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New look at Balanchine


Steve Keeley
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I just read in Russian newspaper ...

French pianist Madlen Malraux, a good friend of Balanchine, played his music in St. Petersburg an year ago - valse, composed specially for her. Now this score published in Russia.

Late on, in the same article, they speculated about Eifman's planes to make ballet about Mr. B.

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NYCB regulars have heard Mme. Malraux perform twice on the NY State Theatre stage, on the first night of the Stravinsky Festival (at Mr. B's request, she had sought out the manuscript of what came to called the "Lost Sonanta" at the Stravinsky Foundation in Paris and performed it as John Clifford and Gelsey Kirkland danced) and on the first night of the Ravel festival, where she played the "Sonatine." To emphasize the composer's nationality, the cyclorama was bathed in blue-white-and-red lighting, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux danced in a blue costume, Violette Verdy wore white (yes, yes,I know, an odd couple if ever there was one, but both French)while Malraux wore a red gown. Charming, but not path-breaking.

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Thanks for that -- I'd forgotten the "Lost Sonata." (I missed the Stravinsky Festival and only know about it from reading.)

I was so focused on the Eifman Balanchine ballet that I skipped over the fact that a piece of Balanchine's music has been performed in Russia -- I wonder if that was from his days at the conservatory as a student? Or is it a later work?

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Originally posted by at

I was so focused on the Eifman Balanchine ballet that I skipped over the fact that a piece of Balanchine's music has been performed in Russia -- I wonder if that was from his days at the conservatory as a student?  Or is it a later work?

Perhaps the piece is by Andrei Ballanchivadze, Georgi's composer brother.

~Steve

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Balanchine also composed himself, both during his years in the conservatory and as an avocation in later years. He had a song or two published and I believe composed a "Ro-man-za" or two as he called one jokingly - so it's quite possible he made the piece for Malraux himself.

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The article said, it was George Balanchine's music, composed specialy for this women, when he was already in America.

Leigh, "romance" is the form of Russian songs with accompaniment by keyboard or gitare. I doubt that Balanchine did make jokes about it.

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Andrei, believe it or not, I do believe it was said (possibly in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky?) in a joking context. Not a joke about the Russian word, but if I recall Balanchine was joking about himself. I'm quoting from memory and out of context but I think he was joking about his own self-perceived laziness and said something like "They would dance and I would play a ro-man-za!"

I could have mangled this utterly - I had best look it up!

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As I read this string, I recall reading in various biographies that "Georges," as he was known as a child, hoped to follow in the footsteps of his father, a composer and musician to the Tsar. But he felt he had no gift for composing and dedicated himself to dance instead.

At a recent appearance before company "Friends," the new NYCB Music Director, Andrea Quinn, expressed great interest in the company's music archives. She had found no original scores by Mr. B., but noted that many piano reductions in his hand are still used in rehearsals. The late Robert Irving also knew and admired these reductions, taking special note of Mr. B's take on Charles Ives -- "a dicey endeavour," as he noted.

Balanchine may have learned a lot about piano reductions from his mentor Stravinsky. When the composer found it difficult to get symphonies to perform his work, Stravinsky wrote his own chamber reductions. At one point, he and violinist Samuel Duskin went on tour with several reductions and one original work: the Duo Concertante. He even wrote a two-piano reduction of The Rite of Spring, which Paul Taylor used for his very original take on the score.

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