The Chaconne

A chaconne is a musical dance form in triple metre, popular during the Baroque and consisting of a theme with variations. Just to name a few composers, Telemann, Pachelbel, Couperin, Vivaldi have written chaconnes (the links refer to YouTube).

But when music lovers talk about  The Chaconne.  they mean the last movement of Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin.

Yehudi Menuhin called it “the greatest structure for solo violin that exists”

And Joshua Bell has said the Chaconne is “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history”

Over the years I have heard Bach’s chaconne numerous times and still it affects me deeply. There has been a time that I thought it would be perfect music for my funeral, but later I decided that it might take too long.. :-).

Of course you can find numerous versions on YouTube.  Here is beautiful one, performed by talented violinist Hilary Hahn.

She plays the chaconne quite slowly (almost 18 minutes), most performers play it faster, in about 14 minutes. For example Yehudi Menuhin in a recording from 1956.

Not surprisingly, there are also plenty recordings where the chaconne is played on other instruments. An obvious choice is the guitar. In the opinion of some the chaconne sounds even better on a guitar. Personally I don’t agree, but I must admit that for example this performance by John Feely is brilliant and moving.

Here are a few other recordings I found on YouTube. First four recordings on single instruments: flute, clarinet, organ, accordioncello and marimba.

In my opinion woodwinds are not suitable for this work. The marimba recording is actually quite nice. Organ and accordion are too massive for me. The cello recording is not bad, but I find the range of the violin more suitable.

There are also recording for several instruments. Here are a few:  4 cellos, 9 saxophones, 4 violas, 4 double basses and 1 octobass. I will not comment on them…:-)

In 1930 the English conductor Leopold Stokowski wrote a transcription of the chaconne for symphony orchestra. More transcriptions exist, but this is probably the most famous one. Very romantic and dramatic, but emotionally it has no effect on me. Listen to this recording, put the volume on maximum and fasten your seat belts :-). The recording is from 1950 and conducted by Stokowski himself.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the piano until now. That was on purpose. Of course there are many recordings for piano. Most pianists play the transcription of Ferrucio Busoni. He was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, etc, who has transcribed many of Back’s work in a romantic way. More a recreation than a transcription, that’s why it is often called the Bach-Busoni Chaconne.  Here is a brilliant recording by .Evgeny Kissin. You can follow the score.

An impressive performance of Kissin, but still I think something is missing.

There exists another transcription, created by Brahms. He wrote it for the left hand alone! A brilliant idea, listen to Daniil Trifonov.

De gustibus non est disputandum (tastes differ), but for me this is the recording that comes close to the original in transparency and emotional power.

The last week I have been listening to dozens of recordings of the chaconne, never boring. It remains for me one of the pinnacles of human culture.

Unknown gems

I like listening to (classical) music. When I was still living in Amsterdam, I was a regular visitor of the Concertgebouw . Here in Malaysia I have visited several times the Petronas Filharmonik Hall. Nowadays I am mostly listening to YouTube…:-)

At YouTube you will find not only recordings of compositions by the “great” names  (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc), but also works of lesser well known composers. Recently I have collected many of these recordings, limiting myself to piano concertos composed between 1805 and 1830. Why piano concertos and why these dates?

The piano developed and became accepted in the late 18th century (successor to the harpsichord). Not surprisingly many composers wanted to explore the possibilities of this “new” instrument, in combination with an orchestra. What I like in piano concertos is the contrast between the sound of the  piano and that of  the orchestral instruments, because the piano is not represented in the orchestra already (in contrast with concertos for violin, flute, hobo, cello, etc)

The dates are of course rather arbitrary. In 18051806 Beethoven wrote his Piano Concerto no. 4, here performed by Mautizio Pollini. It is my favourite Beethoven concerto. And in 1830 Chopin composed his Piano Concerto nr 2  (when he was only 20 year old!). Another favourite of mine. The recording is by Rosalía Gómez Lasheras (19 year old!). You might say that the dates mark the transition from Classical to (Early) Romantic

Before I started searching YouTube and Wikipedia, I was not really aware of any other piano concerto composed between those dates.

Here is what I found. I have ordered them according to the birth date of the composer. The first link refers to a Wikipedia article about the composer. All concertos are worth listening to, but of course I have my favourites. They are marked with *****


cramer

Johann Baptist Cramer (1771 – 1858), English musician, from German origin, a renowned pianist, highly appreciated by Beethoven.

