Review by Danny Gaisin
The Brott Festival ended the season with Stravinsky’s Весна священная» (Vesna svyashchennaya) or – “RITE OF SPRING”. Four years ago, the same organization scored a top of the year’s “TOP TEN” list with a creative & innovative rendering of the composer’s “Firebird”. Legend has it that while composing same, Stravinsky’s mind evoked images of an ancient Russian fable about the season; dancing maidens & sacrifice…the rite of spring. This year’s entry differed, it was a composite evening.
The concert began with a technically proficient but indifferent and non-exciting Firebird suite. No imagery and a rather unmotivated Academy orchestra. All this changed with Weber’s ‘Spectre de la Rose’. The music is familiar as ‘Invitation to the Dance’ which elucidates a brief musical tale about strangers at a ball. He approaches her; they chat; they dance – and it’s ‘see ya around’. “Spectre”, originally choreographed by Fokine is about the same dame but dreaming about dancing with a rose! Could be prickly – like porcupines necking! No Diaghilev diving through a window, BUT…Jillian Vanstone & Patrick Lavoie spell-binding both the muse and this scribe. The orchestra performed faultlessly; the duo – effortless, lithe, fluid, and revelatory of the legend. The usage of a chair subbing for a four-poster was a creative alternative. Vanstone & Lavoie then interpreted another Fokine creation – the duet from Chopin’s Les Sylphides. No story – just ballet and exquisitely construed. I’m not a dance maven but even a philistine like yours- truly could appreciate the beauty and devotion needed to achieve such a level of expertise.
The Rite of Spring was a shocker to its early 20th century audience. An introductory theme foretelling what’s ahead steers to kidnapping and rituals. These lead to the arrival of the local gurus who select a sacrificial virgin who then dances herself to death. Just like a plot from ‘Criminal Minds© ‘. Performing this composition is a test of technical mettle; but conducting it – a supreme challenge. Ben Kepes understated the oeuvre, gradually intensifying the reading. We noticed that he has developed the confidence to impose his own imprimatur while on the podium. Both his and Brott’s demands on the brasses and especially the percussion sections greatly enhanced the overall impact of the work. To interpret this scenario, the Brott folks recruited B-Boy StuntZ and B-boy Tricky TroubleZ – professional break dancers. Disclosure: – neither Terry nor I have previously seen head dancing; spinning and acrobatics such as what the pair displayed. Quite an evening; quite a season!