in: News & Features

August 21, 2017

Landmarks of the Dance

by

Choreography by Peter DiMuro (Mary Noble Ours photo)

In the free extravaganza “Music to move by” musicians and dancers from across the city channel cultural diversity on ‘Wednesday at the Hatch Shell. Composer and drummer Ryan Edwards teams up with Apostolos Paraskevas to create a new work for young drummers and dancers from Camp Harbor View and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. The evening culminates Copland’s Rodeo with choreography by Peter DiMuro. It will be hard for anyone to sit still for this season finale. But at Boston Landmarks Orchestra concerts, that’s perfectly okay. Rain Date: August 24 at Hatch Shell.

Christopher Wilkins will also lead several short works: Johann Strauss Jr.’s Emperor Waltzes, Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartet in F Major, op. 96, ‘American’ (2nd movement: Lento), Pas de deux from The American choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, featuring dancers from Boston Ballet II, Georges Enesco’s Romanian Rhapsody in A Major, op. 11, no. 1, Robert Sheldon’s Danzas Cubanas, Leroy Anderson’s Irish Suite: The Girl I Left Behind Me and Irish Washerwoman, Ryan Edwards/Apostolos Paraskevas’s Santiago in the Stream (world premiere)

Once again, BMInt shares Christopher Wilkins’s podium notes.

Much as Lin-Manuel Miranda has done for hip-hop music with his current Broadway smash hit, Hamilton, “Waltz King” Johann Strauss II, gave the Viennese votaries new sophistication in the form.

The public had found much to admire in Strauss Jr.’s miniature masterpieces: originality, colorful scoring, irresistible rhythms, and endlessly beguiling melodies. When Strauss’s wife asked Brahms to autograph her fan, the venerable composer wrote out the opening bars of The Blue Danube waltz, adding below: “Unfortunately, not by Johannes Brahms.”

The form of most Strauss waltzes is the same: they begin with a slow introduction, proceed with a series of contrasting dances (usually four or five of them), and conclude with a rousing coda. But Johann Strauss II brought greater cohesion to the whole than his father typically had. In the Emperor Waltzes, for example, the music of the introduction already contains the first waltz’s tune, albeit in duple rather than triple time. The march-like rhythm of this melody is lightly tapped out by the snare drum, conveying a martial and imperial tone befitting the two dedicatees of the work: Kaiser Franz Joseph I of Austria and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. The Conservatory Lab Charter School’s Dudamel Orchestra joins us on stage, as they have for the past five seasons. We are proud of our longstanding and fruitful partnership with CLCS.

Antonín Dvořák composed his twelfth string quartet in the summer of 1893, while taking a vacation from his position as director of the National Conservatory in New York City. He sketched the quartet in three days, while staying as a guest in the Czech community of Spillville, Iowa. In a letter in September to his Czech friend, Emil Kozanek, he wrote, “As for my new Symphony, the F major String Quartet and the Quintet—composed here in Spillville—I should never have written these works ‘just so’ if I hadn’t seen America.” There is no evidence that Dvorak quoted American tunes in the work, though it is possible that the melody of the second movement recalls music of the spirituals or of Native Americans that he had heard in New York. “I wanted to write something for once that was very melodious and straightforward,” he wrote, “and dear Papa Haydn kept appearing before my eyes. That is why it all turned out so simply, and it’s good that it did.”

Christopher Wheeldon created his choreography to Dvorak’s American Quartet, with the landscape of the Great Plains in mind. Wheeldon is one of today’s preeminent choreographers, with works in the repertory of nearly every major ballet company worldwide. We are thrilled to collaborate with young professional dancers from Boston Ballet II on tonight’s program, performing both in The American and in the concluding work on tonight’s program, Rodeo.

What do Ravel’s Boléro, Sibelius’s Finlandia, and Enesco’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 have in common? They are extremely popular pieces by composers who felt that these works’ renown stole attention from what they considered to be better, more representative works. The twenty-year-old Georges Enescu (later Enesco after he established a residence in Paris) learned to compose folk-based instrumental pieces from Brahms, Dvořák, and especially from Liszt, whose Hungarian Rhapsodies served as a model. Folk elements abound: boy-girl exchanges between wind soloists; a harp imitating a cimbalom; a showy viola solo; and prolific gypsy tunes for the fiddles. The music builds steadily to a frenzied finish so exuberant, it is hard to fault the public for loving it so much.

We have Peter DiMuro, curator of our Dance Carnival, to thank for recommending Salsa y Control Dance Company. The dance company and studio—named for the Lebron Brothers song of the same name—was founded by Johnny and Andres Giraldo in 1999. As performers, the Giraldo brothers are admired for their “intricate footwork, innovative use of classic salsa shines, and expressive musicality.” They also have a sterling reputation as educators, and as leaders of workshops throughout the region and internationally.

