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Serguei Rachmaninoff

Thursday, April 27, 2017


My Classical Notes

April 16

Lise de la Salle Plays Rachmaninov

My Classical NotesRachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 1-4 (complete) Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 Performed by Lise de la Salle (piano), with the Philharmonia Zürich, Fabio Luisi conducting. At the age of 28, French pianist Lise de la Salle already belongs to the internationally most renowned performers on her instrument. From 2013 until 2015, she was invited as «Artist in Residence» to the Opernhaus Zürich where she performed Sergey Rachmaninov’s complete works for piano and orchestra together with General Music Director Fabio Luisi and the Philharmonia Zürich. The recordings of the five concerts are now released as a box by Philharmonia Records. Along with Rachmaninov’s world famous Piano Concertos No. 2 and 3, the recording also includes the young composer’s Opus 1 as well as the 4th Piano Concerto, written in American exile, and the virtuosic «Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini». With her special talent for the finest tonal nuances, Lise de la Salle is an ideal interpreter of these late-Romantic masterpieces of piano music. Here is Ms. de la Salle in music from this recording:

Royal Opera House

April 24

Watch: Rehearsals for The Royal Ballet's Symphonic Dances

An ROH insight exploring Liam Scarlett 's latest ballet Symphonic Dances will be livestreamed for free via the Royal Opera House YouTube channel on 25 April 2017 at 7.15pm BST. During the event, Royal Ballet Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett will introduce his new one-act abstract ballet and offer insights alongside other members of the creative team and musicologist Flora Willson. The event – taking place just weeks before the piece's world premiere – will also feature dancers rehearsing excerpts from the hotly-anticipated ballet. Scarlett trained at The Royal Ballet School and danced with The Royal Ballet, before turning to choreography full-time in 2012. His works for the Company include Asphodel Meadows , Sweet Violets and The Age of Anxiety , and the full-length ballet Frankenstein . Scarlett's ballets are internationally celebrated and performed, and have made him one of the most sought after choreographers in the world. This forthcoming new ballet has been set to Rachmaninoff 's 'Symphonic Dances', an orchestral suite remarkable for its use of the alto saxophone as a solo instrument. Subscribe to the Royal Opera House YouTube channel for updates about upcoming Insight events: Symphonic Dances runs 18–31 May 2017. Tickets are on sale now. The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from Simon and Virginia Robertson, Lady Robey, The Constance Travis Charitable Trust in memory of Leslie Edwards and the New Scarlett Production Syndicate, and with additional philanthropic support from the JP Jacobs Charitable Trust.






Royal Opera House

April 11

What makes a good dance score?

