Friday, February 09, 2007

Dance is not an inferior art form

"For too many people – especially musicians – dance is considered an inferior art form, less valuable than spoken theatre and less important than opera. However, to my mind it was one of the key areas of artistic innovation and audience growth in the twentieth century, and without Diaghilev (right) much of the innovation would not have happened."

That is the late and lamented John Drummond giving musicians food for thought as they search for new audiences in the 21st century. Taken from his autobiography Tainted by Experience (Faber, ISBN 0571200540). And I can only echo Drummond's thoughts on dance. My love of those 20th century masterpieces, Prokofiev's five piano concertos, was sparked by seeing a modern dance performance to the extraordinary First Concerto back in the 1970s at Sadler Wells. I cannot exactly remember the company, but am pretty sure it was Ballet Rambert. Which does prompt me to ask why we don't hear Prokofiev's wonderful piano concertos and violin concertos more often? Are they simply a victim of the current love affair with everything Shostakovich?

For the five Prokofiev piano concertos look no further than the bargain double CD with Vladimir Ashkenazy playing and André Previn conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. The recordings date from 1974 and 1975, and Previn was released from his exclusive EMI contract specially for the sessions as Ashkenazy wouldn't record them with anyone else. Decca house producer Ray Minshull was in charge, and the venue was the late and lamented Kingsway Hall. The First Concerto plays as I write and, sorry to be a bore, but they don't make CDs like that anymore. The Kingsway Hall had acoustics to die for, and was venue for many classic recordings including Britten's own interpretation of his War Requiem. The hall was last used for recording in 1984, and was demolished in 1998, to be replaced by a faceless international hotel.
Now read about an inspirational 21st century dance company.
Image credit - Portrait of Sergei Diaghilev by Valentin Serov (1904). Any copyrighted material on these pages is included for "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

2 comments:

Pliable said...

Very remiss of me indeed not to mention John Drummond's definitve book on Diaghilev, which is, alas, out of print.

Vanessa Lann said...

It's available on Amazon.com for as low as 7 dollars! Just a few copies left!