Ballet AZ Blog

Ib Andersen’s Top 10 Ballet Scores You Need to Hear

Turn up the stereo or grab a pair of headphones, because Ballet Arizona’s Artistic Director, Ib Andersen, shares his thoughts on his top storybook ballet music!

The Phoenix Symphony conducted by Timothy Russell in rehearsal with Ballet Arizona.



Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is number one for me, mostly because I’ve been listening to it since I was 11-years-old! It is arguably the most well-known ballet score there is and 54-years later and I am still not tired of it, that’s something.

Music by Sergei Prokofiev

Prokofiev holds a special place for me. With Romeo & Juliet, I’ve danced this ballet and I’ve choreographed the ballet, and every time I hear it, it’s remarkable. The score has such an effect on me and the way Prokofiev tells the story through the music is so special, it’s bound to move you!

Music by Igor Stravinsky

The Firebird comes in at number three, because I choreographed to it, which gave me a whole new appreciation for Stravinsky’s score. Musically, it moves you in such a magical way. Stravinsky is so varied, and this is probably easier for people to listen to, at least compared to his other works. He is such a brilliant composer, especially how he uses different periods of music and brings it together, it is so unlike other composers.

Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The Sleeping Beauty is the only ballet I haven’t danced, but the score is so varied and wonderful. Tchaikovsky has a way of touching you and going right to the heart. This music is definitely grander than The Nutcracker and it shows how inventive he was as a composer.

Music by Felix Mendelssohn

This is miraculous music. It shows how gifted Mendelssohn was as a composer. He just talked through his works in a way that others couldn’t and still can’t today, not to mention he was only 17 when he wrote it. This is the only music listed that wasn’t created for a ballet but maybe that’s why I like it so much.

Music by Sergei Prokofiev

This score is pretty acidic. It is not as easy as his Romeo & Juliet, but in some ways more remarkable. It is a bittersweet interpretation of the story which probably had to do with where Prokofiev was in his life at the time.

Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

For many people, Swan Lake is normally number one, however I am a little bit ambivalent towards this music. Of course it is beautiful and emotional, but it’s the one my ears tire of the most. Emotionally is doesn’t hold up as other Tchaikovsky works but it’s a classic and still worth a listen.

Music by Igor Stravinsky

Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) is maybe the most remarkable out of all of these but it’s difficult music. Remember it’s Stravinsky. I danced this ballet in my early 20’s and I know this score inside and out. It is so powerful, you don’t need to add anything to it and it just sticks with you. Absolutely extraordinary.

Music by Léo Delibes

Delibes is a wonderful composer and I think he was, and still is, very underestimated. There are few composers that can make melodies attach to the brain. The Coppélia score is very uplifting, I would almost say life-affirming, and very few people have been able to do what he did so naturally.

Music by Adolphe Adam

This is a score that just works. It’s not Tchaikovsky or Mendelssohn, but it shows the variety in ballet. Giselle’s score is very effective in how a ballet is told through the music. It’s a programmatic score, that is able to stand by itself and that’s noteworthy.

P.S. Romeo & Juliet is coming to Symphony Hall, February 10-13, 2022. Don’t miss your chance to see Prokofiev’s breathtaking score, played by The Phoenix Symphony, come to life with Ballet Arizona. Click here to purchase your tickets today!

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