Piano Concerto No.7 (1816)

Piano Concerto No 8  (1825)

 

 


ries2

Ferdinand Ries (1778 – 1837), German, friend, pupil and secretary of Beethoven. He wrote eight piano concertos

Piano Concerto No. 3 (1812)

Piano Concerto No. 8 (1826)   *****

 

 


hummel

Johann Nepomuk Hummel  (1778 – 1837) , Austrian, pupil of Haydn and Salieri in Vienna.  After his death, he was quickly forgotten. Only recently interest has revived, and rightly so!

Piano Concerto No 2 (1816)    *****

Piano Concerto No 3 (1821)    *****

 


lessel

Franciszek  Lessel  (1780 – 1838), Polish, pupil of Haydn. He wrote only one piano concerto. Worked as a court musician. Not much info available

Piano Concerto in C-major (1814)  Mozartian style. In this recording it is played on a pianoforte

 

 


Field

John Field  (1782 – 1837), Irish, influential composer of the Early Romantic period, admired by Chopin and Liszt

Piano Concerto No. 2 (1816)    *****

 

 

 


220px-Friedrich_Kalkbrenner_by_Charles_Vogt

Friedrich Kalkbrenner 1785-1849, French of German origin, pianist, composer, piano teacher and piano manufacturer. A vain  man, thinking that after Bach, Mozart Beethoven, he was the only classical composer left.

Piano concerto No. 1 (1823)   *****

 

 


Carl-Maria-Von-Weber

Carl Maria von Weber  (1786 – 1826), German, considered one of the first Romantic composers. Of course I knew his name (opera’s), but not that he had written piano concertos. He wrote two:

Piano Concerto No.1 (1810)

Piano Concerto No 2 (1812)

 


Franz_Xaver_Mozart_(Wolfgang_Jr)_1825small

Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (1791 – 1844), youngest son of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, pupil of Salieri and Hummel.

Piano Concerto No. 2 (1818)

 

 


Ignaz_Moscheles_1860

Ignaz Moscheles  (1794 – 1870), Bohemian, lived in London and later in Leipzig. Long time neglected, now more interest, but not much of his work has been recorded.

Piano Concerto No. 3 (1820)   *****

 

 


DobrzynskiWikipedia_nn719

Ignacy Feliks Dobrzynski  (1807 – 1867), Polish, a classmate of Chopin at the Warsaw conservatory. He wrote this concerto when he was 17 year old.

Piano Concerto in As-major 1824    *****

 

 


burgmullersmall

Norbert Burgmüller  (1810 – 1836), German. Friend of Mendelssohn and Schumann. Died young by drowning after an epileptic seizure. Wrote the piano concerto when he was 19 year old.

Piano Concerto in F-minor (1829)    *****

 

 

A Grey Sunday in Amsterdam

Usually I come back to the Netherlands when spring has started, but this time I was earlier. The weather was cold and grey, not inviting to go out and enjoy the countryside. Maybe visit a museum?  But which one, Amsterdam has more than 50 of them! Two of them are housed in patrician canal mansions and I decided to visit those.

The famous Grachtengordel (“Canal Belt”) of Amsterdam, clearly visible in the GE map below, has been declared an Unesco World Heritage site in 2010. The three concentric canals were dug in te 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age

Map

First I visited the museum van Loon. This merchant mansion was built in 1671, has had many tenants  (for example the painter Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt)  and owners and was finally bought in 1884 by the aristocratic family van Loon, who still owns it, but doesn’t live there anymore.

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Here is a collection of pictures. These mansions have a big garden, with at the back the coach house. The kitchen is in the basement, the (elevated) ground floor has reception and living rooms, the first floor the bedrooms. The second floor (not accessible nowadays) contained the servant quarters. The museum gives a good impression how the rich merchants lived in those days.

During my visit there was an interesting special exhibition. The van Loon family belonged to the Dutch aristocracy and many exhibits show their personal fashion style, from 1850 until present.

My second visit was to the Willet-Holthuysen museum. Built for Jacob Hop, mayor of Amsterdam, around 1685. Also here many owners, the last one was Mrs. Willet-Holthuysen, she bequeathed the entire house to the city of Amsterdam on condition that it became a museum in 1895.

