Smash hits: A classical primer of tennis-inspired music

Posted on: July 2, 2015

“Wimbledon’s here, anyone for tennis music—from Satie to Shostakovich?” writes Anthony Bateman in Monday’s (6/29) Guardian (London). “As the grass-court tournament gets underway, here’s a volley of compositions inspired by racket play…. With the rise in popularity of the sport in the late-19th century, tennis and music soon began to make a match. Johann Strauss II, for example, included a ‘Lawn-Tennis Chorus’ in his penultimate operetta, Waldmeister (1895). If you didn’t know the title of Swedish composer Wilhelm Peterson-Berger’s Lawn Tennis, you might be hard pressed to make any connection to the game, though does the busy interplay between the two hands suggest an exchange of strokes?” Also included on Bateman’s list are Sibelius’s Tennis at Trianon (1899); Debussy’s Jeux (1913); Satie’s Le Tennis (1914); Milhaud’s ballet score Le Train Bleu (1924) “inspired by the great French six-time-Wimbledon-winner Suzanne Lenglen”; Shostakovich’s “Dance of the Tennis Players and Training Session” from his ballet The Golden Age (1930); Virgil Thomson’s Tennis—A Portrait of Henry McBride (1935), a musical portrait of Thomson’s “tennis-loving friend Henry McBride”; Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (1937); Schoenberg’s Symbols for Recording Tennis Games (1948); and Mauricio Kagel’s Match (1964).

Posted July 2, 2015