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About this Piece

Composed: 1931

Length: 20 minutes

Orchestration: 3 flutes (2nd and 3rd = piccolos), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabasson, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, snare drum, tam tam, tambourine, triangle) 2 harps, celesta, and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: March 6, 1947, Charles Munch conducting

In 1931, Henri Roussel wrote a ballet, Bacchus et Ariane (Bacchus and Ariadne), on the eternally stirring subject of Ariadne, who gave the guiding thread to Theseus to help him find his way out of the forbidding impasses of the labyrinth, after he slew the monster Minotaur. He sails home with Ariadne, but abandons her on the island of Naxos. To the accompaniment of a frenetic intermezzo, rooted in the angular interval of the tritone, Ariadne tries to plunge into the sea after him but is prevented by Bacchus, who dances for her a vigorous gigue. They unite in a kiss; there follows a dance of Dionysiac enchantment. The fauns and maenads pass before the lovers. Then Ariadne herself dances a languorous step, later joining Bacchus in an asymmetric measure of 10/4. A bacchanale erupts. The ballet ends in a triumph of Ariadne as the consort of the god of wine.

The complete ballet was first performed at the Paris Opéra on May 22, 1931. From the music Roussel extracted two suites, which correspond to the first and second act of the ballet. The second pictures Ariadne awakening, the realization of her abandonment, and her union with Bacchus.

- Musicologist and lexicographer Nicolas Slonimsky annotated programs for the Philharmonic during the 1960s.