Similar design as the van Loon mansion. Elevated ground floor with diningroom and sitting room and a large ballroom. Kitchen in the basement, with access to a town garden. Bedrooms on the first floor. Notice how the 17th century building is flanked by ugly modern buildings

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2016-03-20 15.33.26-1

Also for this museum a collection of pictures. The Willet-Holthuysen couple were part of what you would call nowadays the jetset. Traveling a lot, giving parties, collecting art.

When I was searching the Internet for opening times etc, I found that there used to be another townhouse museum, the Geelvinck-Hinlopen mansion, unfortunately closed indefinitely last year. But the regular concerts of classical music, given in this museum, arestill being organised, only in a different location, in the Huis met de Hoofden (House with the Heads). This mansion was built in 1622. The interior is under renovation, only one room is accessible for concerts. Impressive facade.

There is a legend that the six heads represent thieves, beheaded by a servant, when she noticed a burglary. Not true, they represent Greek gods…:-)

It was my lucky day, there was a concert on this grey Sunday afternoon! Musica Batavia , three musicians, on harpsichord, violin and recorder, were playing music by Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi and others.

They played very well, here is an example of their musical style, a sonata by Pietro Locatelli (an Italian composer who, by the way, lived most of his life in a canal house in Amsterdam!)

 

I really enjoyed this Grey Sunday in Amsterdam!

2016-03-20 16.12.13

17th Chopin Piano Competition

The International Chopin Piano Competition is one of the oldest and most prestigious music competitions in the world. Held every five years in Warsaw, it is exclusively devoted to Chopin’s works for piano. The first competition was held in 1927 and last week was the final of the 17th one.

More than 450 applications were received, from which 160 pianists were selected to play in the preliminary rounds in April. The jury admitted 77 pianists to the main competition, which consisted of three rounds, followed by the final.

The whole event has been documented brilliantly on the website Chopin Competition 2015  The concerts have been uploaded almost immediately to YouTube, here is the complete list of all concerts , 28 videos, totaling more than 100 hours of recordings!

Many of the participants are really young. And surprisingly(?) many of them are of Asian descent. There are 13 participants from China, 12 from Japan, 8 from South Korea and a few from the United States and Canada who have their origins in Asia. Here are the five who made it to the final round.

Here they are again. From left to right  in the foreground Aimi, Kate, Eric and Yike with Seong Jin in the background between Eric and Yike. Seong Jin got the 1st prize, Kate the 3rd, Eric the 4th, Yike the 5th, while Aimi got a honorable mention. Yike is the youngest prizewinner ever at a Chopin competition (minimum age to participate is actually 17, which he will be only in December)

bsa20151021_411

I have been watching many YouTube recordings these last few weeks. To see these promising youngsters play is added pleasure. Here are a few examples

Eric Lu

Yike Yang

Kate Liu

Aimi Kobayashi

Seong Jin Cho

In the final round, all ten participants had to play Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E minor Op. 11. Here is Yike Yang. I find it absolutely amazing that a 16 year old boy can play this beautiful concerto in such a brilliant and sensitive way.

St Matthew Passion

This week is Holy Week for Western Christianity. On Good Friday Christians celebrate the Crucifixion of Jesus and on Easter Sunday his Resurrection.

Throughout the ages people have been inspired by these events to create works of art. The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (1498) is world famous.

The Last Supper

For me the most impressive musical work of art about the last days of Jesus’ life has been written by Johan Sebastian Bach in 1727: the St Matthew passion.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Mattheus Passion

 

When I was a school boy, my father took me for the first time to the Matthäus-Passion as it is called in German. It was performed in a church, and the atmosphere was religious. No applause for example after the concert! At that young age it was a long session, more than three hours. Still I was impressed.

When I moved to Amsterdam in 1961 for my studies, I became a regular concertgoer, mostly listening to the Matthäus Passion in the Concertgebouw. I think I must have attended it more than 40 times.

Although I am an atheist, Bach’s music still can move me to tears. For example this aria: Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben (Out of love my Savior is willing to die)

Now that I live most of the time in Malaysia, I can not always attend live performances of the Matthäus Passion, as the work has never been performed here as far as I know. But no problem, I have a few recordings on CD and we have now YouTube!

