- Melée Fantasque, for orchestra, Op. 22, F. 199
- Checkmate, ballet for orchestra, Op. 57, F. 2a
The association between music and chess goes all the way back to a chess ballet performed for King Louis XIV of France. The idea of a modern chess ballet, drawing on the new freedoms that flowered in the world of dance after Russian modernism reached the West around World War I, is an appealing one. British composer Sir Arthur Bliss reached the same conclusion, and his 1937 ballet "Checkmate" was a success; Bliss made various concert arrangements of the music, and it brought him chances to write various dance scores. The ballet's 12 sections introduce the various pieces on the chessboard and lead up to a climactic struggle, with the work's title indicating the outcome. "Checkmate" is rarely heard these days, for even with the unusual structure dictated by the subject matter, its musical originality does not match its freshness of concept. Edgier music might have captured the game's odd mixture of conflict and intellectual calculation, but Bliss' large score is a bit overblown. Perhaps he wasn't a chess player; he mistakenly terms the two sets of pieces as red and black (that's checkers). The Royal Scottish National Orchestra under David Lloyd-Jones turns in an accurate and polished performance of "Checkmate" and the more compact curtain-raiser that accompanies it on the disc, "Mêlée Fantasque"; listeners looking to add to a large collection of ballet recordings can acquire this release with confidence.