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New York City Ballet: Concerto Barocco, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Episodes, The Four Temperaments
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New York City Ballet: Concerto Barocco, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Episodes, The Four Temperaments

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Concerto Barocco
Monumentum Pro Gesualdo
Movements for Piano and Orchestra
The Four Temperaments

Founders: George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master: Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Music Director: Andrew Litton
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 18, 2015 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews.)

Conductor: Daniel Capps

Concerto Barocco (1948): Music by John Sebastian Bach (Double Violin Concerto in D Minor), Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, 1st Violin: Arturo Delmoni, 2nd Violin: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen, Russell Janzen, and the Company.

For this final program in City Ballet’s Fall Season, the “Balanchine Black & White Ballets” (named for the simple, white and/or black costumes), the first work was one that City Ballet performed on the first night of its existence, in 1948, Concerto Barocco. The two violinists were the Concertmasters, Arturo Delmoni on 1st violin and Kurt Nikkanen on 2nd violin. Balanchine designed the ballet’s first movement to be led by two women, each dancing the part of one lead violin. The effect is always spellbinding, and tonight Sara Mearns and Teresa Reichlen, both seasoned in the roles, brought fresh energy and enthusiasm to the experience. An ensemble of eight women supported the lead ballerinas. Russell Janzen partnered Sara Mearns, in the Concerto’s “Largo” movement, with striking chivalry and poise. In the “Allegro” third movement, the ensemble and leads join the two violins and orchestra in bouncing, pulsating synchronization.

The takeaway visual of Ms. Mearns and Ms. Reichlen in duo dance, as the breathing, dancing violins, was the angularity of Ms. Reichlen’s wrists and knees and the roundness of Ms. Mearns’ arms and ankles, with total complimentary effect. A winding line of ensemble dancers walks through Ms. Reichlen’s and Mr. Janzen’s uplifted arms, in lyrical joyousness. I did find the Orchestra a bit rapid in the finale, but this must have been Daniel Capps’ interpretation.

Monumentum Pro Gesualdo (1960): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Rebecca Krohn, Ask la Cour, and the Company. Stravinsky's homage to Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, re-composes the madrigals into instrumental voices. (NYCB Notes)

Sometimes the leads of this and the following, paired Balanchine ballet are switched, but Rebecca Krohn and Ask la Cour led both works with searing strength and aplomb. I was thrilled that they were performing, with their extra-long necks, torsos, and limbs, as well as their serene emotionality, so perfectly suited for the two Stravinsky scores. In Balanchine’s Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, with madrigal-like orchestrations, Ms. Krohn and Mr. la Cour are supported by an ensemble of six men and six women. In one scene, as I noted, a line of men are suddenly on one knee, the other knee bent, ankles flexed, with the women arranged in between each man, their legs thrust forward en pointe, their heads, arms, and torsos bent backward. But, the most magnetic effect is the pas de deux, delicate and transfixing.

Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1958-59): Music by Igor Stravinsky (Movements for Piano and Orchestra), Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Alan Moverman, Performed by Rebecca Krohn, Ask la Cour, and the Company. This piece is divided into five sections, and Balanchine paired this work with the previous one for performances. (NYCB Notes)

This paired work to the previous ballet returned Rebecca Krohn and Ask la Cour to center stage. A new ensemble of just six women joined the leads. Alan Moverman expertly performed the Stravinsky piano solos. The rhythms here are staccato and stark, and the motion is spidery and spinning. Both leads were poised with quiet serenity. My favorite image was of Mr. la Cour holding onto Ms. Krohn’s hand, on high, as she bent over, one leg raised, the other straight, with her pointe shoe flat on the stage. In the Corps, Gwyneth Muller caught my eye, as she exudes expressiveness of gesture.