Danzas Cubanas was originally created for concert band by composer and educator Robert Sheldon. His setting for symphony orchestra features solos for piano, trombone, flute, and trumpet. Three dance movements are connected without pause: Conga—a popular festival-dance, typically with audience participation such as a conga line; Son-salsa—a 20th century update of traditional Cuban music combining Spanish vocal styles and West African rhythms; and Mambo—an up-tempo dance derived from the Cuban danzón, enhanced in the mid 20th century with big band elements, most notably by the Cuban-Mexican bandleader, Pérez Prado.

Leroy Anderson was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He studied composition at the New England Conservatory and at Harvard, where as a Masters candidate he studied with Georges Enesco, among others. While serving as director of the Harvard University Band, he worked toward a PhD in German and Scandinavian languages, eventually becoming fluent in Danish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish, his parents’ native tongue. Although he composed a fine piano concerto and a Broadway musical that earned two Tony Awards, he is universally known as the composer of light orchestral miniatures—including Sleigh Ride—and for the best-selling recordings of these showpieces, especially those conducted by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops.

Anderson’s Irish Suite was commissioned by the Eire Society of Boston in 1947. We perform two of the suite’s six movements tonight: The Girl I Left Behind Me, with its series of ingenious variations; and The Irish Washerwoman, a double jig given the full Andersonian contrapuntal treatment. We are pleased to host tonight one of the premier schools of Irish dance in the country, the Harney Academy of Irish Dance, founded in 1990 by Liam Harney, a two-time World Champion. A team from the school won the World Irish Dancing Championships in Glasgow, Scotland in 2016.

Santiago in the Stream is based on Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. The work is the co-creation of composer/percussionist Ryan Edwards and his former teacher at the Berklee College of Music, Apostolos Paraskevas. They write, “The music describes Santiago’s emotions, thoughts and actions during his last journey. The trumpet announces his signature theme, accompanied by the brass and strings depicting the sound of the seagulls and of the ocean.  The magnitude of the vast ocean, the anticipation of catching the fish, memories of a distant waltz and the exciting fight that ends in triumph.  Now it’s time to return home with his valuable possession. He already won the last and most important fight of his life. “

The work was commissioned by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra in order to feature young performers from Camp Harbor View and from two Boys and Girls Clubs: The Boys and Girls Club of Mattapan and the Yawkey Club of Roxbury. The commission is a celebration of community collaboration through music and dance.  As with last year’s collaboration with these same summer programs, the dance element has been created and led by another key member of the creative team, Brian Mirage. We are especially grateful for the inspired leadership of Devin Ferreira, performing arts director at the Mattapan Teen Center, and of our longtime partner, Daniel Pattianakotta, director of music at the Yawkey Club.

Aaron Copland’s Rodeo received its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in October of 1942. Copland composed the work mostly during the summer months while teaching at the Tanglewood Music Center. It was his second ballet on themes of the American Southwest, following his 1939 ballet, Billy the Kid. Several tunes that appear in the score—including “Sis’ Joe” and “If He’d Be a Buckaroo By Trade” in the opening movement—were taken from books he collected of cowboy melodies. These folk songs are animated by vibrant rhythms that at times seem borrowed from the world of jazz, and at other times from Stravinsky and other contemporaries Copland knew while studying in Paris as a young man.

Choreographer Peter DiMuro writes, “Aaron Copland has always been a friend to dance. When Christopher Wilkins asked if I’d be interested in creating—pending permissions from the Copland estate—a new ballet to Rodeo, it was truly a gift. But, as with some gifts, there was assembly required!

“Our goal was to unbundle some of the themes inherent in the music—initially commissioned by Agnes de Mille for a (then) contemporary look at the taming of the Wild West through a metaphor of cowgirl and cowpoke connecting on the prairie. We chose to think of what it means to be a pioneer today: on the edge of something new, looking back to a place we’ve been and choosing (or being forced) to look forward to a new land. Of course, this is fueled by questions we are currently dealing with as a country and, sadly, have dealt with before: Who is the “other”? Who belongs? How open are our arms to those in need? How do we adapt and adopt the best, the most productive traits among a new group of people, to create an America where no one is “other”?

“The dance tonight is the beginning of a study of those questions, with adaptation and adoption by the performers determining how the dance was made. With multiple definitions of technique—modern, ballet, and other genres in the mix, as well as everyday human movement—we work to reveal a new beauty.  How will the dance evolve? Well, we’re still working on that.

“On behalf of Public Displays of Motion, I want to thank our Landmarks friends for this great opportunity to question, to make dance. And to Boston Ballet II, our community dancers, The Dance Complex and the Next Steps Fund at the Boston Foundation for their generosity and support.”

Christopher Wilkins was appointed Music Director of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra in the spring of 2011. Since then the orchestra has helped reaffirm founder Charles Ansbacher’s vision of making great music accessible to the whole community.

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