You can find there a large number of recordings. Here is my favourite: a recording by Dutch conductor and harpsichordist Ton Koopman in the St Joris church in Amersfoort, March 2005. Very clear and transparent, impressive soloists

The orchestra is playing on authentic Baroque instruments, as is common practice these days. Also considerably faster than in the past. The (beautiful) recording in 1971 by Karl Richter takes 3 hours and 18 minutes, more than half an hour longer than Koopman’s recording.

One more recording deserves to be mentioned. In 1989 Gustav Leonhardt, Ton Koopman’s teacher, recorded the Matthäus Passion, with the female parts (alto & soprano) sung by males (counter-tenors and boy-sopranos/altos) as was a common practice in Bach’s time.

Bach has written more Passions, but of those only the St John Passion has survived. More dramatic, shorter, for many years I did not pay much attention to it. But that has changed…:-)  Here is a recording by Ton Koopman . My favourite aria in this Passion is “Es ist volbracht”, written for alto. In Koopman’s recording it is sung by Andreas Scholl.

Listen to the performance by Panito Iconomou, boy alto in the Tölzer Boys Choir. Harnoncourt is the conductor. Try not tot get emotional…:-)

One closing remark.
It has always intrigued me that for Bach (a Lutheran Christian), it seems that the death of Jesus is the end of the story. There is no expectation of a resurrection. In the final chorus of the St Matthew, the choir starts with: “Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder” (“We sit down in tears“). They continue with “Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh!” (“Rest gently, gently rest!“)

Happy Easter!

Countertenors and Castrati

Some time ago, a friend sent me a link to a YouTube video in which the countertenor Philippe Yaroussky sings arias by Vivaldi, Haendel, Porpora etc.

Porpora? I had never heard about him. So I searched the Internet and found a website, the Porpora Project, dedicated to this 18th century Italian composer of Baroque operas, oratoria, cantatas etc.

A composer, but also very famous in his time as a singing teacher. Especially of castrati, boys who were castrated before they reached puberty, so they kept their high (soprano) voices! Yes, no kidding! In the beginning of the 18th century that was a not uncommon practice, it is estimated that more than 4000 boys yearly underwent this “operation”. Some of them became famous singers, like Carestini, Senesino, and last not least: Farinelli. He was a student of Porpora

Here is the aria Alto Giove from Porpora’s opera Polifemo. This opera was first performed in 1735 in London, with Farinelli as singer.

Here the aria is beautifully sung by Philippe Jaroussky. Is he a castrato? Of course not, castration for musical reasons became illegal in the 19th century and the last castrato, Alessandro Moreschi, died in 1922. Here you can hear him in Ave Maria

Jaroussky is, like my favourite Andreas Scholl, a countertenor. His vocal chords have developed normally during puberty, “breaking” his voice. But all males can still sing high, using their “head voice” and not their “chest voice. Try it out for yourself! Technically it is called the falsetto register and countertenors are trained to use it.

About Farinelli a fascinating movie has been produced in 1994. The movie can be seen on YouTube. The movie is not historically accurate, but really worth viewing. Here two times Farinelli, a portrait and a screenshot. The singing in the movie was  done by a soprano, by the way!

XIR237922 Farinelli1994c4

There are nowadays a few singers who are “natural castrati”, for endocrinological reasons their vocal cords have not grown during puberty. One of them is Radu Marian. Here he sings Lascia Ch’io Pianga by Haendel.

Another example of a natural castrato (male soprano) is Michael Maniaci , who sings here Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate

As I wrote before, Andreas Scholl is my favourite countertenor, so this post would not be complete without a recording by him. A recording of one of the most beautiful arias I know, from the Nisi Dominus by Vivaldi.

Baroque operas often had a castrato as a lead singer. Nowadays these parts are sung by a countertenor. Or of course by a soprano. One (mezzo) soprano who does this very well is Cecilia Bartoli, another favourite of mine. Here is a collection of Castrati arias sung by her.

Many of the arias in this recording have been composed by Porpora. More about Cecilia Bartoli in a later blog.

Amadeus

At the moment I am working on a post about music, the title will be Countertenors and Castrati. As usual I do quite a lot of surfing on Google, Wikipedia and YouTube, to collect information. Surfing around I can get easily distracted. This time it happened again…:-) Here is an intermezzo about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

My distraction started with this YouTube recording of Mozart’s symphony nr 25 in g-minor. The Wiener Philharmoniker directed by Karl Bohm in 1978, when he was 84 year old.