Artists of The Royal Ballet in ‘Rubies’ from Jewels, The Royal Ballet © 2017 ROH. Photograph by Alastair Muir. There are certainly two composers most indelibly associated with ballet: Tchaikovsky , the composer of Swan Lake , The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty ; and Stravinsky , the man behind The Firebird , Petrushka , The Rite of Spring and so many others. In the second and third parts of Jewels , choreographer George Balanchine turned to these two musical greats, but he did not use ballet music: he used music they had written for the concert hall. There is still something about these scores, however, that makes them perfect for dance, from the graceful lilt of Tchaikovsky’s polonaise to the vivacity of Stravinsky’s finale. And there are certain other composers, too, whose music seems to attract choreographers particularly often: Rachmaninoff , Chopin , Bach … not to mention the minimalists . What it is, then, that makes music suitable for dance? What makes good ballet music? We asked people from across The Royal Ballet and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House what they thought. Hear from: Romany Pajdak , First Artist of The Royal Ballet Liam Scarlett , Artist in Residence of The Royal Ballet Koen Kessels , Music Director of The Royal Ballet Peter Manning , Concert Master of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Zenaida Yanowsky , Principal of The Royal Ballet Romany Pajdak , First Artist of The Royal Ballet There is so much soul and feeling in Tchaikovsky's music, from joyous ecstasy to heart-rending sorrow and all the shades in between. I’m not sure there is a definitive answer, nor a particular set of rules that one could follow for the ideal score. Tchaikovsky did write some of the most iconic ballet music in direct response to detailed scenarios. His Serenade for Strings, however, was not written with dance in mind and yet Balanchine’s response to it is my all-time favourite work to dance. The joy of dancing to Tchaikovsky comes from the emotional depth of his work. For me there is so much soul and feeling in his music, from joyous ecstasy to heart-rending sorrow and all the shades in between, that I only know how to acknowledge through moving. The work I most respond to as a dancer tends to have this emotional resonance. However, the great joy of dancing with The Royal Ballet, with such a vast repertory and versatile orchestra, is that one experiences so much different music. The rhythmic playfulness of Stravinsky, the melodic complexity of Shostakovich and the use of space and time in Max Richter ’s work all inspire and challenge choreographers in different ways. Pieces of music I had never thought of dancing to, when seen and heard through the eyes and ears of a choreographer, suddenly become accessible, and a new realm of appreciation opens up. Just as in the wider world, it takes all kinds. Romany Pajdak in rehearsal for Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan, The Royal Ballet © ROH/Tristram Kenton, 2014 Liam Scarlett , Artist in Residence, The Royal Ballet Scarlett is currently working on a new work for The Royal Ballet, Symphonic Dances , to music by Rachmaninoff. The more you listen to Rachmaninoff's music, the more you realize its complexity. It’s up to a choreographer to know when something can be choreographed, and when it can’t. Symphonic Dances is the fourth time I’ve used Rachmaninoff’s music , but I think I’ll always steer clear of the concertos and the symphonies, which are just so epic, so huge. With Symphonic Dances, I think Rachmaninoff imagined that there might be movement associated with it – it’s in the title. All of his music is so beautiful and lavish; it has a very Russian opulence to it, and it’s huge in scale. I think he was very aware of his heritage and his predecessors, so while Tchaikovsky has some soaring melodies, Rachmaninoff goes even deeper with his. There are certain pieces of music where the first thing you think is how hard they are, but in my eyes that’s not a good thing. Similarly, with ballet, you don’t want it to look difficult – there’s nothing worse than an audience waiting for the dancers to mess up. In a circus, a tightrope walker might find what they do easy, but they make it look difficult, to keep the audience excited. But in ballet you can’t do that – you put effort into it, but to make it look effortless. It’s the same with Rachmaninoff’s music : while it is technically very hard, for me it doesn’t sound difficult for difficult’s sake. You don’t notice the level of craftsmanship behind it to begin with: the more you listen to it, the more you realize its complexity. Steven McRae and Laura Morera in Sweet Violets © ROH/Tristram Kenton, 2014 Koen Kessels , Music Director of The Royal Ballet The relationship between choreographer and composer is key for a good ballet score. The relationship between choreographer and composer is key for a good ballet score, whether it is written for ballet or not, and whether the composer is alive or dead. The music of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, always theatrical, suits choreographers so well because it gives them the imaginative freedom to explore everything from form, to emotion, to narrative. Their ballet music is symphonic, and their concert music is born out of their theatrical passion. Tchaikovsky pored over scores borrowed from the Moscow theatre library, and Stravinsky, born in the ‘wings’, started out making orchestrations for Les Sylphides (from Chopin’s Nocturne op.32 no.2 and Grande Valse brillante op.18) – his reward was writing a new ballet, The Firebird. Both were