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Shall We Dance? New York Philharmonic: Summertime Classics

- Music Performance Reviews

New York Philharmonic
Summertime Classics
Shall We Dance?

Lorin Maazel, Music Director

Bramwell Tovey, Conductor
Glenn Dicterow, Violin

Performed at Avery Fisher Hall
Lincoln Center
(Lincoln Center Website)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 26, 2004

Weber (1786-1826): Invitation to the Dance, op. 65 (1819, orch. Berlioz 1841). Invitation to the Dance premiered in 1841 at a concert in Paris, conducted by Pantaléon Battu. The NY Philharmonic premiere was in 1911, Gustav Mahler conducting. Included in instrumentation are two clarinets, three trombones, two harps, and strings. (Program Notes). One of my favorite ballets is Le Spectre de la Rose, originally danced by Nijinsky, to the score of this Weber work. Upon arriving home tonight, I immediately watched my video of this ballet, which is so romantic and fleeting. Maestro Tovey once again was humorous and eloquent as Host and Conductor, and he led us into this evening’s selection of dance music with delectable stories and anecdotes.

The cello solo was lovely and melancholy, the sound of a young lady falling asleep and awakening, after an evening of waltzes at a grand ball, with her fragrant rose pinned to her dress. The male dancer, as the fragrant rose, waltzes around her, with her, and then leaps out the open window in emotional abandon. The Philharmonic performed this work for the first time in over 30 years, and I hope they perform it more often.

Dvoøák (1841-1904): Slavonic Dance in G minor, op. 46, no. 8 (1878). Slavonic Dance in G minor premiered in 1878 in Dresden. The NY Philharmonic premiere was in 1952, Igor Buketoff conducting. Included in instrumentation are two oboes, cymbals, triangle, and strings. (Program Notes). I first heard this orchestral dance in a Slavic culture course in college. It is rich with rapture and ethnically imbued, with triangle and cymbals as ornamentations to the dance motif.

Tchaikovsky (1840-1893): Suite from Swan Lake (1875-1876); Opening Scene, Scene, Dance of the Swans, Final Scene. Glen Dicterow, Violin. Swan Lake premiered in 1877at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. The NY Philharmonic premiere was in 1931, Ernest Schelling conducting. Included in instrumentation are two cornets, tam-tam, harp, and strings. (Program Notes). Swan Lake is one of my favorite ballets, and to hear this very familiar score performed orchestrally allows a balletomane to fantasize about every scene, every musical intention. One noticeable feature of this orchestral version was the frenetic pace of the Dance of the Swans, which is so elegant, with four Cygnettes in synchronized motion, holding arms and turning heads.

Glenn Dicterow’s violin solos, soulful and sensitive, seemed a bit rushed and a bit fragmented, as well. I wondered if he had actually watched any of the ABT Swan Lake performances, just completed at the Met Opera House. I imagined Odette, the dying swan, with halted music replete with sharp endings, during her last dance with Siegfried. But, this was an orchestral version, and no dancers were onstage. Regardless, the orchestra recreated Swan Lake with brilliance and beauty.

Milhaud (1892-1974): Le Boeuf sur le toit, op. 58 (1919). The premiere was in 1920 in Paris with seta by Raoul Dufy. The NY Philharmonic premiere was in 1945, Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting. Included in instrumentation are tamburin, guiro, two clarinets, and strings. (Program Notes). This campy ballet with a man in a pink dress and with prohibition drinks inspired a cabaret in Paris to take its title. Swelling and racing crescendos filled the Hall.

Gounod (1818-1893): Ballet Music from Faust (1868); The Nubian women, Antique Dance, Cleopatra Variations, The Trojan Women, Mirror Variations, Dance of the Phryne. The opera Faust with ballet music premiered in 1869 at the Paris Opéra. The NY Philharmonic premiere was in 1967, Leonard Bernstein conducting. Included in instrumentation are two bassoons, two oboes, harp, and strings. (Program Notes). This piece had a regal and classical flair. I have not seen the dance within the opera, but I imagined the dynamism with timpani, trumpets, and bassoons.

Borodin (1833-1887): Polovtsian Dances, from Prince Igor (1875). Polovtsian Dances premiered in 1875 in St. Petersburg. The NY Philharmonic premiere was in 1914, Walter Damrosch conducting. Included in instrumentation are timpani, four horns, two flutes, and cymbals. (Program Notes). The song, Stranger in Paradise, emanates from this work, part of the opera, Prince Igor, and the swirling string effects, followed by tambourines and cymbals, timpani and bass drum, all created a fantasy to have seen this ballet in original performance by the Ballets Russes.

Kudos to Maestro Bramwell Tovey, and kudos to Concertmaster, Glenn Dicterow for this superb rendition of classical dance works in orchestral interpretations.

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