When Mozart composed this symphony (in only two days), he was a teenager of 17 year old! Almost unbelievable! Even when you are not really a lover of Western classical music, you should at least listen to the opening bars of this symphony. Because it could well be that the theme is familiar to you. It is used in the award winning movie Amadeus, about the life of Mozart Here is a trailer, with the same music.

If you have not seen this movie, you don’t know what you miss. I have watched it many times and always get weepy eyes…:-). Short videos from the movie can be found on YouTube, like for example this clip, where Mozart comes home to find that his wife has left him. In the next scene his vulgar mother-in-law scolds him, and this scolding goes over in the famous Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s opera die Zauberflote. Pure magic.

You can find many recordings of this beautiful aria on YouTube. Here are two interpretations by the sopranos Diana Damrau and Lucia Popp

And here is another recording, this time by a boy soprano, 14 year old  Robin Scholtz:

Before puberty sets in, with its voice break, boys can sing soprano parts. Here is another recording, by Jacques Imbrailo , also 14 year old when this was recorded in 1993, he is now a well known baritone.

But this young man, Olmo Herdia Blanco is 16 years old. He sings the aria as a countertenor. He looks nervous, but he has a promising voice.

So we are almost back at the topic of my next blog, Countertenors and Castrati…:-)

To end this post in a lighter vein, here is a hilarious performance by a 7(!) year old Chinese boy. At the piano a not much older girl. Clear fight between the singer and the pianist, won convincingly by the girl…:-)

I have fallen in love

With a lady.

Pires

 

She is three months younger than I am and her name is Maria João Pires

It was love at first hearing.

I have never met her.

But I hope soon I will…:-)

In Amsterdam, next month.

 

She is Portuguese, now living in Brazil, and acclaimed as one of the greatest interpreters of Mozart. Listen to this YouTube where she is playing his last piano concerto, composed and performed by Mozart not long before he died, only 35 years old.

You can find a lot of YouTube clips with her, but many of them are only audio and it is such a pleasure to watch her play…:-). Here are a few audio recordings:

Schubert, 4 Impromptus, D935
Bach, Keyboard concerto, BWV1052
Mozart, Piano concerto KV466, my favourite
Beethoven, Piano concerto nr 3

And here are two video recordings, the 2nd Chopin concerto and Mozart’s D minor concerto

For the most fascinating video some background information is needed. In 1999 she was going to play Mozart with the Concertgebouw orchestra under Ricardo Chailly.
As a preparation for the evening performance, there was a public rehearsal. When Chailly started the first bar of the KV466 concerto, she was shocked, because she had prepared a different Mozart concerto!

Watch the video (skip the first 40 seconds), look at her face, how she almost panics. Then watch how Chailly gives (while conducting!) some peptalk: you can do it! And she can, she controls herself, makes the switch to this D minor concerto and starts playing. Absolutely amazing.

Until recently I only knew her by name, and that she was the teacher of two talented young Dutch pianists, Lucas and Arthur Jussen.

By chance I listened recently to one of her YouTube recordings and I fell in love with her playing. I checked her  tour dates and discovered that she will give a concert in Amsterdam, 26 September. But then I will be in Amsterdam myself!

So I booked a ticket for that concert for the extravagant price of 95 Euro’s. She will play the 3rd Beethoven piano concerto. Looking forward to it.

Last year an interesting interview with her was published: Maria João Pires: The Buddhist warrior who won. A remarkable lady

The Goldberg Variations

In 1741 Johann Sebastian Bach published a work for harpsichord, consisting of a theme and a set of 30 variations. Its modest title was Clavier Ubung (Keyboard Practice) and it may have had its first performance by a in those days famous harpsichord player, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg. It is now known as the Goldberg Variations and generally considered one of Bach’s masterpieces.

416px-Goldberg-titlepage

 

Of course Bach has composed numerous masterpieces, so it is no wonder that this one went more or less unnoticed for a long time, until in 1955 the young Canadian pianist Glenn Gould recorded it for Columbia. It became a huge success and established Gould’s reputation.

 

 

 

Not surprisingly, you will find numerous recordings of the Goldberg Variations on YouTube. More surprising is the Open Goldberg Variations, a Kickstarter project based on what is called crowd funding. Aim of the project is to make the musical score, together with a first-class performance, available to the general public. There is even an app now for the iPad, Open Goldberg, which gives you both the musical score and the recording in an interactive way.