Episodes (1959): Music from the orchestral works of Anton von Webern, Choreography by George Balanchine, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Lauren King, Devin Alberda, Claire Kretzschmar, Jared Angle, Ashly Isaacs, Taylor Stanley, Sara Mearns, Adrian Danchig-Waring, and the Company. Balanchine was enthusiastic about Webern’s music, which he felt left “the mind free to ‘see’ the dancing”. Martha Graham originally choreographed Balanchine “Episodes I”, danced by her Company, with Balanchine’s choreography used for a different section for his NYC Ballet dancers. Originally, there was also a solo for Paul Taylor, then in the Graham Company. (NYCB Notes).

This 1959 Balanchine ballet, another in the black-white, costumed repertory, is an homage to Anton von Webern’s orchestral works. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to see this work as originally constructed, with the Graham Company dancing the missing, first, Graham-choreographed section, and a member of the Taylor Company dancing Taylor’s original solo, with, of course, City Ballet in full force for its own section, an expansive one at that. The von Webern compositions are all short, which is why this one ballet includes four entire, orchestral compositions. In the interim, tonight’s performance, with Maestro Capps still on the podium, was outstanding. Lauren King and Devin Alberda led Symphony, Op. 21, Claire Kretzschmar and Jared Angle led Five Pieces, Op. 10, Ashly Isaacs and Taylor Stanley led Concerto, Op. 24, and Sara Mearns and Adrian Danchig-Waring led Ricercata in six voices from Bach’s “Musical Offering”, an orchestration of a Bach work.

This ballet is tremendously inspired. The imagery of lead women in white unitards, lead men in black unitards, and the expansive Corps ensemble in black leotards and white tights for women and black tights with white tops for men, was magnified in the geometric and symmetrical choreography. The Pas de Deux, Five Pieces, for Mr. Angle, a Principal, and Ms. Kretzschmar, a Corps dancer, was astounding, in a bright (Bates/Stanley) spotlight. At one point, Ms. Kretzschmar is in full view, behind Mr. Angle, one leg lifted high behind her, her other leg leaning on his back, as he kneels on the floor. At another point, Ms. Kretzschmar, upside-down, is hidden in darkness, only her hands visible around his hips, her white costumed legs visible on his shoulders, his own hands glowing in the spotlight. The audience was breathless and impressed, with such a magical, mystical vision in progress.

The Four Temperaments (1946): Music by Paul Hindemith, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Megan Johnson, Cameron Dieck, Brittany Pollack, Allen Peiffer, Ashley Laracey, Justin Peck, Anthony Huxley, Tiler Peck, Tyler Angle, Amar Ramasar, Megan LeCrone, and the Company. The score (solo piano and strings) was commissioned by George Balanchine from Paul Hindemith in 1940. This ballet appeared at the opening program of Ballet Society, now City Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments was on the opening program, 1946, of Ballet Society’s (original company, later formed into New York City Ballet) debut. The commissioned 1940, Hindemith score, swept me into this fifth and final ballet for this Fall Season. Elaine Chelton, on piano solo, expanded the rapture and depth of the intoxicating theme. The ballet has five sections, the “Theme” (danced by three couples), the “First Variation: Melancholic” (led by Anthony Huxley), the “Second Variation: Sanguinic” (led by Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle), the “Third Variation: Phlegmatic” (led by Amar Ramasar)”, and the “Fourth Variation: Choleric” (led by Megan LeCrone).

Men carry the women off in scissor-legs motion, while staccato kicks and off-center balancing enunciate the choreography. Mr. Huxley led the “Melancholic Variation” with inherent speed and magnetizing resonance. Ms. Peck and Mr. Angle led the “Sanguinic Variation” with focus and persuasion. My two favorite variations were the third and fourth, with Amar Ramasar leading in “Phlegmatic”, with his signature, warm persona and charisma. Megan LeCrone led the final “Choleric Variation” with focus and energy..

The uncluttered black-white leotards and a grey-blue backdrop keep the focus on the choreography. Off-balance partnering, powerful entrances, and Balanchine’s masterful dance structures, so refined, so timeless, all combine for animated ballet extraordinaire.

Kudos to all.

Teresa Reichlen and Sara Mearns
in George Balanchine’s "Concerto Barocco"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at