rather unimpressed by the limitations imposed by the ballet masters of the Russian Imperial theatres (lists of dances, indications of tempi, describing the narrative...). They even initiated the concept for ballets and insisted on working collaboratively with choreographers on the scenario and the dramaturgy. And both gained the respect of choreographers in the creative process, meaning that they did not have to adapt their scores that much to specific requests. Today, such composers as Thomas Adès (with his cataclysmic Polaris from 2011, choreographed by Crystal Pite in 2014) and Esa-Pekka Salonen (Nyx, 2012, choreographed by Wayne McGregor in 2016) may not be so obsessively dance-minded, but both are conductors working in the theatre, and both use a truly communicative language. Hence their fruitful collaboration with choreographers. Meanwhile, Bach’s music, with its supreme structure and architectural perfection, still sounds contemporary, and it’s no surprise that he continues to inspire new ways to express emotion and movement. Peter Manning , Concert Master of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House To create magic we must always explore style, content, effect, narrative and technical possibility, and the time of the music’s composition. Conversations with choreographers are vital in choosing ballet music and among the greatest artistic explorations we have. I had the honour of being taught some years ago by a great musician, the violinist Nathan Milstein , whose love of ballet allowed him to form a close relationship with Balanchine. It was this relationship that led to Balanchine’s outpouring of Stravinsky ballets. Those discussions must have been fascinating. The challenge is to find music that contains the idea of rhythmic dance and shape, alongside flowing and lyric movement. Simply put, there is almost too much music to choose from, and to create magic we must always explore style, content, effect, narrative and technical possibility, and the time of the music’s composition. In the finale of Schubert ’s Ninth Symphony, for example – used by William Forsythe in The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude – we can see the episodic nature of the writing: muscular, with rhythmic punctuation, but also with interludes of pure lyricism, and a long crescendo of intensity, speed and emotion… . In one movement we glimpse another world, and the mixture of forms creates its own dynamic. As Concert Master I am fully aware that in the musical canon there is an A–Z of emotions and rhythms, and we have 800 years or more of compositions to choose from, as well as music fresh off the press. When music is brought to sit perfectly with choreography, something of great magic and importance can flow. At The Royal Ballet we experience the pure joy of mixing music with dance, and it is a great privilege working to help maintain the classics, as well as exploring the fresh, new and vital. Zenaida Yanowsky , Principal of The Royal Ballet I don’t believe there’s such thing as ‘ballet music’. We like to think that rhythmic music is best suited for dance, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the movement itself is rhythmic and the music is not, as in Flight Pattern . Choreographers have a tendency to use more intuitive music to create work and that’s maybe because our brains would have to work too hard otherwise. Having to decipher the sound and the movement at once means you have to make so many fast connections! I don’t believe there’s such thing as ‘ballet music’, though... more, just the sound that will complement the choreographer’s vision and will intertwine with the movement to create and achieve an emotional goal. There are some immense pieces of music I would like to see and dance to. Thomas Adès’s Totentanz is one of them. What do you think makes a piece of music perfect for ballet? Add your thoughts in the comments below. Jewels runs until 21 April 2017. Tickets are still available. The production is given with generous philanthropic support from Julia and Hans Rausing, Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman, Lady Ashcroft, Lindsay and Sarah Tomlinson, Peter Lloyd and The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund. Symphonic Dances and The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude appear in a mixed programme with Tarantella and Strapless 18–31 May 2017. Tickets are still available. The mixed programme is given with generous philanthropic support from The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund; Symphonic Dances with generous philanthropic support from Simon and Virginia Robertson, Victoria Robey and the New Scarlett Production Syndicate, with additional philanthropic support from the JP Jacobs Charitable Trust; and for Strapless Christopher Wheeldon’s Position as Artistic Associate is generously supported by Kenneth and Susan Green, with generous philanthropic support from Mr and Mrs Edward Atkin CBE.

Serguei Rachmaninoff
(1873 – 1943)

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1 April 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave way to a thoroughly personal idiom that included a pronounced lyricism, expressive breadth, structural ingenuity, and a tonal palette of rich, distinctive orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff's compositional output. He made a point of using his own skills as a performer to explore fully the expressive possibilities of the instrument. Even in his earliest works he revealed a sure grasp of idiomatic piano writing and a striking gift for melody.



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