Here is the app on my iPad, showing the theme of the Variations. A colored bar follows the score, karaoke style, while it is played.

Goldberg Variations theme

 

The theme (Aria) is played by the German-Japanese pianist Kimiko Douglass-Ishizaka

She has recorded the complete Goldberg Variations for the above-mentioned project.

 

 

 

 

Here are a few of the YouTube recordings with some comments.

As Bach wrote this work originally for harpsichord, it is appropriate to start with this instrument, although it is not my personal favourite.
However, Gustav Leonhardt, a Dutch harpsichordist (1928-2012), plays it beautifully. In this YouTube, the musical score (in the original version) has been synchronised with the recording.

Many recordings for piano can be found on YouTube, for example by Murray Perahia , Wilhelm Kempff (almost without ornamentation!), Andras Schiff , just to mention a few. And of course Glenn Gould (his 1955 recording)

Gould made another recording in 1981, one year before his (premature) death. This time not only sound but also video. Fascinating to see him play! And hear his humming, because that is Gould’s trademark. Some people hate it, others do not mind.

It is interesting to compare the two versions. Listen for example to the first variation. On the 1955 recording it starts at 1.52 and is played extremely fast, it lasts only 45 seconds! On the 1981 recording it starts at 2.51 and now Gould plays it much slower, it takes 72 seconds. I prefer this second version.

Some of the variations have been written by Bach for a harpsichord with two manuals (keyboards), where left and right hand can each use one keyboard. Not easy to play on a piano with only one keyboard. Watch variation 5, starting at 7.14 to see how Gould plays it. Fascinating!

You can find on YouTube also versions for other instruments. I found one for organ  (a bit strange that the recording skips the theme and starts directly with the 1st variation) and a guitar version (theme and 1st variation). The most exotic one is the version for saxophone and contrabass , performed by the Japanese group of Yasuaki Shimizu . Five saxophones and four contrabass, you must see it to believe it. But still very much Bach!

Last but absolutely not least there is this beautiful transcription for string orchestra by Dmitry Sitkovetsky This Russian-born violinist and conductor also created a version for string trio, here recorded by (again) Japanese musicians…:-)

This post could also have been called Variations of Goldberg 🙂

Le Sacre du Printemps

Today, 29-5-2013, it is exactly 100 years ago that in Paris the world premiere took place of Le Sacre du Printemps (the Rite of Spring), a ballet written by the young Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. This first performance caused a scandal, the fashionable Parisian audience almost rioted and made it nearly impossible for the dancers to hear the music. Here is a report in the New York Times, a week later

Russian_Ballet_in_Paris_-_New_York_Times_1913-06-07
Now the “Sacre” is widely considered as one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century.

The ballet has as subtitle: “Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts“. The first part, named  L’Adoration de la Terre (Adoration of the Earth), is about the celebration of spring. In the second part, “Le Sacrifice (The Sacrifice)”, one girl is selected by fate as the one who will be sacrificed.  In a dramatic finale she dances herself to death.

To give an impression of this first performance, here is a  photo of the dancers in the 1913 premiere. The choreography was by the famous dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

RiteofSpringDancers

A few years ago an attempt has been made to recreate the original Nijinsky choreography. Even after hundred years it is easy to understand the shock this kind of dancing must have given to an audience used to classical ballet.

Many modern performances are nowadays available on YouTube, for example by Pierre Boulez (in a circus with horses!) and Maurice Bejart (very “naked”). Personally I find the performance by Pina Bausch with the Wuppertal Dance Theater the most impressive. I have been fortunate that I could attend both concerts she gave in Amsterdam, in 1982 and in 1995. The stage was covered with brown “earth” and the primitive, erotic vitality of the dancers was fascinating. Here you see them after the concert. The girl in red is the sacrifice.

Le_Sacre_du_Printemps_(Pina_Bausch_Tanztheater,_Wuppertal)

Here is a video of the last part of the Sacre du Printemps in the choreography of Pina Bausch, where the selected girl dances herself to death. Note how the male dancer lies down after about two minutes on his back. Then the girl starts dancing ecstatically. Is the man waiting for the girl? Watch this short clip until the end to find out.

Although originally created as a musical ballet, nowadays the Sacre du Printemps is often performed without ballet. The most impressive orchestral performance is for me the one conducted by Jaap van Zweden in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. But you can find several more on YouTube.

What would life be without music….:-)?