Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Abundant vision

In 2001 choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and her troupe Rosas had a big hit with her production of Rain, based on Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians from 1976. Ten years later the work made its way into the repertoire of the Ballet of the Paris Opera, and this amazing Blu-ray is the result. The music is a complex, large-scale work that lasts 75 minutes, and de Keersmaeker runs her 10 dancers - 7 women and 3 men - pretty much without a break. It’s like a movie filmed in a single take. The dancing is every bit as complex as the music, with the group breaking down into individual dancers, pairs, triplets, every combination.  Bojana Cvejić termed it “polyphonic excess.” I imagine watching the live ballet from the gorgeous Palais Garnier: the shifting geometries of dancers matching the repeating cycles of the music. There’s some added value in seeing it on the Blu-ray, with the cameras focussing on particular individuals and combinations as they interact. This is impressive film direction. The sum (or rather product) of these combinations takes us from seeing a group of 10 generic dancers to, by the end, 10 individual, recognizable human beings. The 18 (actually more) Musicians play a combination of strings, pianos and percussion instruments, with important parts for the clarinet, bass clarinet and female voices. It’s the quality and span of the human breath that provides structure - pulses and oscillations - to the music, and a more human quality to a machine-like structure. The human addition to these complexities from the dance side helps us better understand both Reich’s and de Keersmaeker’s abundant vision.

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