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Balletomanes Will Give Their Approval Of This Work That Is Beyond Compare.
This 1982 release, not available in DVD format, of a sophisticated work that was given its theatre premiere in 1980, showcases the highest possible level of technical accomplishment displayed by the skilled dancers, four couples - Suzanne Farrell/Jacques d'Amboise; Karin Von Aroldingen/Adam Lüders; Sara Leland/Ib Andersen; Heather Watts/Peter Martins; - and is one of five VHS tapes from the Nonesuch Dance Collection's Balanchine Library, produced under the aegis of CBS Cable in conjunction with NVC Arts. Igor Stravinsky, an Objectivist master, as is Balanchine, had pressed the eminent choreographer to create a work after the great Romantic Schumann, and his suggestion was readily accepted by Mr. B. who had long esteemed Walter Gieseking's definitive recordings of Davidsbündlertänze, resulting in this final principal ballet completed by him, an extensive terpsichorean metaphor that illustrates the ever-present element of lyricism that resides within the mind and emotions of the German artist. Balanchine is on board at the television studio to oversee the performance, while future music director of the New York City Ballet, pianist Gordon Boelzner, flawlessly handles playing of the challenging original composition, eighteen "Character Pieces for Piano", a deceptive opus that is laden with many potential pitfalls for a musician, as well as for the dancers, some of whom have remarked upon Balanchine's demanding notations here for arm movements. Clearly controlled kine-sis is apparent throughout this remarkable work that demonstrates Balanchine's ongoing search for fresh balletic forms and movements, while additionally a reflection of Schumann's strikingly lovely early period pianistic display that, more than within a great many of his later works, is a reflection of the composer's profoundly felt alienation from the society of which he was a part and for which he fabricated a totally imaginary League of Friends of Art, designed to combat the encroachment of Philistinism. Balanchine expands the original composition through dance as a narrative of the overruling romantic love felt by Schumann for his beloved Clara, and additionally of his disdain for perceived enemies, along with his general mental malaise, generally regarded since as clinical depression. Each of the four performing couples represents, in Balanchine's classically grounded interpretation, a rumination upon his perspective of romantic love, being symbols for disparate elements of a single person during varying stages of life. An imprint from Balanchine's close supervision over his cast of dancers is apparent throughout this work that, congruent with his idealisation of women, focuses as well upon their partners amidst a complex single act affair that includes tasks for all to dance shod with both character and toe shoes. The piece furnishes fundamental roles for veteran female dancers, in this instance Suzanne Farrell and Karin Von Aroldingen, the latter being a woman completely supportive of her swain in the wake of his final despairing moments, whereas Farrell becomes a template for tenderness. Although melodrama is obvious in the film by the brief appearance of five men dressed and hooded completely in black and holding giant quills (Schumann's critics), in addition to the emotional Croatian splendidly enacted by Adam Lüders during the final duet's ending, it is primarily the choreographer's freshly inventive patterns and steps that will elicit a visceral response from most viewers. Superlative sets and costumes are by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, and the film is produced and directed by Merrill Brockway who also contributes the notes for an enclosed brochure, reporting there that Balanchine "never confirmed his intentions" about this ballet, while piano soloist Boelzner, who was also important in the process of its creation, adds that "we don't know who those four couples are." Audiences will know, however, that this beautifully realised masterpiece can be watched often, and with enduring pleasure.
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