The Ballets Russes Piano Recital

Carl Maria von Weber  •  Aufforderung zum Tanz
Original Music for the Ballets Russes production of Le Spectre de la rose

Carl Maria von Weber composed Invitation to the Dance for his young wife Caroline and provided the following programme to her: First request by the man to dance, the lady’s evasive reply, his pressing invitation, she consents, he begins conversation, she replies, he speaks with greater warmth, she agrees sympathetically, he addresses her with regard to the dance again, she answers, they take their places, they wait for the commencement of the dance. The dance. The conclusion of the dance, his thanks, her reply, and their retirement.

 

Bakst L'après midi d'un faune

Claude Debussy  •  Images Pour Piano
Artwork by Léon Bakst
Claude Debussy was one of the most closely associated composers of the Ballets Russes. In this performance, each movement of Debussy’s Images is linked to Léon Bakst’s artwork, all created for Diaghilev’s company.

As Debussy departed from the Romantic style, he developed a unique musical language which is now associated with the Impressionist movement. Like the paintings of Monet, his compositions are rich in colour and subtleties, yet highly organised and structured. They can display breathtaking virtuosity and an ebullient, sometimes humorous temperament, but became best known for the nostalgic melancholy affiliated to distance. Sounds of the Far East and the reminiscence of bygone times mould the character of Debussy’s music of which the cycle Image is one of his greatest achievements. When the composer had finished the first three pieces, he wrote to his publisher Durand: “Without false pride, I feel that these three pieces hold together well, and that they will find their place in the literature of the piano… to the left of Schumann or to the right of Chopin… as you like it.”

1. Reflets dans l’eau (Reflections in the Water)
Debussy once mentioned in a letter that music possesses colour and fluid rhythm. The opening piece encompasses painted sounds and exotic scales to conjure up the reflection of light on an ever-changing surface of water, creating a dreamlike otherworldliness.

2. Hommage à Rameau (Homage to Rameau)
Distant melodies in unison and stately chords from afar evoke the Baroque era of Rameau. The homage is composed in the style of a Sarabande but only hints at the old dance as this movement is a rapt reminiscence of the lost age of French grandeur.

3. Mouvement (Movement)
The lively perpetuum mobile shimmers with delicate virtuosity, not dissimilar to Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata. In the central section of Mouvement a chorale surrounded by fleeting semiquavers is emerging, before the music returns to the atmosphere of the beginning.

4. Cloches à travers les feuilles (Bells Heard Through the Leaves)
This is a nostalgic impression of distant pealing blending with the rustling of leaves. The multi-layered texture has no reference to traditional European tonality and seems to be influenced by Far East Javanese gamelan music, creating an ethereal aura.

5. Et la lune descent sur le temple qui fut (Descent of the Moon Upon the Temple Which Used to be)
Enigmatic and melancholic, this nocturne evokes the ancient world with exotic sounds from faraway lands and echoing reminiscences of distant times. However, the harmonic language is highly advanced and unconventional, even for today’s ears.

6. Poissons d’or (Goldfish)
With the last Image, the cycle comes full circle. The fluid movement captures the pulse of nature with dazzling colours and a capricious episode. In the end, shooing passages dissolve into ppp.

 

Interval

 

Robert Schumann  •  Carnaval, Op. 9
Fragmented Film Footage of the Ballets Russes Production of Carnaval
Expertly researched moving images of Fokine and Bakst’s legendary production will be aligned with the performance of Schumann’s most autobiographical work, reflecting the story of the composer falling in love with his future wife Clara.

In 1834, the twenty-four year old Robert Schumann was in a state of inner turmoil. He composed Carnaval in a true “compositional fever”, reflecting his confused amorous situation in which his intense affection for Clara Wieck grew alongside his secret engagement to Ernestine von Fricken. Torn between the two women Schumann’s passionate struggle led him to choose the daughter of his teacher Friedrich Wieck.

1. Préambule 
2. Pierrot
3. Arlequin
4. Valse noble
5. Eusebius
6. Florestan
7. Coquette
8. Réplique
9. Papillons
10. A.S.C.H. – S.C.H.A. Lettres dansantes

11. Chiarina
12. Chopin
13. Estrella
14. Reconnaissance
15. Pantalon et Colombine
16. Valse allemande – Paganini – Valse allemande
17. Aveu
18. Promenade
19. Pause
20. Marche des “Davidsbündler” contre les Philistins