest score ever and dazzled us with the dazzling "Concerto in F" by Gershwin. The Canadian Ice Dancing pair skated to one of the most profound works in ALL classical music, Mahler's "Adagietto" from his fifth Symphony.

Anne Midgette of the Washington Post has a lot to say on the matter. How do you feel?

---

I've listed the medal-winners below who used classical music and what those pieces were:

Pairs:

Gold: Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China used Albinoni's Adagio in G minor in the free Skate
Silver: Pang Qing and Tong Jian skated to "The Impossible Dream" but then used Bizet in the short program, 'Je crois entendre encore' from "The Pearl Fishers"
Bronze: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany started off with Stephen Sondheim and ended with film music by John Barry from "Out of Africa."

Men's

Gold: Evan Lysacek blew me away skating to Stravinsky's 'Firebird' and Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Scheherazade'
Silver: Evgeni Plushenko skated to the slow movement from Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" in his first place short program.
Bronze: Couldn't keep my eyes off Takahashi Daisuke skating to 'La Strada' by Nino Rota in the free skate.

Ice Dancing:

Gold: Canada's Tess Virtue and Scott Moir were so elegant in a flamenco dance played by Pepe Romero but brought us to tears with Mahler's' Adagietto' from the Fifth Symphony.
Silver: Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States used selections from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" for the free skate.

Women's:

Gold: Kim Yu-Na of Korea started out with music from James Bond, but then classed up with a Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F for her free skate.
Silver: Japan's Mao Asada skated her short program to selections from Khachaturian's "Masquerade" and later Rachmaninoff's Prelude in c#, also known as "The Bells of Moscow".
Bronze: Joannie Rochette of Canada skated an emotional free skate to selections from Camille Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah,"including the "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" and the "Bacchanale."


Comments (5)

Pardon my ignorance, but I am curious as to why Western classical music is exclusively chosen by the skaters. Is there no body of appropriate "Eastern classical" available? ...or did I just miss something? China, Japan, Korea, even Turkey had their skaters there, but not their music. Why is that?

Posted by Jim Park | March 1, 2010 9:09 AM


Good point, Jim.

Turkey's Tugba Karademir skated her short program to Turkish music "Bazaar Istanbul." American Ice Dancers and silver medalists David and White skated their original dance to music from Bollywood - not classical indian, but certainly a different flavor!

There might be more, these were the only ones I watched.

Posted by alison young | March 1, 2010 10:00 AM


This reminds me of a comment made by Dick Button during the US Men's nationals sometime ago, 1980's I think. He was comparing the top two skaters' performances based on the music they selected. The first one skated to music from West Side Story. Dick felt he had a stronger program because " as a musical, this music was meant to be choreographed". The other skater used music from Appalachian Spring. I guess Dick doesn't attend the ballet very much.

Posted by Mary | March 1, 2010 2:25 PM


I often wonder why skaters don't often use their own cultural music and why they don't mix it up with music from cultures other than European and North American. Perhaps it is that it's a difficult and often controversial thing to do, to do something different than has always been done, and figure skating has historically been done to classical European music. After all, it started as a European sport/activity.
I loved Davis and White's Bollywood dance, and I love how Savchenko and Szolkowy so often use soundtrack music. Evan Lysacek almost always uses very strong, powerful, passionate music, which fits his skating style very well, and I love it.

Posted by Christy | March 2, 2010 2:41 PM


I strongly disagree with a lot of what Anne Midgette had to say. A truly good and artistic skater can do anything with music, even music that's been altered, chopped up, or done before. Carmen may be used by everyone and his brother-in-law, but that doesn't make Evan Lysacek's incredible Carmen performance any less incredible. Tchaikovsky might never have imagined Swan Lake being set to hip-hop, but Daisuke Takahashi's short program to that hip-hopped ballet music was one of the most extraordinary short programs I have ever seen, partly because of the creativity of the music, partly because of the way the skater interpreted it. And soundtracks are far more than mood music: sometimes they make a movie what it is. A good soundtrack will be as much a part of the plot of its movie as the lines spoken by the actors. Soundtracks follow storylines; they have dramatic climaxes and soothing lulls, and I have found many of them to be perfect for skating. It only surprises me that more skaters don't use them.

Posted by Christy | March 2, 2010 2:55 PM